Paper: Military Should Adopt New Warfighting Approach

Paper: Military Should Adopt New Warfighting Approach

Soldiers training
Photo by: U.S. Army/Sgt. Matthew Prewitt

The U.S. military should adopt an updated approach to warfighting, according to a new paper published by the Association of the U.S. Army. 

In “Move, Strike, Protect: An Alternative to the Primacy of Decisiveness and the Offense or Defense Dichotomy in Military Thinking,” author Lt. Col. Amos Fox argues that “forces must be optimized” for the move, strike and protect model of conflict.  

“Western states should instead organize their military forces around the principle of relentlessly driving an adversary toward strategic exhaustion,” he writes. “Western militaries should accomplish this by possessing the ability to relentlessly iterate through a challenge-response cycle guided by the interplay of three transcendent warfighting activities: move, strike and protect.” 

This model “is an agile alternative to optimizing around either offensive operations … or defensive operations” and “account[s] for the attritional nature of armed conflict,” writes Fox, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Reading in the U.K., deputy director for development with the Irregular Warfare Initiative and an associate editor with the Wavell Room. 

The military also should retire the term “decisiveness” because, among several reasons, it is an antiquated term that is “rarely an important adjective at the operations and tactical levels,” Fox writes.  

In his paper, Fox identifies the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq as evidence that decisiveness wins battles but fails to achieve policy aims. “To be sure, the U.S. military and its Western partners won nearly every engagement and battle during this period, but they generally failed to obtain their policy aims,” he writes. “One need look no further than the Taliban’s current control of Afghanistan and a fractured Iraq as proof-positive of these failed policy aims.”  

Further, Fox argues that militaries that can withstand and outlast their enemies, as opposed to offense- and defense-oriented militaries, win wars.  

“When thinking about how to optimize a military, strategists’ focus should not be on offense, defense or decisiveness, but rather how the military can be used to push an opponent to strategic exhaustion through iteratively cycling through challenge-response opportunities,” he writes.  

As war evolves, so too should the language and concepts that the U.S. military uses to dominate modern and future wars, Fox writes. “To effectively compete, Western military thinking needs to evolve: it needs to develop new ideas for how to organize and fight,” he writes. “It must develop new terms for these ideas, terms that adequately express the ideas associated with the new concepts.”  

Read the paper here.