Cone, Military Experts Examine the Human Domain 


Click here to view Keynote Speech by General Robert W. Cone, CG TRADOC

Click here to view Panel Discussion

Understanding and utilizing the human domain, especially through the use of Regionally Aligned Forces, must be an essential piece of the U.S. Army’s future, according to Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Cone was joined by a panel of military experts who assembled at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) headquarters to discuss the human domain’s relation to strategic land power.

The Army’s 2012 Capstone Concept defines the human domain as the “totality of the physical, cultural, social, and psychological environments that influence human behavior” with Cone outlining victory as “compelling a human adversary to meet our national security objectives.”

The panel of military experts included  Nick Dowling, founder and president of IDS International Government Services, LLC; Michele Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy; Betty Bigombe, an Ugandan peace activist who now serves as her country’s state minister for water resources; David Handley, CMG, former British intelligence service officer and managing director (Europe) at Veracity Worldwide; and Lt. Gen. John R. Wood, USA, Ret., former deputy commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command.

IDS International Government Services, LLC, an AUSA sustaining member, co-hosted the program with AUSA.

“The human is instrumental in what we’re talking about here and you can’t avoid it,” said Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, AUSA president of AUSA in his introductory remarks.

Cone spoke at length on the lessons the Army learned during the Iraq War about paying attention to the human element as opposed to the previous paradigm of simply viewing the enemy as a system.

This “old view,” as Cone described it, focused on collapsing enemy systems, that would, theoretically, lead to the enemy’s surrender. This strategy, however, did not take into account the resiliency of the human will, he explained.

“So we spent the next few years of our life dealing with something called the human will,” Cone said.

Adding, “It fundamentally gave me a different lens. You start with a person and work in a different direction. … The fundamental assumption is that our adversary understands our strengths and weaknesses.”

Cone said that this enemy “wants to move within this human domain” and attempts to understand what things might compel the United States to act or not act as it desires.

“The real lesson here … is maintaining and advancing this progress, to take the human domain to the next level,” he added.

“We have to institutionalize what works,” said Wood. “This is America’s Army. And it’s about people. And people aren’t replaceable like parts.”

The “driving mechanism” for advancing this progress, Cone explained, is Regionally Aligned Forces.

Also involved within and complimenting this mechanism are language and culture training (including ongoing training centers and initiatives), the retention of region-specific and theater-ready anthropologists, and recruiting relevant commanders with expertise in these regions.

“This is the vehicle that makes this real for U.S. soldiers,” said Cone, adding that soldiers must “study, in detail, the places they are likely to deploy to. This has got to be an intellectual commitment.”

Dowling, the panel moderator, questioned Cone on whether Regionally Aligned Forces were more about learning a lot about the cultures of specific areas or, instead, learning about the process of how to learn about the essentials of a region.

“A large part of it is the process,” said Cone, elaborating that it is still important for soldiers to study specific languages and cultures, and getting “on the ground” in these areas.

“The key is making it real,” Cone added.

Ugandan native Bigombe recounted the dangers of an army not taking the human domain into account in its work.

She cited the case of the Ugandan army’s efforts at combatting Al-Shabab in Somalia.

“The human factor was never there for the Ugandan Army in its Somalia mission,” Bigombe said.

As a result, she explained, Al-Shabab “initially recruited massively” by telling the general Somali population that the Ugandan army was in their country to fight Sharia Law and Islam.

“This [human] element is completely lacking” in most peacekeeping missions, according to Bigombe.

Handley, a former British intelligence officer, also expanded on the importance of the human domain for modern armies.

“It has always been important but it is much, much more important now,” he said.

Handley added that it is also essential “not only to understand the human domain” but to “try to understand what people think of you, what people think of America, what people think your objectives are.”

The panel also touched on an array of other subjects, such as America’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing and its relationship to China.

Flournoy emphasized that the rebalance did not mean a dismissal of the need and power of land warfare, adding that the role of land power will obviously be reduced with the U.S. winding down two large land campaigns within the past few years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She also said that the United States is not undergoing the rebalancing as a way to combat a new adversary in China.

Rather, Flournoy explained, America sees the Asian nation as a regional power to cooperate with where interests meet.

Bigombe added that China’s influence extended outside the Asia-Pacific region, including within Africa.

“There is some element of neocolonialism from China,” said Bigombe, adding that the Chinese government is easier to trade with than European allies, although the Chinese “do not care about human rights.”

This neutrality on human rights issues, she explained, has resulted in some recent backlashes against the Chinese presence in the continent.

“There is a level of frustration growing in Africa [with the Chinese],” added Gen. Carter Ham, former commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), who also attended the event.