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Tactics for Small Wars

July 7, 2008

Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr., in an essay in ARMY magazine, wrote, “Today, we are at war and live in a world where global terrorism and extremist ideologies are realities. . . . I believe the next decades are likely to be ones of persistent confl ict.” The small wars conducted during a period of persistent conflict will require the use of force to attain policy objectives. The use of force alone may not produce decisive results, but it must absolutely establish conditions for policymakers to declare victory or at least a form of status quo that can be called victory. The art and science of tactics must recognize the changing conditions requiring the use of force.

Officers in our Army, engaged as they are, must participate in the debate that will precede the refinement of existing doctrine. The Department of Defense recently sent a report to the Congress on the state of the implementation of Department of Defense Directive 3000.05, Military Support to Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations. A footnote in the report states that the Army will have “a coherent body of current stability operations doctrine spanning tactical and operational levels” by 2008. This coherent body of stability operations doctrine will be incomplete if it does not include an update of Army Field Manual (FM) 3-90, Tactics, and an exploration of the science of employing units in battle and in relationship to the enemy, terrain and the civil population amid which the Army will fight