Part 1 – Westphalia is dead, long live Westphalia: A new era demands the reign of a new structure.
11 April 19
This is a two-part article.
‘What is dead may never die…’
Whilst catching up on Game of Thrones ready for the new season – like many of this generation- the phrase ‘what is dead, may never die…but rise again stronger and harder’ resonated in my mind, along with the irony of who was saying it.Unfortunately, as is the institutionalisation many of us suffer, my thoughts turned to work and of how apt this reference was to the Royal Marines. In a vain attempt to sound clever, but truthfully to add credible weight to later arguments, we can link this phrase to a relatively modern (1949) Orwell quote in the book 1984:“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past”. Or even to a medieval Machiavelli quote (from before the Treaty of Westphalia): “whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the time”. If R.R Martin, Orwell and Machiavelli are right (and their acclaim must draw consideration), the trope of these three references highlights a theme throughout history to ‘control the present’. The Royal Marines must rise again, to meet the times.
Traditional structures and systems devised within Game of Thrones-esq Westphalian philosophies are antiquated and are no longer fit for purpose in a changed operating environment; largely due to globalisation. Simplified, current force structures designed solely around a conventional threat are outdated and need to be revised for the current and changing threats. But yet we still attempt to muddle on and make the Augean system work; we await a Herculean (or Daenerys) figure to clean it up. Similarly, this is impacting the way we command. As the demand on skills and capabilities has developed in the last century from rudimentary forms of infantry and tanks, to synergising multiple direct and indirect effects, the demand on our commanders has changed. There is an argument that the indications of these effects were first felt during the World Wars, with the introduction of new technologies. Over time our structures and systems have augmented or been manipulated to try and ‘square the circle’ to meet the new demands in the theme of ‘bullets write new tactics’. However, they have only evolved iteratively and never changed commensurately, to suit the expansion of neorealism into an unfamiliar territory. This has led to a system and structure that is bent out of shape and no longer represents what it was designed for. Surely a subversive threshold approaches, where we start from fresh?
Scales articulates today’s similar obsession with fires is what inspired the German’s to change in 1918. The creation of ‘Infiltration tactics’, would enable the hugely effective blitzkrieg tactics; highlighting the profound effect of changing structures to meet the times. This article argues that the German’s innovative change to incorporate Clauswitzian manoeuvre is principally the same as today’s requirement – albeit a broader, modern version of manoeuvre across more domains. Linked, this article also argues that whilst the need for basic leadership remains, much is moving into a more complex space. By virtue this demands greater awareness for our junior leaders, of what are currently considered operational level capabilities and frictions. If the system and structure is to change to meet the new demands, so too should the way we develop our leaders. This two-part article proposes both.
Tactical Art versus Operational Art
As we look to skills and capabilities to tackle the growing complexities of modern warfare (warfare may be a misnomer in itself, but humour me), there is an argument that actions usually the preserve of the tactical level are increasingly becoming more operational level activity/capabilities. So why do we focus much of our training and activity at the tactical level, if modern warfare demands more at the operational level? We will come back to this later, but first I want to touch on leadership levels.
Tactical leadership has numerous undefined levels within it; however, the top level is considered an officer sport. In truth, this is merely a way of broadening the officer to tacitly inform their understanding of the different dynamics, and make them more credible. This article proposes Royal Marine officers should be groomed for operational, or maybe even strategic leadership. Current indicators suggest the future environment is likely to be vastly different from how we’ve prepared for it previously; bayonets may not be the most effective weapon of choice, or maybe even a choice at all. We must therefore shape our leaders, to focus early on the correct type of leadership for their future roles. Therefore, officers’ exposure to operational/strategic considerations will be crucial. Matthew Syed, in his book Bounce highlights that ‘talent’ is acquired through application and opportunity. Therefore focussing officers largely on tactical leadership will grow just that: talented tactical leaders. This is at odds to growing operational level demands and helps understand our repeated strategic incompetence. Therefore, why not give this enduring responsibility of tactical leadership to low-level tactical leaders, like NCOs or Late-Entry Officers. They have been doing it far longer and are therefore theoretically more ‘talented’. Obviously an officers understanding will need to be gained and therefore appointments will be needed, but that should be its limit. No longer should an officer spend so much time in the low-level tactical environment of old. They should be exposed to more operational level scenarios. To ensure long-term success we must have capable operational/strategic officers able to execute and win in operational/strategic environments. This will potentially see a larger pull through of RM General Officers to the upper echelons of Defence. Later will discuss how we can attempt to blend the levels more effectively.
