Tactical Risk in Multi-Domain Operations
By Kevin Benson
Source: Modern War Institute
He either fears his fate too much
Or his desserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all.
― James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose
I believe history does not repeat itself, but as Mark Twain pointed out at times it does rhyme. Once again in my life our Army is reassessing how it will fight large-scale ground combat operations against peer and near-peer adversaries, possibly while outnumbered. The conditions have changed since the first time I experienced this upon entering our Army at the end of the Vietnam War. We are coming out of a prolonged period of platoon- and company-level high-intensity combat that has taken place within the context of operational- and strategic-level counterinsurgency. And once again, we are struggling to come to grips with what are the significant threats to the republic and how to organize, equip, and train our Army to defeat these threats and win our nation’s wars. Naturally, the subject of risk comes up repeatedly.
Successful conduct of warfare under conditions of multi-domain operations will require consideration of the principles of war, especially mass and economy of force. In order to penetrate an enemy defense or disrupt an enemy offense the tactical commander must accept risk in the form of an economy of force—in order to attain the effect of mass, fires, and effects—against an enemy. Mass and the attendant risk of economy of force enables penetration and maneuver to a position of advantage to hasten the dis-integration of enemy systems. (The Army has deliberately chosen to hyphenate “dis-integrate,” which refers to “breaking the coherence of the enemy’s system by destroying or disrupting its subcomponents . . . [and] degrading its ability to conduct operations while leading to a rapid collapse of the enemy’s capabilities or will to fight.) The risk to the force and to the mission is in the ability of friendly forces to move faster than an enemy force can react and take advantage of learning where the economy-of-force zone is placed.
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