While it is an odd mix of physics, biology, and geometry that has captured the communications strategy of military planners, the messages themselves are very telling about how such planners go about envisioning US global domination, and the parts to be played by others in assuring that dominance. Some thus speak about the “center of gravity” in “hybrid wars”—writing in Military Review, Colonel John J. McCuen declared: “We in the West are facing a seemingly new form of war—hybrid war. Although conventional in form, the decisive battles in today’s hybrid wars are fought not on conventional battlegrounds, but on asymmetric battlegrounds within the conflict zone population, the home front population, and the international community population” (McCuen, 2008, p. 107). Everyone is a target population. How do you combat resistance to such a monumental ambition to dominate all of us? By using us against ourselves. Thus here is another rendition of the force multiplier theme: “counter-organization necessitates recruiting and training cadres from the local population and then organizing, paying, equipping, and instilling them with values adequate to their task” (McCuen, 2008, p. 111). However, if we are so amenable to US command and manipulation, so easy to bend because we come empty, then from where does the resistance stem for which “counter-organization” is needed? Thinking beyond challenging questions of logic, McCuen proceeds to tell us that the way to think about success in “hybrid wars” is to adopt Clausewitz’s notion of the “center of gravity”: “the ‘hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends . . . the point at which all our energies should be directed’” (McCuen, 2008, p. 111). “All our energies” in other military documents means every branch of the US federal state: “A whole of government approach is an approach that integrates the collaborative efforts of the departments and agencies of the United States Government to achieve unity of effort toward a shared goal” (US Army, 2008b, p. 1-4).
The Science of Control
The US Army speaks explicitly in terms of “the science of control” in its Operations Field Manual 3-0 (US Army, 2008a, p. 6-1). Achieving “control” involves what the Army calls “full spectrum operations” (a concept that as we will see, originated in the US desire to conquer Cuba during the Cold War). Such operations require,
“continuous, simultaneous combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability or civil support tasks. In all operations, commanders seek to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative while synchronizing their actions to achieve the best effects possible. Operations conducted outside the United States and its territories simultaneously combine three elements—offense, defense, and stability”. (US Army, 2008a, p. 3-1)
Added to these concepts, former US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, outlined the idea of “asymmetric warfare” which clearly rests on changing others outside of the US, in terms of their culture and behaviour, so that they embody the new territory in which “US interests” are planted:
“We can expect that asymmetric warfare will be the mainstay of the contemporary battlefield for some time. These conflicts will be fundamentally political in nature, and require the application of all elements of national power. success will be less a matter of imposing one’s will and more a function of shaping behavior—of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between”. (Gates, 2008, p. 6)
In line with this concept of asymmetric warfare, Robert Gates explained his view of the subordinate role of others in US plans, labeled as “force multipliers” by some:
“arguably the most important military component in the War on terror is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable and empower our partners to defend and govern themselves. The standing up and mentoring of indigenous army and police—once the province of special Forces—is now a key mission for the military as a whole”. (Gates, 2008, p. 6)
What Gates’ views rest on is a vision of the globalization of US counterinsurgency doctrine. War as the blunt use of force was now deemed to be ineffective, in large part due to an unspoken acknowledgment of the successful use of force by the Iraqi and Afghan resistance. Instead, counterinsurgency doctrine mandated, “a collaborative undertaking involving not simply military forces but a wide range of other government agencies, along with private contractors, international entities like the United Nations, and nongovernmental organizations that may or may not even share U.S. policy objectives” (Bacevich, 2010, p. 200). In this context Gates praised the role of anthropologists in the military, Texas A&M agriculture faculty on the ground in Afghanistan, and Kansas State University for its work in Afghanistan, by way of explaining that force multipliers are as much domestic as foreign: “we also need new thinking about how to integrate…government capabilities with those in the private sector, in universities, in other non-governmental organizations, with the capabilities of our allies and friends—and with the nascent capabilities of those we are trying to help” (Gates, 2008, pp. 7-8).
