Indirect Approach Research

Doc Cox

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I am extremely interested in discussing the "indirect approach." I am actually working with a Major here at SAMS who is attempting a statistical study of indirect vs direct approaches in US COIN interventions. He is melding two datasets together and attempting to discern from the combined cases if (Hey you over there wake up:D (Sorry if the intro is a little boring but there is a point!)) we can actually differentiate between indirect vs direct approaches. The rudimentary ideas we have so far are:

1) composition of force (e.g. SF heavy then more likely indirect intervention)
2) Military leader rhetoric (e.g. a commander says explicitly "we are employing the indirect approach").
3) Assessing actual operations (use of indiginous forces, more FID and SFA heavy, etc.).

Please feel free to assess what we have so far and suggest any other possible way to measure indirect versus direct approaches.

On another note, I am very interested in any anecdotes from the field (any SF operation I am not myopically focused on the present) that relate to a better cultural understanding leading to a better end result (tactical to strategic). I prefer unclassified accounts and I hope that some might be willing to allow me to interview them over the phone (or in person if you make it out to Ft. Leavenworth or if our paths happen to cross) and use the text in future scholarly research. I can give more contact info if necessary for those who do not wish to publish accounts in an open forum.

Thanks in advance for any help.
 

Marauder06

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Doc-

What definitions are you using for "direct approach" and "indirect" approach? Is there unclass SOF doctrine you can post? That would help focus the responses to your question.
 

Doc Cox

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Doc-

What definitions are you using for "direct approach" and "indirect" approach? Is there unclass SOF doctrine you can post? That would help focus the responses to your question.

I'm sorry but that is exactly the problem. LTC Andy Johnson (who is one of my close friends and a great colleague working here with me at SAMS) and some other SF scholars have been very kind and patient in bringing me up to speed on this topic.

The problem is that almost everything on the Indirect Approach traces its origins back to B.H. Liddle Hart. Liddle Hart's definition of an Indirect Approach includes everything that is not direct confrontation with the enemy--the surest way to victory is a long circuitious path, etc. I believe, and so does the Major working on his monograph here at SAMS, that this definition is too broad. What my student and I are trying to discern is what actually constitues an Indriect Approach and how would we determine if a particular operation is actually more indirect than it is direct (I now believe after speaking with several SF scholar warriors that no operation is purely direct or indirect). That is why I began proposing the possible metrics in my previous posting but even those are not sitting well with me. I may be jumping the gun a little bit as my student is busily reworking the data and I have not had a chance to look at the transformed dataset.

Having said this, I think this is an extremely important topic for SOF as you guys have in the past and will continue in the future to engage in an indirect COIN approach. Please note that indirect does not solely mean soft power activities or support of indiginous forces alone and kinetic options can be every bit as indirect (great now I am back to Liddle Hart) as non-kinetic options. That is probably the crux of the problem.

Now that I think about it that is the key question: What kinetic actions are indirect and what are direct? Can anyone help me with thoughts on that?

Thanks and sorry for long post.
 

Doc Cox

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Are you refering to operations against the FSLN which resulted in the electoral ouster of Violeta Chamorro? I have read just a little about the campaign PSYOPS used there.

Whoops! I just remembered that was Nicaragua not El Salvador. I have no exposure to SF operations in El Salvador. Sorry for the assclownery:D

Dammit Jim! I'm a political scientist not a geographerist!
 

AWP

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I'm far from sharpshooting you Doc, but so that I understand your intent:

You are trying to define the definition, to create it or at least provide it with a greater amount of clarity?

If true this may be the most intellectual thread on the board, but I digress.

Rand did a study last year, I'll try to find it, on the history of 90+ insurgencies since the end of WWII. It mainly focused on their duration, but also on how they were won. That might help.

I think you are on the right path with this:
I now believe after speaking with several SF scholar warriors that no operation is purely direct or indirect
. That being the case you're left with a sliding scale from Indirect to Direct and everything in between. A real numbers geek could start applying numbers to historical cases and "rate" them, but that almost invites the McNamaras and Rumsfelds of the world to use the number to define a strategy.

But back to your point of what is direct vs. indirect? Again, I think you have a sliding scale. Intel collection, analysis, and dissemination.....if we do any of this to support a nation is that direct? Is "direct" solely limited to delivering ordnance or putting men on the ground? If we use satellite photos and pass those to another nation, wouldn't that be direct? Or would a Direct approach involve anything in the military and Indirect involve humanitarian aid? So would our response to the Soviets in Afghanistan therefore be considered Direct because we supplied the Muj with weapons?

I'm sure you and the LTC, not to mention others, have considered the above. I guess I'm trying to get my head around the concept. If I understand Hart correctly, an Indirect Approach essentially is that which is not a direct attack on the enemy. Wouldn't this be an insurgency then as put forth by Hart?