International Relations and the Future Operating Environment
The proliferation of (social) media and technology -as part of globalisation- is a key factor in the shift toward operational level activity as a core function of modern warfare. To meet this we must change, not adapt, to succeed in this environment. Whilst the military must remain apolitical, it must also be cognisant of the shifting sands of current affairs, to build upon foundations and ‘control the present’. The Westphalian system highlighted by McFate in his book ‘The New Rules of War’ seeks to maintain sovereignty and the Rules Based International Order (which we hear so much about from politicians). However, the rise of confrontation and competition for power and resources directly opposes this. Meaning any whom remain wholly committed to old systems are out of touch and uncompetitive. Furthermore, the conditions of sovereignty set in 1648 are easily challenged by modern connectivity – case in point BREXIT. Therefore, along with the rise of non-state organisations for interdependence (EU etc), we are likely to see insecurity increase. All this challenges the Westphalian system we work off. This serves to highlight the significance of the opening Orwell quote, and emphasises our need to ‘rise again stronger and harder’ to meet the present (and near future) environment.
Currently, to tackle these shifts the West (whom are largely Westphalian systems) usually classify new threats as a new type of warfare, to justify augmenting or manipulating the current structure, as a means to adapt. We hear Hybrid, COIN, Asymmetric, Guerrilla, amongst others, and now Irregular Warfare (IW), for ways to operate.  All combined are add-ons to the structure we have, to ensure we can at least counter threats. To support this there is an obvious question: how many formations eventually re-structured in Afghanistan to tackle the tasks they were set? Lots! A counter argument would be that the current structure was flexible to adapt. However, an easy rebuttal would insist it was the people that were flexible, not the structure. The systems and structures we have are designed largely to operate at the tactical level, however, many of these ‘new’ types of warfare (including IW) require skills and capabilities currently considered as operational level. Whilst many of these skills and capabilities are finite and expensive to train and procure, we must push them down. If we are to be truly effective, we must start to consider them within the old system of tactical. What better, we should revise how we structure and operate within clearly defined levels – which are currently ambiguous – depending on the task. To ensure we can act and respond effectively, we must revise the force structure, to aid delineation between the blurry levels. This would encourage more operational level capabilities to be incorporated as tactical level. Below will highlight a few areas we can consider to make best effects.
Force Structure – a command perspective.
Officers’ (mostly) join to command (preferably on operations), so we must scrutinise current structures which see them leave command and likely not do it again for 8+ years (Troop Command to Company Command). Whilst recognising a need to broaden our personnel, we need to recognise that this gap will encourage skill fade and reduce the officer’s talent to lead, due to lack of application and opportunity (highlighted above by Syed reference)- as well as affect retention. Furthermore, it does not allow officers to develop leadership credentials at the operational level of command and therefore broaden them for their later careers. Having graduated command positions would go someway to resolve this and increase success within an operating environment, which is increasingly at the operational level. Redesigning force structure would see more, smaller sized force elements – still within a Coy size. Each element (or Team) grows in experience and capability and thereby requires the same of its commander; as a more capable Team possesses more operational level capabilities, so too should the commander.
The changing nature of warfare highlighted by McFate indicates that the Westphalian system is diminishing. This is the fundamental foundation for how western militaries currently structure and organise themselves. Garry Kasparov, in his aptly named book Winter is Coming, highlights that no longer do threats ‘have to have a national flag or even an army to inflict terrible damage to the most powerful’. Furthermore, he adds that states can outsource their aims to non-state groups. However, noting we still have tribal or state allegiances causing most conflicts, confrontation and competition, we are unlikely to see a fully diminished state. Nevertheless, unless a global Magna Carta is signed, we must prepare for more subterfuge and proxy activity – alongside other non-state actors including terrorism. Therefore, if we are to meet this change, we must change our force structures, and that means the end of conventional structures. Expanding on Kasparov, we can link to what McFate calls ‘Durable Disorder’, where the distinction between war and peace is not just blurred, but intermingled. We therefore need a structure that is agile for both requirements and can bring to bear enhanced capabilities of a direct and indirect nature. This will require greater skill and experience of commanders (and subordinates) to employ them all correctly, organically – indicating enhanced training requirements. Scales articulates this proposal nicely in his article Tactical Art in the Future, supporting the premise that Operational Art is becoming more tactical (or vice versa) – as alluded to above. Below is a proposal of the composition for a new Company (Coy) force structure, which can be scaled depending on the nature and severity of the task. This proposal would no longer require the elements of Command Coy, as the skills would be blended into the Coy composition. Also, importantly, it notices a manpower saving per Coy.