Needless to say at this point, US diplomats are not exempt from executing their role in in-depth social and cultural intervention. Thus, speaking of “community diplomacy” (DoS, 2010, pp. 63-64), the US State Department introduced the concept of the “circuit rider”:
“Where building new physical platforms of engagement outside of capitals is not cost effective, embassy circuit riders offer a promising alternative. Circuit riders will be subject-matter experts based at an embassy who systematically travel to key areas of a country to allow embassy access to targeted communities and groups. These roving diplomats, properly supported, can significantly expand our embassies’ ability to engage on specific issues, with a broader cross section of a country’s people, or in areas of a country that have particular foreign policy relevance to the United States”. (DoS, 2010, p. 51)
Even in the language of US diplomacy, there are target peoples. A country can have an “area” within it (likely either a reference to valuable natural resources, or a bastion of political opposition to the national government) that is of “foreign policy relevance” to the US, which inevitably empties another nation of its sovereignty. The US has already stated that it has every intention of using such “circuit riders” in Cuba as embassies are reestablished.
(* See also the State Department’s concept of “expeditionary diplomacy,” invoking the language of old colonial adventurism.)
Imperial Half-Lives: Theoretical Assumptions of Force Multiplication
While Gen. Scales mentions mass and velocity, military scientism turned to time in Gen. Petraeus’ conception of the right doctrine of warfare. It is a conception without a tested formula, but it does sound “smart” to target audiences. However, the question of the time dimension is nonetheless significant because it calls into play the need for “force multipliers”—even though this too is laden with untested theoretical assumptions.
Speaking of time, some officers have written about “the ‘golden hour’” which is “that limited amount of time in which we enjoy the forbearance of the host nation populace” (Caldwell & Leonard, 2008, p. 11). Gen. Petraeus thus urged that, in a situation like Iraq,
“the liberating force must act quickly, because every Army of liberation has a half-life beyond which it turns into an Army of occupation. The length of this half-life is tied to the perceptions of the populace about the impact of the liberating force’s activities. From the moment a force enters a country, its leaders must keep this in mind, striving to meet the expectations of the liberated in what becomes a race against the clock….we were keenly aware that sooner or later, the people would begin to view us as an Army of occupation. Over time, the local citizenry would feel that we were not doing enough or were not moving as quickly as desired, would see us damage property and hurt innocent civilians in the course of operations, and would resent the inconveniences and intrusion of checkpoints, low helicopter flights, and other military activities. The accumulation of these perceptions, coupled with the natural pride of Iraqis and resentment that their country, so blessed in natural resources, had to rely on outsiders, would eventually result in us being seen less as liberators and more as occupiers. That has, of course, been the case to varying degrees in much of Iraq”. (Petraeus, 2006, p. 4)
Bacevich also observed that “the post-Vietnam military have come to regard time as the principal limit in limited wars” (quoted in Bacevich, 2010, p. 195). Petraeus offers his conclusion above, however, even as he publicly calls for the elimination of “exit timelines”—clearly disregarding his own specious “science” of time (see Halper, 2010/8/13 and Petraeus & O’Hanlon, 2015/7/7). Indeed, when engaged in politics to support US military occupations, Petraeus has consistently argued for more time, without any reference to “half-lives,” which would in case make little sense in a context of permanent war where careers and profits are made to depend on war. Thus, on the one hand, Petraeus “the scholar” and “guru of counterinsurgents” has to sound “smart” about limits to occupation while, on the other hand, Petraeus the politician-entrepreneur has to sound limitless about US investments in occupation. When the alleged scientists fail to take their own science seriously, then it is incumbent on the public to be severely skeptical about what is being peddled.
Though not stated directly, the assumption is that limited time increases reliance on local force multipliers. That almost constitutes the beginning of a formula. However, the problem is that the force multiplier concept itself—ever growing as it is—is riddled with inconsistency, ambiguity, and untested assumptions. Even military insiders, among the few to examine the concept of force multipliers to any degree, have found a failure to “develop the concept with regard to the exact nature and utility of force multipliers as operational planning factors” along with “a void” in the doctrinal literature in terms of the development of the concept (Powell, 1990, pp. 2, 9). Even in studies which via “a cross-national time-series dataset of post-civil-conflict and post-natural-disaster states” purport to produce empirical answers to the question of whether international non-governmental organizations engaged in humanitarian work can be a “force multiplier” for military action in achieving “human security outcomes,” the “force multiplier” concept is itself left undefined and its assumptions are thus not tested (see for example, Bell et al., 2013). More recently, the term seems to have been dropped altogether, showing that at the very least there is uncertain and unsteady reliance on this concept. In fact, even calling “force multipliers” a concept may be asking too much for it to be respected as “scientific”.1 Instead, its real value is as a political statement about the multiple forms and directions of US intervention. When the neutralizing scientistic euphemisms are filtered out, the force multiplier agenda bespeaks an ideological ambition of US global intervention, occupation, and domination, which rests firmly on the support of non-US actors, and non-US state actors.
