Shock and Awe


The basis for Rapid Dominance rests in the ability to affect the will, perception, and understanding of the adversary through imposing sufficient Shock and Awe to achieve the necessary political, strategic, and operational goals of the conflict or crisis that led to the use of force. War, of course, in the broadest sense has been characterized by Clausewitz to include substantial elements of "fog, friction, and fear." In the Clausewitzian view, "shock and awe" were necessary effects arising from application of military power and were aimed at destroying the will of an adversary to resist. Earlier and similar observations had been made by the great Chinese military writer Sun Tzu around 500 B.C. Sun Tzu observed that disarming an adversary before battle was joined was the most effective outcome a commander could achieve. Sun Tzu was well aware of the crucial importance of achieving Shock and Awe prior to, during, and in ending battle. He also observed that "war is deception," implying that Shock and Awe were greatly leveraged through clever, if not brilliant, employment of force.

In Rapid Dominance, the aim of affecting the adversary's will, understanding, and perception through achieving Shock and Awe is multifaceted. To identify and present these facets, we need first to examine the different aspects of and mechanisms by which Shock and Awe affect an adversary. One recalls from old photographs and movie or television screens, the comatose and glazed expressions of survivors of the great bombardments of World War I and the attendant horrors and death of trench warfare. These images and expressions of shock transcend race, culture, and history. Indeed, TV coverage of Desert Storm vividly portrayed Iraqi soldiers registering these effects of battlefield Shock and Awe.

In our excursion, we seek to determine whether and how Shock and Awe can become sufficiently intimidating and compelling factors to force or otherwise convince an adversary to accept our will in the Clausewitzian sense, such that the strategic aims and military objectives of the campaign will achieve a political end. Then, Shock and Awe are linked to the four core characteristics that define Rapid Dominance: knowledge, rapidity, brilliance, and control.

The first step in this process is to establish a hierarchy of different types, models, and examples of Shock and Awe in order to identify the principal mechanisms, aims, and aspects that differentiate each model as unique or important. At this stage, historical examples are offered. However, in subsequent stages, a task will be to identify current and future examples to show the effects of Shock and Awe. From this identification, the next step in this methodology is to develop alternative mission capability packages consisting of a concept of operations doctrine, tactics, force structure, organizations, and systems to analyze and determine how best each form or variant of Shock and Awe might be achieved. To repeat, intimidation and compliance are the outputs we seek to obtain by the threat of use or by the actual application of our alternative force package. Then the mission capability package is examined in conditions of both MRCs and OOTW.

For discussion purposes, nine examples representing differing historical types, variants, and characteristics of Shock and Awe have been derived. These examples are not exclusive categories and overlap exists between and among them. The first example is "Overwhelming Force," the doctrine and concept shaping today's American force structure. The aims of this doctrine are to apply massive or overwhelming force as quickly as possible on an adversary in order to disarm, incapacitate, or render the enemy militarily impotent with as few casualties and losses to ourselves and to non-combatants as possible. The superiority of American forces, technically and operationally, is crucial to successful application.

There are several major criticisms and potential weaknesses of this approach. The first is its obvious reliance on large numbers of highly capable (and expensive) platforms such as the M-1 tank, F-14,15, and 18 aircraft and CVN/DDG-51/SSN-688 ships designed principally to be used jointly or individually to destroy and attrite other forces and supporting capability. In other words, this example has principally been derived from force-on-forces attrition relationships even though command and control, logistical, and supporting forces cannot be disaggregated from this doctrine.

The other major shortcoming of a force-on-force or a platform-on-platform attrition basis is that with declining numbers of worthy and well enough equipped adversaries against whom to apply this doctrine, justifying it to a questioning Congress and public will prove more difficult. While it is clear that "system of systems" and other alternative military concepts are under consideration, for the time being, these have not replaced the current platform and force-on-force attrition orientation. It should be noted, there will be no doctrinal alternatives unless ample effort is made to provide a comprehensive and detailed examination of possible alternatives.

Second, this approach is based on ultimately projecting large amounts of force. This requires significant logistical lift and the time to transport the necessary forces. Rapidity may not always follow, especially when it is necessary to deliver large quantities of decisive force to remote or distant regions. Third, the costs of maintaining a sufficiently decisive force may outstrip the money provided to pay for the numbers of highly capable forces needed. Finally, at a time when the commercial marketplace is increasing the performance of its products while also lowering price and cycle time to field newer generations systems, the opposite trends are still endemic in the defense sector. This will compound the tension between quality and quantity already cited. None of these shortcomings is necessarily fatal. However, none should be dismissed without fuller understanding.

