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Gates: Everyone Agrees on the Need for ‘Full-Spectrum’ Operations « The Washington Independent

More from Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ conference call. Yesterday, Andrew Exum thought I was a bit too breathless in describing the budget as a victory for the counterinsurgency crowd, and it’s a fair point. But I asked Gates if he thought he had reached consensus within the Pentagon for some of the underlying concepts in his defense budget — and for that matter the National Defense Strategy that it fleshes out — namely that the United States was more likely to face asymmetric conflict from insurgents than conventional warfare from hostile navies or air forces or mechanized armor units. Here’s how Gates replied:

One place where there seemed to be broad buy-in is that this black-and-white division of conventional and irregular warfare is something of a fiction. That does not reflect the real world. In fact, there is a spectrum of conflict, where even at the low end — the general [James Cartwright] was talking about lethality — you have in an insurgency, a guy who’s carrying an AK-47 but he might also be planting an EFP [explosively formed penetrator] that could take out a million-dollar tank or MRAP. And you’re going to have cyber involved in all of this in a way that hasn’t happened before, and it could happen at any place along that spectrum. And so I think there is an understanding that preparation for what we’re calling Complex Hybrid Warfare, and range up and down the scale from counterinsurgency to a regular conventional conflict, where even in a conventional conflict they will use irregular kinds of resources, whether it’s cyber or something else.

So I think there is broad agreement on that. Frankly, I haven’t heard any pushback from the chiefs [of the armed services] or really anyone else who’s participated in this about integrating [and] institutionalizing the capabilities needed for irregular conflict in the base budget.

That seems like a clear counterinsurgent victory to me. Over the past year I’ve heard a near-identical depiction about the structure of current and foreseeable threats faced by the United States expressed to me from Gen. David Petraeus and from the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Army and Air Force Majors taking classes at the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. It’s not that everything has to be COIN’d up now throughout the military. That’s a caricature and no one argues for that. It’s that up until, oh, 2005, when Petraeus took command at Leavenworth and began institutionalizing counterinsurgency courses there, the counterinsurgents were fighting against the entire military to argue for a reasonable place for counterinsurgency capabilities within the panoply of military tools. Now, if Gates’ remarks about the present consensus are true, the counterinsurgents’ view of the usage of irregular warfare within the spectrum of threats the United States faces is now hegemonic within the military. This outcome was not at all obvious in 2005.

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