January 8, 2005
Rummy Gets a "Directed Telescope"
According to a story in yesterday's New York Times,
The Pentagon is sending a retired four-star Army general to Iraq next week to conduct an unusual "open-ended" review of the military's entire Iraq policy, including troop levels, training programs for Iraqi security forces and the strategy for fighting the insurgency, senior Defense Department officials said Thursday.
The extraordinary leeway given to the highly regarded officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military's Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said some members of Congress and military analysts.
First of all, we think this is an excellent idea. Second, we think it is not unusual, as portrayed by the Times. Retired generals and other officers often play both prominent and behind-the-scenes roles in various Pentagon efforts, from weapons and tactics development, to even heading up part of the Pentagon.
When we were in Iraq, our unit was visited by a three-man team of Majors who were traveling to every battalion-sized unit in Iraq to prepare an after-action report for Lt Gen O'Hanlon, who was then the head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
The Majors were an aviator, a combat engineer officer with extensive experience in ground units, and a reservist who was a historian and was writing the official Marine Corps history of the invasion. They were traveling together with a driver and were operating independently, with a mandate from the General to report on anything and to report directly to him.
The term for a mission, and an individual, or team like this is "the directed telescope." In "Command in War," the Bible of command and control, Martin Van Creveld examines the role of the directed telescope at length. Here is an excerpt from his chapter on Napoloeon:
. . . To guard against this danger and to keep subordinates on their toes, a commander needs to have in addition a kind of directed telescope – the metaphor is an apt one – which he can direct, at will, at any part of the enemy's forces, the terrain, or his own army in order to bring in information that is not only less structured than that passed on by the normal channels but also tailored to meet his momentary (and specific) needs. Ideally, the regular reporting system should tell the commander which questions to ask, and the directed telescope should enable him to answer those questions. It was the two systems together, cutting across each other and wielded by Napoleon's masterful hand, which made the revolution in command possible.So to sum up, General Luck will be acting as Rummy's directed telescope. He is there to gain insight into that which is not being reported through normal channels, probably inadvertently. And also to offer the opinion of a military expert who has not been heavily involved in the war and can gain a fresh perspective. it will be interesting if his trip results in changes in US policy . . .
As organized from 1805 on, Napoleon's system for cutting through established channels and for directly gathering the information he needed consisted of two separate parts. The first was a group of between eight and twelve adjutant generals; these were men selected unsystematically from among colonels who caught the emperor's eye, usually carried the rank of brigadier or major general, and were between ages thirty and forty and thus in the full flower of their mental and physical powers. Their duties varied enormously, from reconnoitering entire countries (Savary in 1805) to negotiating a surrender (Rapp in the same year) to spying out enemy headquarters under the cover of a truce (Rapp again, on the eve of Austerlitz) to commanding the cavalry or the artillery reserve in battle, (Druot, Lauriston) to governing a province and commanding a garrison far from the main theater of operations. Such responsibilities called for practical savoir faire as well as diplomatic ability, the knowledge and talents of a military commander, and, last but not least, sheer physical stamina.
[We HIGHLY recommend Van Creveld's book, by the way. Link in the sidebar.]
Posted by Chester at January 8, 2005 3:29 PM
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