Certainly, Rapid Dominance seeks to achieve certain objectives that are similar to those of current doctrine. A major distinction is that Rapid Dominance envisages a wider application of force across a broader spectrum of leverage points to impose Shock and Awe. This breadth should lead to a more comprehensive and integrated interaction among all the specific components and units that produce aggregate military capability and must include training and education, as well as new ways to exploit our technical and industrial capacity. It is possible that in these resource, technical, and commercial industrial areas that Rapid Dominance may provide particular utility that otherwise may constrain the effectiveness of Decisive Force.

The second example is "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" noted earlier. The intent here is to impose a regime of Shock and Awe through delivery of instant, nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction directed at influencing society writ large, meaning its leadership and public, rather than targeting directly against military or strategic objectives even with relatively few numbers or systems. The employment of this capability against society and its values, called "counter-value" in the nuclear deterrent jargon, is massively destructive strikes directly at the public will of the adversary to resist and, ideally or theoretically, would instantly or quickly incapacitate that will over the space of a few hours or days.

The major flaws and shortcomings are severalfold and rest in determining whether this magnitude and speed of destruction can actually be achieved using non-nuclear systems to render an adversary impotent; to destroy quickly the will to resist within acceptable and probably unachievably low levels of societal destruction; and whether a political decision would be taken in any case to use this type of capability given the magnitude of the consequences and the risk of failure.

It can be argued that in the bombing campaign of Desert Storm, similar objectives were envisioned. The differences between this example and Desert Storm are through the totality of a society that would be affected by a massive and indiscriminate regime of destruction and the speed of imposing those strikes as occurred to those Japanese cities. This example of shock, awe, and intimidation rests on the proposition that such effects must occur in very short periods of time.

The next example is "Massive Bombardment." This category of Shock and Awe applies massive and, perhaps today, relatively precise destructive power largely against military targets and related sectors over time. It is unlikely to produce an immediate effect on the will of the adversary to resist. In a sense, this is an endurance contest in which the enemy is finally broken through exhaustion. However, it is the cumulative effect of this application of destruction power that will ultimately impose sufficient Shock and Awe, as well as perhaps destroy the physical means to resist, that an adversary will be forced to accept whatever terms may be imposed. As noted, trench warfare of the First World War, the strategic bombing campaign in Europe of the Second World War (which was not effective in this regard), and related B-52 raids in Vietnam and especially over the New Year period of 1972-73, illustrate the application of massive bombardment.

Massive Bombardment, directed at largely military-strategic targets, is indeed an aspect of applying "Overwhelming Force," even though political constraints make this example most unlikely to be repeated in the future. There is also the option of applying massive destruction against purely civilian or "counter-value" targets such as the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II when unconditionality marks the terms of surrender. It is the cumulative impact of destruction on the endurance and capacity of the adversary that ultimately affects the will to resist that is the central foundation of this example.

The shortcoming with this example is clear, and rests in the question of political feasibility and acceptability, and what circumstances would be necessary to dictate and permit use of massive bombardment. Outright invasion and aggression such as Iraq's attack against Kuwait could clearly qualify as reasons to justify using this level of Shock and Awe. However, as with Overwhelming Force, this response is not time-sensitive and would require massive application of force for some duration as well as political support.

Fourth is the "Blitzkreig" example. In real Blitzkreig, Shock and Awe were not achieved through the massive application of firepower across a broad front nor through the delivery of massive levels of force. Instead, the intent was to apply precise, surgical amounts of tightly focused force to achieve maximum leverage but with total economies of scale. The German Wehrmacht's Blitzkreig was not a massive attack across a very broad front, although the opponent may have been deceived into believing that. Instead, the enemy's line was probed in multiple locations and, wherever it could be most easily penetrated, attack was concentrated in a narrow salient. The image is that of the shaped charge, penetrating through a relatively tiny hole in a tank's armor and then exploding outwardly to achieve a maximum cone of damage against the unarmored or less protected innards.

To the degree that this example of achieving Shock and Awe is directed against military targets, it requires skill if not brilliance in execution, or nearly total incompetence in the adversary. The adversary, finding front lines broken and the rear vulnerable, panics, surrenders, or both. Hitler's campaign in France and Holland and the seizure of the Dutch forts and the occupation of Crete in 1940 are obvious illustrations. The use of Special Operations forces in significant numbers is an adjunct to imposing this level of Shock and Awe.