Table 1.1. Graduated Command Model
This structure would provide a graduated level of experience and capability, and de-risk inexperienced commandos and commanders. It would also provide an apprenticeship style opportunity for fresh officers and marines, to learn their trade expertly. Also noteworthy is that Teams 1-3 (Basic) are able to be commanded by SNCOs, and therefore provide opportunity for the force to exploit their experience and tactical leadership talent, fully. This could be experienced Sergeants or Colour Sergeants, or a fresh Warrant Officer as a means to measure aptitude for Sergeants Major. This reinforces the need for junior officers to only be broadened by these roles, with their command ‘talent’ being realised within the Specialist Teams.
The model could provide a balanced mixture of experience and capability, which can operate aggregated, under the command of the OF3, or disaggregated using Mission Command and directives. The end result would be manpower savings per Coy (RMs most costly asset), which could be reinvested elsewhere: kit/capabilities. It may even invest the saving to incorporate a sub-unit Ops Team, to plan and conduct operations independently. Whilst this article does not expand on the type of skills within these Teams, it is obvious it will need to have a base level (Teams 1-3) of ability commensurate with Commando skills. This must include long-range insertion as well as exquisite kinetic and mobility capabilities. Whilst similar, the Specialist Teams (Teams 4-5) would need to offer another dimension to achieve indirect and direct manoeuvre, enabling the Manoeuvrist Approach. This may include EW/cyber, Intelligence and Information Specialists, Enhanced Reconnaissance and CBRN, amongst others. These (currently) operational level capabilities would require an experienced OF2 to command – a good test for Sub-Unit Command. The OF3 sub-unit commander would then own (OPCOM) the ability to combine all the actions. This would enable greater and further reaching effects and exploit opportunities readily to target enemy vulnerabilities – expanded in Part 2. (Scales articulates some of the likely skills)
A change in nomenclature may be required too. A change from the conventional systems and structures will mean a shift from conventional monikers, to avoid confusion. Current use of different terminology despite similar structures sows confusions. Currently, the use of Troops and Commando Units (RM) versus Platoons and Battalions (Army) is confusing, as they have similar structures. This demonstrates a divorce from original structures and encourages unnecessary confusion. Proposed Teams can be given names denoted by their tasks: Raiding, Recce, Exploitation etc. While Company and Brigade monikers may need to be revised too. This would simplify C2 and avoid confusion of capabilities, when working externally. Consequently, RM personnel would feel a shift from the perceptions of RM being a regular infantry unit, to being proud of what Team etc they represent. We should not be wedded to legacy through sentimentality: no sacred cows!
Part 2 will focus from a TTP and morale perspective.
 The Iron Islanders are a island of mariners who raid foreign shores.
 Westphalia: Treaty of Westphalia signed 1648 created the notion of statehood characterised by territoriality and sovereignty. ‘Giving the ruler exclusive, unqualified and supreme rule within a delimited territory. Globalisation presents a fundamental challenge to this.’ http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1550/globalization-and-the-state-assessing-the-decline-of-the-westphalian-state-in-a-globalizing-world
 IW is a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations. IW favours indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capabilities, in order to erode an adversary’s power, influence, and will. Coons and Harned. Irregular Warfare is Warfare. Joint Force Quarterly. 2009.
 R. Smith. Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World. 2012
 McFate. The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder. Harper Collins. 2019
 Isabelle Duyvesteyn. Modern War and the Utility of Force. 2012
 McFate. The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder. Harper Collins. 2019
 JDP 01: Operational Art – The employment of forces to attain strategic and/or operational objectives through the design, organization, integration and conduct of strategies, campaigns, major operations and battles
 Mission command – assists subordinates to understand their commander’s intent and their place within the plan. This enables them to execute activity with the maximum freedom of action. p104. JDP-01
 Manoeuvrist Approach – An approach to operations in which shattering the enemy’s overall cohesion and will to fight is paramount. It calls for an attitude of mind in which doing the unexpected, using initiative and seeking originality is combined with a ruthless determination to succeed. p124. JDP-01