The Air Force, Navy, and Marines are the second group of critical stakeholders who will be active participants (to varying degrees) in the upcoming experiments. As the warfighting experts in their respective mission domains––air, sea, and the littorals––the Army’s sister services rightfully believe they bring critical capabilities to Multi-Domain Battle. But, will their capabilities become organic to the multi-domain task force structure—making the task force more joint than U.S. Army-centric? To what degree will multi-domain task force commanders be able to leverage Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps assets presently forward deployed/forward based overseas to create the desired effects? Will a laborious and time-consuming request for forces process be necessary before these assets are placed at the disposal of multi-domain task force commanders or will they be permanently “on-call”?
In many ways the Peloponnesian War was a maritime struggle—the Athenians built their empire through their navy, the culminating point of the war was the failed Syracuse expedition where Athens lost 200 ships, and the war finally ended when Athens surrendered a decade later after the remainder of its fleet was destroyed by Sparta at Aegospotami. In The History of the Peloponnesian War, Athenian exile Thucydides details how his native city-state’s empire and power expanded throughout the Hellenic World, often at the relative expense of status quo power Sparta.
Over the past two decades the use of the word domain has attained wide acceptance in the military lexicon. Vague when described in doctrine, it exerts a strong influence by establishing the most basic boundaries of military functional identities. Despite the unquestioned usage of domain-centric terminology, the exact meaning of domain remains largely undefined without consideration of etymological origins. However, the word contains some built-in assumptions regarding how we view warfare that can limit our thinking. An ambiguous categorization of separate operating domains in warfare could actually pose an intractable conceptual threat to an integrated joint force, which is ironically the stated purpose of multi-domain battle.
Multi-Domain Battle offers a conceptual structure for an extension of the technological and doctrinal Second Offset. This combination can continue to offset any adversary's ability to mass effects in the cyber, information, and electro-magnetic spectrum as well as massed lethal fires. The desired capabilities needed to force seams in enemy defenses and establish temporary windows of opportunity in the physical and cyber domains will serve to set disciplined conditions for a conceptual and actual Third Offset.
Our analysis is built on a foundation of sand. We offer bold proclamations and precise policy proposals designed to cajole, convince, or coerce a hostile nuclear power whose decision making process is utterly opaque to us. We theorize much, and assume more, but we still do not know why the Chinese do what they do. Most critically, we do not know how to find the knowledge we lack. This is an intellectual challenge we have not begun to meet. Understanding Zhongnanhai is a wonderful methodological puzzle—but a puzzle with nuclear stakes. Until we solve this puzzle, I doubt any number of policy prescriptions will be enough to ensure peace in the West Pacific.
All is not right in U.S.-China relations. From Washington’s perspective, Beijing isn’t following the liberal internationalist script. For one thing, China’s “peaceful development” seems to have morphed into a full-throated, and ever expanding, assertion of the PRC’s sovereignty rights in the South China Sea. Moreover, the recent release of the People’s Liberation Army white paper confirms what has long been suspected: American hegemony is little appreciated in Beijing.
In Foreign Policy’s National Security Blog, Colonel Scott Gerber (USA) recently attempted to make out the Air Sea Battle (ASB) Concept as foolishness. Personally, I am extremely concerned about building an operational concept around a policy shift known as the “Asia Pivot.” My greatest concern is that the United States has not sufficiently fleshed out the strategic underpinnings of translating the Asia Pivot policy into action, however setting that aside for now, I will revisit that in a follow-on post. What I find striking about Gerber’s offering here is how he insists on building a straw man of mythological proportions in order to knock over the ASB Concept.