Desert Storm could have been a classic Blitzkreig maneuver if the attack were mounted without the long preparatory bombardment and was concentrated in a single sector—either the "left hook" or the Marine attack "up the middle," and with total surprise. The major differences between the operation in Kuwait and Germany's capture of France in 1940 were that the allies in Saudi Arabia had complete military and technical superiority unlike the Germans and that, once under attack, Iraq's front line collapsed virtually everywhere, giving the coalition license to pick and choose the points for penetration and then dominate the battle with fire and maneuver. The lesson for future adversaries about the Blitzkreig example and the United States is that they will face in us an opponent able to employ technically superior forces with brilliance, speed, and vast leverage in achieving Shock and Awe through the precise application of force.

It must also be noted that there are certainly situations such as guerilla war where this or most means of employing force to obtain Shock and Awe may simply prove inapplicable. For example, the German Blitzkreig would have performed with the greatest difficulty in the Vietnam War, where enemy forces had relatively few lines to be penetrated or selectively savaged by this type of warfare.

The shortcomings of Blitzkrieg ironically rest in its strengths. Can brilliance and superiority be maintained? Is there a flexible enough infrastructure to ensure training to that standard, and can the supporting industrial base continue to produce at acceptable costs the systems to maintain this operational and technical superiority? Rapid Dominance requires a positive answer to these questions, at least theoretically.

The fifth example is named after the Chinese philosopher-warrior, Sun Tzu. The "Sun Tzu" example is based on selective, instant decapitation of military or societal targets to achieve Shock and Awe. This discrete or precise nature of applying force differentiates this from Hiroshima and Massive Destruction examples. Sun Tzu was brought before Ho Lu, the King of Wu, who had read all of Sun Tzu's thirteen chapters on war and proposed a test of Sun's military skills. Ho asked if the rules applied to women. When the answer was yes, the king challenged Sun Tzu to turn the royal concubines into a marching troop. The concubines merely laughed at Sun Tzu until he had the head cut off the head concubine. The ladies still could not bring themselves to take the master's orders seriously. So, Sun Tzu had the head cut off a second concubine. From that point on, so the story goes, the ladies learned to march with the precision of a drill team.

The objectives of this example are to achieve Shock and Awe and hence compliance or capitulation through very selective, utterly brutal and ruthless, and rapid application of force to intimidate. The fundamental values or lives are the principal targets and the aim is to convince the majority that resistance is futile by targeting and harming the few. Both society and the military are the targets. In a sense, Sun Tzu attempts to achieve Hiroshima levels of Shock and Awe but through far more selective and informed targeting. Decapitation is merely one instrument. This model can easily fall outside the cultural heritage and values of the U.S. for it to be useful without major refinement. Shutting down an adversary's ability to "see" or to communicate is another variant but without many historical examples to show useful wartime applications.

A subset of the Sun Tzu example is the view that war is deception. In this subset, the attempt is to deceive the enemy into what we wish the enemy to perceive and thereby trick, cajole, induce, or force the adversary. The thrust or target is the perception, understanding, and knowledge of the adversary. In some ways, the ancient Trojan Horse is an early example of deception. However, as we will see, the deception model may have new foundations in the technological innovations that are occurring and in our ability to control the environment.

The shortcomings with Sun Tzu are similar to those of the Massive Destruction and the Blitzkreig examples. It is questionable that a decision to employ American force this ruthlessly in quasi- or real assassination will ever be made by the U.S. Further, the standard to maintain the ability to perform these missions is high and dependent on both resources and on supporting intelligence, especially human intelligence—not an American strong point.

Britain's Special Air Service provides the SAS example and is distinct from the Blitzkreig or Sun Tzu categories because it focuses on depriving an adversary of its senses in order to impose Shock and Awe. The image here is the hostage rescue team employing stun grenades to incapacitate an adversary, but on a far larger scale. The stun grenade produces blinding light and deafening noise. The result shocks and confuses the adversary and makes him senseless. The aim in this example of achieving Shock and Awe is to produce so much light and sound or the converse, to deprive the adversary of all senses, and therefore to disable and to disarm. Without senses, the adversary becomes impotent and entirely vulnerable.

A huge "battlefield" stun grenade that encompasses large areas is a dramatic if unachievable illustration. Perhaps a high altitude nuclear detonation that blacks out virtually all electronic and electrical equipment better describes the intended effect regardless of likelihood of use. Depriving the enemy, in specific areas, of the ability to communicate, observe, and to interact is a more reasonable and perhaps more achievable variant. This deprival of senses, including all electronics and substitution of false signals or data to create this feeling of impotence, is another variant. Above all, Shock and Awe are imposed instantly and the mechanism or target is deprivation of the senses.

The shortcomings of the SAS approach mirror in part shortcomings of other approaches. Technological solutions are crucial but may not be conceivable outside the EMP effects of nuclear weapons. Intelligence is clearly vital. Without precise knowledge of who and what are to be stunned, this example will not work.