Imperial Mechanisms: Destabilization and the Physics of Domination
Using unmistakably imperial language, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 outlined ways of “protecting our interests and projecting our leadership in the 21st century” (DoS, 2010, p. iv), euphemizing global domination in terms of “American global leadership” which she saw as resting on “our global military advantage,” while needing to “lead through civilian power” (DoS, 2010, p. 8). On the one hand, Clinton indicated the government’s commitment to “shaping the international order to advance American interests” (DoS, 2010, p. 9). On the other hand, she conflated this with “supporting the spread of universal values” (DoS, 2010, p. 9), which are clearly not universal if they need to be spread in the first place, and by a self-seeking US at that. Like her military counterparts, Clinton renewed the justification for US intervention and destabilization, using a happy gloss of course. The US would support those who support its “values” (meaning, the US would support itself), and this implies the idea of force multipliers: “We will support democratic institutions within fragile societies, raise human rights issues in our dialogues with all countries, and provide assistance to human rights defenders and champions” (DoS, 2010, p. 10). The force multiplier idea is further implied by Clinton when spoke of pursuing “new ways of doing business that help us bring together like-minded people and nations,” in what she branded as, “21st century statecraft” that would “extend the reach of our diplomacy beyond the halls of government office buildings” (DoS, 2010, p. v). Clinton’s primary target population, the pool that offered the best force multipliers of US foreign policy, consisted of youths: “In the Middle East and North Africa, for example, large youth populations are altering countries’ internal politics, economic prospects, and international relations. The United States must reach out to youth populations to promote growth and stable democratic government” (DoS, 2010, p. 13). A year later, Clinton would violently stomp out Libyan socialism and Pan-African leadership in the name of the “Arab Spring” and a supposed “popular uprising”, by youths of course, leaving alone the fact that the leaders were mostly elderly men.
Clinton’s sermons mostly consisted of rewording what George W. Bush had outlined nearly a decade before in his national security strategy. In 2002 Bush committed the US to encouraging “the advancement of democracy and economic openness” in China and Russia, while more broadly using the post-9/11 “moment of opportunity,” in his words, “to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe” and thus to “actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world” (Bush, 2002, p. iv). In a sweeping statement of intent to remake the face of the world so it would look back at the US with an American smile, Bush declared: “We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent” (Bush, 2002, p. iii). This could be seen as the “large load” in the force multiplier equation indicated at the start of this series of articles. Bush’s successor would identify the instruments to be used in making for a “small effort” on the part of the US:
“The United States Government will make a sustained effort to engage civil society and citizens and facilitate increased connections among the American people and peoples around the world—through efforts ranging from public service and educational exchanges, to increased commerce and private sector partnerships”. (White House, 2010, p. 12)
In an unexpectedly astute observation, a prominent neoconservative identified the US idea of “multilateralism” as involving the geopolitical objective of “remaking the international system in the image of domestic civil society” (Krauthammer, 2002-2003).
1 There is a much broader question here of North American socialization patterns that grant “science” (natural science, positivism, experimentation, numbers) an iconic value, even reflected in some children’s games where they mimic caricatures of scientists. This is largely beyond the scope of this chapter, except to say that the practice of military technocrats to sound as “scientific” as possible will have some unconscious resonance with sectors of the population. More importantly, science becomes associated with acceptance of, and obedience to the status quo, while criticism of the status quo will be automatically dubbed as “ideological”.
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Bell, S.R.; Murdie, A.; Blocksome, P.; & Brown, K. (2013). “Force Multipliers”: Conditional Effectiveness of Military and INGO Human Security Interventions. Journal of Human Rights, 12(4), 397–422.
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Halper, D. (2010/8/13). Gen. Petraeus Wants More Time in Afghanistan. The Weekly Standard, August 13.
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McCuen, J.J. (2008). Hybrid Wars. Military Review, March–April, 107–113.
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Petraeus, D., & O’Hanlon, M. (2015/7/7). The U.S. Needs to Keep Troops in Afghanistan. The Washington Post, July 7.
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————— . (2008b). FM 3-07, Stability Operations. Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army.
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