An Innovation or a Rhetorical Redundancy?

In the last five-year periods diverse theories are appearing on the action of military units in networks, or forming a «cluster», around a slower tactical aim This with minor combative alert and/or deficiencies in exploration or intelligence and with worse shooting sectors for his rejection fires. An analysis of his mechanisms and operations demonstrates that they really lack the structural originality and the wide combative efficiency that they raise and offer.

The operational of the «netwars» and the «clusters» of small units of action.

The «little groups» that would create the hived of erosive actions on the enemy or the «networks» that wrap, scourge and/or isolate the goal, not always are or have to be such “small units” «almost independent». An example of the efficiency of the centripetal action of a whole Army, maneuvering on the enemy by Army Corps, in an dislocating and constrictive action, is the battle of Ulm.

In September, 1805 Napoleon moved his «Army of England» to the Rhine, deploying his 208000 men between Mainz and Strasbourg and renamed he the «Great Army». The French “Grande Armée” was formed by 145000 infantrymen and 38000 troopers, joined 7 Army Corps, each one at the orders of a French marshal, a great cavalry reserve commanded by the marshal Prince Murat and the Imperial Guard, directly under Napoleon; to them 25000 allied Bavarians were added.

Taking as usual in him the initiative, Napoleon decides to give the first strategic blow against the army of 72000 Austrians that, at the orders of the general Mack and the archduke Fernando, son of the emperor Francisco II, was advancing towards Ulm, without waiting the arrival of help from their allied Russian.

Napoleon is going to use against the Austrians what we can call an operational effort of gravity center. It would form, if you like so, a network. But an immense network with very fat knots. Whose «singular functioning», already was satisfactorily and profitably offering and explaining by the operational strategy. The characteristics of the process of establishment and functioning of it are the originality, the flexibility of the deployment, the consistency, its not predictability by the enemy and the efficiency.

The operational gravity center supposes the centripetal action of all the means and their lines of action, of the «branched out» activity of all the units and services. Not necessarily coincidental, but convergent and resultant in their synergy, in their efficiency and in the result. By means of the different and coordinated lines of advance or of action, we induce uncertainty and insecurity in the enemy, disperse his rejection capacity and disturb his Defense Plan and its systematic conduction by his commands.

In an ample advance of his independent Army Corps, the Grande Armée (around 210000 men) quickly crossed the center of Germany, from the Rhine to the Danube, between September, 25 and October, 6. With this, it operationally interposed between the Austrians (about 40000 men) and their allied Russian forces that went to help them. The Austrians did not understand the need of the rapidity of the movements, thinking only about the battle, as the only instrument of the decision. The French initiated the crossing of the Danube on October 7, 1805 and, during the following week, Napoleon converge most of his Army Corps in an enormous restricting spiral on Ulm, while a Corp with enough forces watched for the arrival from the east of Russian General Kutuzov.

General Mack made, in vain, several attempts at rupturing Napoleon’s forces, applying his greatest efforts in Haslach and Elchingen. Both Austrian commanders quarreled among themselves and Archduke Fernando, with his 6000 troopers, separated from the main force and tried to escape to the northeast. But Archduke Fernando’s forces were surrounded and beaten by the cavalry Corps of Murat, near Trochtelfingen. Another 12000 Austrians surrendered in Neustadt.

General Mack and the rest of his men (about 27000, after the mentioned battles), with Napoleon’s overwhelming forces at the doors of Ulm since October, 14, came out the city and laid down their weapons at the feet of mounts Michelsberg. The capitulation was signed by General Mack on the 20th. The campaign, without properly battles, cost Austria more than 50000 men (around 70%) of her initial forces of about 70000 troops.

The explanation of this Napoleon’s paradigmatic success, being served the habitual theories of the war, the exploitation of the human weaknesses (emotional intelligence) and the “correct sense” of the command, seems to us more natural, appropriate and established.

The subversive Islamic networks. The case of al-Qaida. His real «military» operational.

The operational actual characteristics are:

His unnecessary and indiscriminate brutality, which discredits them with his religion. We can mention a minimum of 4 important moral “aleyas”or verses, that they despise and disobey, without Allah had changed these for them. Sura 2, aleya 100 «We do not abrogate any verse of this book, or we will not make erase one alone of your memory, without replacing it by an equal or better other one».

The absolute absence of venerable and pious ulemas and muftíes at his side. These are the doctors of the Koranic Islamic Law and of the Sunna.

His great operational decentralization because the universality of the Umma, which comes out the idea of nation or race. This prevents them from obtaining permanent strategic aims. Though his punctual actions are important, painful and fearsome.

This way, his fighting area is tactical, using «actions of bite and flee». Which, paradoxically are very similar to those of the regular armies who fight them. That, avoiding the personal risks and the close distances fighting, use their elite forces in «actions of hunt, capture and extraction or death». And use their “drones”, as expression of their confidence in their technological support. This is the military reason of the lack of efficiency of the western soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan. And not mixing in a superior aim at operational level, the different and costly actions that carry out in these countries. Which deprives of real results the labors of education, social and civil development and pacification of their governments and the foreign military forces and expatriated civilians. Since those need the complementarity of the military victory and the progressive physical and/or social isolation of the radical rebels, to be effective and permanent.