The sixth example of applying Shock and Awe is the "Haitian" example (or to the purist, the Potemkin Village example). It is based on imposing Shock and Awe through a show of force and indeed through deception, misinformation, and disinformation and is different from the U.S. intervention in Haiti in 1995. In the early 1800s, native Haitians were seeking to extricate their country from French control. The Haitian leaders staged a martial parade for the visiting French military contingent and marched, reportedly, a hand full of battalions repeatedly in review. The French were deceived into believing that the native forces numbered in the tens of thousands and concluded that French military action was futile and that its forces would be overwhelmed. As a result, the Haitians were able to achieve their freedom without firing a shot.

To be sure, there are points of similarity between the Haitian example and the others. Deception, disinformation, and guile are more crucial in this regime. However, the target or focus is the will and perception of the intended target. Perhaps the Sun Tzu category comes closest to this one except that while Sun Tzu is selective in applying force, it is clear that imposing actual pain and shock are essential ingredients and deception, disin-formation, and guile are secondary. Demonstrative uses of force are also important. The issue is how to determine what demonstrations will affect the perceptions of the intended target in line with the overall political aims.

The weakness of this form of Shock and Awe is its major dependency on intelligence. One must be certain that the will and perceptions of the adversary can be manipulated. The classic misfire is the adversary who is not impressed and, instead, is further provoked to action by the unintended actions of the aggressor. Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis' invasion of Kuwait demonstrate when this Potemkin Village model can backfire. Saddam simply let his bluff be called.

The next example is that of "The Roman Legions." Achieving Shock and Awe rests in the ability to deter and overpower an adversary through the adversary's perception and fear of his vulnerability and our own invincibility, even though applying ultimate retribution could take a considerable period of time. The target set encompasses both military and societal values. In occupying a vast empire stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, Rome could deploy relatively small number of forces to secure each of these territories. In the first place, Roman forces were far superior to native forces individually and collectively. In the second place, if an untoward act occurred, the perpetrator could rest assured that Roman vengeance ultimately would take place. This was similar to British "Gunboat Diplomacy" of the nineteenth century when the British fleet would return to the scene of any crime against the crown and extract its retribution through the wholesale destruction of offending villages.

There were several vital factors in Rome's ability to achieve Shock and Awe. The invincibility of its Legions, or the perception of that prowess, and the inevitability of retribution were among the most significant factors. In other words, reprisals and the use of force to exact a severe punishment, as well as the certainty that this sword of Damocles would descend, were essential ingredients. The distinction between this category and the others is the ex post facto nature of achieving Shock and Awe. In the other categories, there is the need for seizing the initiative and applying con-temporaneous force to achieve Shock and Awe. With the Roman example, the Shock and Awe have already been achieved. It is the breakdown of this regime or the rise of new and as yet unbowed adversaries that leads to the reactive use of force.

The major shortcoming is the assumption of the inevitability of reprisals and the capacity to take punitive action. That is not and may not always be the case with the United States, although we can attempt to make others believe it will be. The takeover of the Embassy in Tehran by dissident "students" in 1979 and American impotence in the aftermath are suggestive of the shortcoming. That aside, the example or perception of the invincibility of American military power is not a bad one to embellish.

The next category for achieving Shock and Awe is termed the Decay and Default model and is based on the imposition of societal breakdown over a lengthy period but without the application of massive destruction. This example is obviously not rapid but cumulative. In this example, both military and societal values are targets. Selective and focused force is applied. It is the long-term corrosive effects of the continuing breakdown in the system and society that ultimately compels an adversary to surrender or to accept terms. Shock and Awe are therefore not immediate either in application or in producing the end result. Economic embargoes, long-term policies that harass and aggravate the adversary, and other types of punitive actions that do not threaten the entire society but apply pressure as in the Chinese water torture, a drop at a time, are the mechanisms. Finally, the preoccupation with the decay and disruption of society produces a variant of Shock and Awe in the form of frustration collapsing the will to resist.

The significant weakness of this approach is time duration. In many cases, the time required to impose such a regime of Shock and Awe is unacceptably long or simply cannot be achieved by conventional or politically acceptable means.

The final example is that of "The Royal Canadian Mounted Police," whose unofficial motto was "never send a man where you can send a bullet." The distinction between this example and the others is that this example is even more selective than Sun Tzu and implies that standoff capabilities as opposed to forces in place can achieve the required objectives. There should not be too fine a point, however, in belaboring differences with the other examples in this regard over standoff. A stealthy aircraft bombing unimpededly is not distinct from a cruise missile fired at 1,000 miles regarding the effect of ordnance on target.

