Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 81

AMERICA’S FRONTIER WARS a combination of these attributes.3 The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) now thinks of ways to characterize tomorrow’s asymmetric challenges.4 In considering its arguments, I was struck again by the utility of lessons learned from earlier campaigns against Native Americans such as Braddock’s defeat. So I have matched TRADOC’s insights for the future with asymmetric examples from the past. Only by studying the lessons of history are we likely to adapt to asymmetric challenges. TRADOC’s analysis begins by stressing the differences between our current perception of the future operational environment and what is likely to be true. Today we think of close combat as involving deliberate actions conducted at a tempo decided by the United States and characterized by the application of technology and systems that leaves opponents virtually helpless to respond or retaliate. Therefore, the public expects military operations to involve few casualties and precision attacks, secure our homeland, and be short-lived. On the contrary, potential adversaries will likely choose to fight in ways that negate these expectations. Future close combat will be much more dynamic and lethal, marked by greater intensity, operational tempo, uncertainty, and psychological impact. We cannot expect the experience of the Gulf War to be repeated. Likely Characteristics of Adversaries With this as a starting point, TRADOC has discussed attributes a potential enemy is likely to possess: greater knowledge of the physical conflict environment, better situational awareness, a clearer understanding of U.S. military forces, and an ability to adapt quickly to changing battlefield conditions. These attributes strongly mirror challenges for British, and later American, soldiers in Indian campaigns of yesteryear. The physical environment remains the defining variable of close combat. For U.S. military forces, it is almost certain that future conflicts will occur in regions where the enemy has a greater understanding of the physical environment and has better optimized his forces to fight. A common characteristic of many Indian campaigns was the Indians’ superior knowledge of the terrain. A great example of this was the attack on the forces of Colonel Henry Bouquet during his march to relieve Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, during Pontiac’s War MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 in August 1763. The Indians attacked in an area of old growth forest, offering limited fields of fire, around Bushy Run. They forced Bouquet’s forces back into a defensive position on a hilltop, attacking the position repeatedly but without waiting for a counterattack. Their detailed knowledge of the area allowed them to simply fade into the forest, suffering few casualties.5 This is but one example of the advantages that accrued to many Indian tribes through the late 1800s.6 Opposing forces will also have greater situational awareness in future conflicts. We should expect them to have human networks operating over telephone lines or with cellular phones and using commercial imagery systems. This will be critical, not only because the adversary can distribute information quickly but also because crucial information will only be available through human interaction. The United States, even with its sophisticated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, will have difficulty in complex settings unless it builds a more effective human intelligence capability in strategically important regions. Moreover, these new adversaries will learn not only how to adapt technology but also tactics, formations, and operations in light of changing battlefield conditions during the course of operations. Such adaptations will help them counter a precision warfare strategy by creating uncertainty while also trying to control the nature and timing of combat engagements. During the war in Chechnya, the Chechens fought using few prepared positions, preferring instead, as Chechen Vice President Yanderbaijev said, to “let the situation do the organizing.”7 They would move from city to city to deny Russian maneuver and fire superiority and would use the local population as cover for their activities. Similarly, the Seminole Indians adapted continuously during the second Seminole War of 1835-1842. One noted historian puts it this way: “The second Seminole War did not follow the precedent set in earlier Indian wars by producing a single dazzling stroke by a spectacularly brilliant leader. No fewer than seven American commanders would try and fail to bring the war to a successful conclusion. When confronted with superior firepower and at a tactical disadvantage, the Seminoles simply dispersed into small bands and continued to fight a guerrilla war … best suited to the terrain and their own temperament. Where other 79