The accumulated cost of the military American interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (so called «war against the terror») was till now 2,2 trillions of dollars. This bleeding throughout a decade to the income of the USA Administration, has specially helped to increase the deficit of his National Debt. And to giving reasons to the Obama Administratiion to initiate an extraordinary political and strategic retreat, «to attend now to the things at home» and «to limit ourselves to the war against al-Qaida». Without leaving our allies and friends, of course.

And his action primer element is the terror. This way, his victory is thanks to those they can terrify or, at least, worry very much. And in the plethoric and slightly effective mobilization of the economic and social resources of the enemy nations. And, because the major vigilance, capacity and means of the western countries, they do not hesitate to operate against other Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, etc.

His failure in active and firmly joining to a social wide group, which would gives coverage and permanent impulse to his movement. The most mentally ill activists are in the habit of being isolating progressively from society (at least, emotional and ideologically), though they «live» within her. For the sake of his violent methods, to which they sacrifice everything for the efficiency. They follow a process of segregation, purification (in his unexpected not orthodox rites they fast, use water of sacred places and green streamers with inscriptions of the verses that favor they), consecration and radicalization. Up to coming to the death and even to the suicide in his punctual actions.

His zeal for advertising, to which the West contributes insensitively, stupidly and tast.

His aim to strike all governments, as the radical and aggressive caliphate in «dar-el–Islam» (Muslim integrated independent lands) does not exist nowadays.

Al-Qaida is an Islamic radical movement organized vertically and from below to above, that spreads and makes concrete in his «franchise swarms». His structure, flex, decentralized, release, makes that his «cells» do not know exactly which are the higher chiefs. They only know where they have to go to receive support or to send or receive information or to communicate with another «equal» cell. The high commands of this movement act by exception, not by presence or by deliberate action.. This way, they give doctrinal orientations, establish great lines of military and proselytizing action for the different territories and areas, they throw threats and notices to the enemy governments and indicate punctual important aims (seudo strategic) at the level of the whole organization, though they should be realized in a given area. This allows them to work enough good, without the intervention of their high commands. Among these chaps or «barons of the fanatical death», are Addel Malek Droukdel, leader of al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghrib, and Abu Bakar Bashir, called the «clergyman militiaman», founder of the Jeemah Islamiya or al-Qaida of Indonesia and condemned in June, 2011 to 15 years of prison in his country. The «martyrdom» of Ayman al-Zawahiri al-Masri (the Egyptian), former «managing director» of Bin Laden, in a bombardment with drones or ordnance, would affect little to their efficiency, at their current levels of military irregular action.

How work the networks and the swarms of small units and in which circumstances?

The battle of mount Majuba (February 27, 1881) was a case of effective employment of the «small independent units». That hived on an enemy conventional unit, type battalion, and destroyed he, finishing with it the First Boer War.

At the end of this, general Colley directed a small British army to Transvaal territory. Here he decided to occupy Majuba’s extinct volcano with 600 m. height and that was dominating the right exposed flank of the camp of wagons (laager) of the Boers. The British force was consisting of approximately 650 men, integrated in 4 companies from different regiments, and lacking field artillery and machine guns. They occupied the flat summit, which was free and established positions in her, in his edges and in the south base of the height, to protect their retreat to the nearby base of mount Prospect.

Though surprised, when the Boers verified the absence of artillery of the British, they prepared to recover the mountain. To their favor they had the total knowledge of the area and their great mobility in it. The mount was formed by alternative strata of schists and limestone, with deep gullies and masses of rocks and thick bushes of dark mimosa. With what the sights of the different defensive British sectors were intermittent and of short range. All this was ought to the independent and irregular character of the Boers shooters and riders. That, even, were feeling free to move to any part of a battlefield, where they believed themselves more useful. Till then, the Boers were keeping a defensive strategy in the war.

The first group of 50 men came to the Majuba’s north slope and were taken by the «general» Smit round the hill, to its south side, to fix the British placed there. Boers’ clusters were appearing from all the sides and continued waiting for their chiefs’ arrival for directing them. Approximately 150 Boers began to climb over the hillsides in different moments, while a similar number was supporting them with a neutralization fire on the edges of the summit. The men who were rising were gathering in independent clusters. In them, a part of the Boers was climbing from a refuge or concealment to other one, whereas other part was offering to them a barrier of gunfire. The latter part, under the protection of the first one, was climbing then up to the last reached level. This work of approximation to the top extended for approximately 6 hours.

The British were kept under cover in the edges, but soon they realized that the enemy was approaching below them. The first assault crowned in the west side. The company of 92º infantry regiment of lieutenant Hamilton began to be attacked from the front and its reverse. Some subunits kept as reserves in the center of the small plateau were advanced to the west. The British were keeping their disciplined fire by volleys. The Boers were shooting individually, resting on ground and loading and began another shooting cycle. The British moved back towards the center of the position. Some Boers, which were coming almost to the top from the west, moved to the north and also attacked the right enemy flank. Others reached also the top from the south, also attacking lined up to the left flank.