A few observations about these examples offer insights on which to test and evaluate means of applying Rapid Dominance. It is clear that the targets in each category include military, civilian, industrial, infrastructure, and societal components of a country or group. In certain cases, time is the crucial consideration in imposing Shock and Awe and in most of the examples, emphasis is on a rapid or sudden imposition of Shock and Awe. However, in several examples, the effects of Shock and Awe must be and are cumulative. They are either achieved over time or achieved through earlier conditioning and experiences. Not all of these categories are dependent on technology or on new technological breakthroughs. What is relatively new or different is the extent to which brilliance and competence in using force, in understanding where an adversary's weak points lie and in executing military operations with deftness, are vital. While this recognition is not new, emphasis is crucial on exploiting brilliance and therefore on the presumption that brilliance may be taught or institutionalized and is not a function only of gifted individuals.

There is also a key distinction between selective or precise and massive application of force. Technology, in the form of "zero CEP" weapons, may provide the seemingly contradictory capability of systems that are both precise and have the net consequence of imposing massive disruption, destruction, or damage. This damage goes beyond the loss of power grids and other easily identifiable industrial targeting sets. Loss of all communications can have a massively destructive impact even though physical destruction can be relatively limited.

In some of the examples, the objective is to apply brutal levels of power and force to achieve Shock and Awe. In the attempt to keep war "immaculate," at least in limiting collateral damage, one point should not be forgotten. Above all, war is a nasty business or, as Sherman put it, "war is hell." While there are surely humanitarian considerations that cannot or should not be ignored, the ability to Shock and Awe ultimately rests in the ability to frighten, scare, intimidate, and disarm. The Clausewitzian dictum concerning the violent nature of war is dismissed only at our peril.

For a policy maker in the White House or Pentagon and the concerned Member of Congress with responsibility for providing for the common defense, what lessons emerge from these examples and hierarchies? First, there are always broader sets of operational concepts and constructs available for achieving political objectives than may be realized. Not all of these alternatives are necessarily better or feasible. However, the examples suggest that further intellectual and conceptual effort is a worthwhile investment in dealing with national security options in the future.

Second, time becomes an opportunity as well as a constraint in generating new thinking. In many past cases, time was generally viewed as an adversary. We had to race against several clocks to arrive "firstest with the mostest," to prevent an enemy from advancing, or to ensure we had ample forces on station should they be required. Rapid Dominance would alleviate many of these constraints as we would have the capacity to deploy effective forces far more quickly. Therefore, in this case, we can view time as an ally. The political issue rests in longstanding arguments to limit the President from having the capacity to deploy or use force quickly, thereby involving the nation without conferring with full consultation with Congress. While this is an obvious point, it should not eliminate alternative types of force packages derived from Rapid Dominance from full consideration and experimentation. Indeed, our experience with nuclear weapons and emergency release procedures shows that delegating instant presidential authority can be handled responsibly.

Responding to the precise, rapid, and massive criteria of several models, it is clear that one capability not presently in the arsenal is a "zero-CEP" weapon, meaning one that is precise and timely. It is also clear that, while deception, guile, and brilliance are important attributes in war, there are no guarantees that they can be institutionalized in any military force.

Another capability that Rapid Dominance would stress relates to the Sun Tzu example. Suppose there are "EMP-like" or High Powered Microwave (HPM) systems that can be fielded and provide broad ability to incapacitate even a relatively primitive society. In using these weapons, the nerve centers of that society would be attacked rather than using this illustrative system to achieve hard target kill because there were few hard targets. To be sure, HPM and EMP-like systems have been and are being carefully researched.

Finally, to return to the idea that deception, disinformation, and misinformation are crucial aspects of waging war, Rapid Dominance would seek to achieve several further capabilities. By using complete signature management, larger formations could be made to look like smaller and smaller formations made to seem larger. At sea, carrier battle groups could be disguised and smaller warships could be made to appear as large formations. This signature management would apply across the entire spectrum of the senses and not just radar or electronic ranges. Indeed, gaining the ability to regulate what information and intelligence are both available and not available to the adversary is a key aim. This is more than denial or deception. It is control in the fullest sense of the word.

The next step is to match the four significant characteristics that define Rapid Dominance— knowledge, rapidity, brilliance, and control—with Shock and Awe against achievable military objectives in order to derive suitable strategies and doctrines, configure forces and force packages accordingly, and determine those integrated systems and innovative uses of technologies and capabilities that will provide the necessary means to achieve these objectives in conditions that include both the MRC and OOTW.


Chapter 3. Strategic, Policy, and Operational Application

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