I would perhaps argue that a Direct Approach in COIN involves the use of troops or force, "warheads on foreheads" in the modern vernacular with everything else (Intel, I/O, Psyop, Logistics, Signal, Medical, "soft" aid, etc.) to be Indirect.

Anyway, that's my uneducated view on the subject. I can't believe that SWC doesn't have anything on this.

I'd be interested in seeing your work whenever it is completed.
 

Doc Cox

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I'm far from sharpshooting you Doc, but so that I understand your intent:

You are trying to define the definition, to create it or at least provide it with a greater amount of clarity?

If true this may be the most intellectual thread on the board, but I digress.

Rand did a study last year, I'll try to find it, on the history of 90+ insurgencies since the end of WWII. It mainly focused on their duration, but also on how they were won. That might help.

I think you are on the right path with this:
. That being the case you're left with a sliding scale from Indirect to Direct and everything in between. A real numbers geek could start applying numbers to historical cases and "rate" them, but that almost invites the McNamaras and Rumsfelds of the world to use the number to define a strategy.

But back to your point of what is direct vs. indirect? Again, I think you have a sliding scale. Intel collection, analysis, and dissemination.....if we do any of this to support a nation is that direct? Is "direct" solely limited to delivering ordnance or putting men on the ground? If we use satellite photos and pass those to another nation, wouldn't that be direct? Or would a Direct approach involve anything in the military and Indirect involve humanitarian aid? So would our response to the Soviets in Afghanistan therefore be considered Direct because we supplied the Muj with weapons?

I'm sure you and the LTC, not to mention others, have considered the above. I guess I'm trying to get my head around the concept. If I understand Hart correctly, an Indirect Approach essentially is that which is not a direct attack on the enemy. Wouldn't this be an insurgency then as put forth by Hart?

I would perhaps argue that a Direct Approach in COIN involves the use of troops or force, "warheads on foreheads" in the modern vernacular with everything else (Intel, I/O, Psyop, Logistics, Signal, Medical, "soft" aid, etc.) to be Indirect.

Anyway, that's my uneducated view on the subject. I can't believe that SWC doesn't have anything on this.

I'd be interested in seeing your work whenever it is completed.

Freefalling,

You aren't sharpshooting at all. What we are engaging in is exactly what I asked for which is intellectual discourse. AN SF Colonel here at SAMS and I were discussing SOF one day and I said the SF really understood COIN and he retorted that it was broader than that. He said SF soldiers knew how to think critically and my brief interaction on this board and with SF students here at SAMS has proven that true.

One of my colleagues in SF is actually working on a modified definition of the Indirect Approach. I wish he would hurry up so I could use it. But yes that is essentially what I am looking for here. Your comment about clarity is very important as that is precisely what I and the Major working on this project need.

We are looking to measure direct vice indirect and I think you are completely correct to assert that it will turn out to be a sliding scale and not a dichotimous variable (that is just a fancy way of saying binomial, either/or, or yes/no). It might be a variable that ranges from 1 to 100. That would still work for staticial purposes as one could run a much more nuanced analysis and the thesis would shift from "Indirect approaches will provide more successful COIN outcomes" to something like "The more Direct a COIN approach is, the less successful." It might be even more nuanced than that showing that the extremes are unsuccessful meaning that Direct heavy and Indirect heavy approaches tend to fail and that properly balanced mixed approaches prove to be most successful.

I began thinking soon after my post about some of the other problems you point out. I think you also bring out a great point regarding non-kinetic options. Can non-kinetic option be direct? This is extremely important to any defintion or any measurement attempts.

I felt like someone hit me in the chest when you noted that policy wonks, like McNamara and Rumsfeld, might latch on to the statistics at the expense of actuall thinking. This is something I will try to bear in mind not only on this topic but on pretty much anything I write for scholarly publication. Words have power.

Anyway, I thank you and everyone else for your engagement and look forward to more.
 

AWP

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Something I considered after my post, was that Hart seemed to have considered COIN by its very nature to be Indirect. If I understand him correctly his theories rose out of the meat grinder of WWI and so he viewed "Direct" as meeting the enemy head on in set piece battles with about anything else falling into his broad (and sometimes vague) definition of Indirect.

If that's the case you can then view actions during COIN to be either Direct or Indirect OR you have the opportunity to coin (no pun intended) your own terms for actions conducted during COIN.

I guess the neat thing at this stage is you kind of blazing a new path so you can kind of do what you want.

Anyway, that's my armchair historian, non UW-trained view on things. I find it interesting though that we have whole libraries devoted to meeting the 9th Mongolian Horde at the Fulda Gap scenarios.....and we STILL devote very little intellectual capital to UW/ COIN.

Good luck fighting the tide.
 
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