The British tried then the break for the south side, lowering in a hurry and taking the way to mount Prospect. In the pursuit there took place the majority of his casualties. The British suffered 96 dead, 132 injured and 56 prisoners. The Boers had 1 dead and 5 injured men. Several are the operative and tactical mistakes of the Red Coats in this final campaign of the war: to lack campaign artillery to beat the camp of the Boers, that had served them to repel to the «clusters» enemy that were appearing in the top; his shooting technique was ineffective against fleeting and dispersed targets; they were not knowing and did not explore the area in which the battalion spread out; the Boers, as all the irregular soldiers, highly displease the close combat and/or by the bayonet, but, in this case, they did not avoid and used it, which surprised the enemy.

But also, this approximation work to the assault distances and without losses of the own combat capacity, can be perfectly realized by many military «action units», without engineers’ training. Divided in teams and still in men pairs or buddy teams, they can take advantage of small drops, flooded fields, verges, ditches, bushes zones, ravines, etc., and even with the concealment of the night and/or the smokes. To close on the enemy and realize an non too deep incursion or to reach his flanks or his rear, even slipping between his combat positions. And though the enemy is strengthened and provided with heavy fires, it can be done by more upbringing and trained units. For it is necessary to have and to keep a previous exploration of the enemy, his movements and habits. The employment of the grenades and not the individual fires of is fundamental to confuse the sentries and the enemy combat positions, of the scope and intentions of the attacker.

Also the war networks and the military clusters can work in favorable circumstances with cavalry irregular mobile forces. An example is the battle Carras (in Latin, Carrhae, nowadays, Harran, in Turkey), where the Partian archers riders of the general Surena defeated the triunviro Marco Licinio Craso and his Roman legions in 53 B.C. The Roman army of approximately 39 thousand men, only was possessing 4 thousand light infantry or vélites and 4 thousand riders. Craso penetrated in the northen plains of Syria in pursuit of the enemy, who was refusing the fight. Finally, near Carras the battle raised up, in an area totally favorable to the cavalry.

The Romans formed a defensive rectangle, which was surrounded by the Partian cavalry, that only the Scitians overcame they in quality and capacity. After some initial skirmishes with the vélites, the Partians were hived on the formed infantry. And they began a long harassment from the effective shooting distance of their arrows and lances, out of the range of the Roman pila and gladius. The legionary deployment faced a dilemma: if they were keeping such closed formations, they would end hurt by the enemy missiles, and, if they were trying to charge on them, breaking a little their formation, simply they were avoiding by them. The Partians squadrons were attacking following a given direction. His riders were approaching by rows, were throwing his missiles and were moving back to his rear following their sides, in an endless and infernal cycle. The harassment lasted up to the dusk.

During the night, a part of the legions sheltered in Carras. The following day, they continued their retreat up to the nearby Armenian mounts, where the cavalry had a difficult area. Surena offered to negotiate to Craso. But, during the negotiations it arose a fight and Craso was dead. After this, the remains of the Roman army dispersed or gave up themselves. Only approximately 5 thousand men came back to their departing camps, approximately 10 thousand were caught and the rest was dead. After this experience, the Romans progressively increased the cavalry of their armies and legions. And at the beginning of the 4th century A.D., she supposed 25 % of their forces.

The one that believes that in similar circumstances, favorable to the mobile swarms and with direct effective fire capacity, these results always repeat, can be wrong. In effect, on the 27th and 28th of October, 1942 in the Egyptian desert a series of comat meetings took place between German and Italian units of the Afrika Korps and 2 º battalion of the brigade of Rifles of the British army. This one took fixed positions in an opened place called Snipe, at the west of the Kidney hill. With the reinforcement and concealment of the positions and the support of a group of 19 6 pounds (53 mm.) antitank cannons, the Britishs could surprise their enemies on their limits and location, reject several direct assaults of the tanks of the Afrika Korps and resist several bombardments of artillery and assault cannons.

At the end of the second day of combats, the Germans left their attempts of squashing and invading the Snipe position. They had lost in them more than 50 diverse armored vehicles. Snipe was resisting and was kept. Though a third of the garrison had fall and only had 6 useful antitanks. Almost all the Bren machinegun vehicles of the battalion were destroyed. Finally, the Britishs left the position and withdrew.

The circumstances and the epochs that can favor the “units clusters” or the networks war are very selective and exclusive. This way, the own theory, though correct, is at least insufficient and not much elaborated and, therefore, probably unnecessary. In effect, any new theory that looks for his implantation, respect and acceptance, must explain satisfactorily all the aspects known about a given phenomenon (the tactics, the logistics, the operational level, etc). This is a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. And, here his innovation and principal value will reside, it must make clear new ways of approximation and advance to a major knowledge and domain of the mentioned phenomenon.

(to be continued)