[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]
In an incisive post, Rich Ganske makes use of one of the most unknown great American strategists, Rear Admiral J.C. Wylie:
Joint Action: A Personal Theory of Power
What is Jointness?
Joint action, or jointness, is the creation of complementary strategic effect across all domains towards a shared political objective. Achieving a degree of physical or psychological control over an adversary creates strategic effect and requires an appreciation for the unique specializations and inherent difficulties of each domain-focused force. This appreciation acknowledges that institutional professionalism is hardly omnicompetent or transitory between varied forms of military power.
In Military Strategy, J.C. Wyliepostulated that the “common factor” to all power struggles “is the concept of control, some form or degree or extent of control exercised by one social entity over another.” Wylie’s work offers a novel lens for viewing fighting, the solitary means of war. This combat-centric view turns our attention to questioning the best strategy for combat operations.
Often, the territorial imperative quickly comes to the forefront. If land matters most, as some have correctly suggested, then our discussion of the best strategy comes to an abrupt conclusion if we assume that land isall that matters. If only land matters, then achieving the desired effect via the continental theory of war promulgated by some strategists answers our question. As Corbett suggested:
Since men live upon the land and not upon the sea, great issues between nations at war have always been decided—except in the rarest cases—either by what your army can do against your enemy’s territory and national life, or else by the fear of what the fleet makes it possible for your army to do.
Is this settled theory or should we concern ourselves with the nagging implications of Corbett’s fear of the possible? How should we properly understand the latter part of Corbett’s statement regarding the former’s pious and possibly sole finality? Wylie offers us insight when he suggests, “there are actually two very different categories of strategies that may be used in war.” He categorized these strategies as sequential and cumulative:
Normally we consider a war as a series of discrete steps or action, with each one of this series of actions growing naturally out of, and dependent on, the one that preceded it. The total pattern of all the discrete or separate actions makes up, serially, the entire sequence of the war. If at any stage of the war one of these actions had happened differently, then the remainder of the sequence would have had a different pattern. The sequence would have been interrupted and altered. But there is another way to prosecute a war…. The other is cumulative, the less perceptible minute accumulation of little items piling on top of the other until at some unknown point the mass of accumulated actions may be large enough to be critical. They are not incompatible strategies, they are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. In practice they are usually interdependent in their strategic result.
Read the rest here.
In the conclusion, when Ganske writes:
One can sense a very real possibility that this concept of sequential and cumulative strategies operating in coordination,” Wylie suggests, “may help us form more valid judgments of the interrelationship between ground and air, ground and sea, and sea and air forces.” Since he wrote these words, technology has irrevocably changed the modes of warfare making this interrelationship more complicated. Nevertheless, Wylie grasped the most important element of the debate when he suggested that control was best achieved via an interoperable application of both cumulative and sequential strategies. It is for this reason that strategists should willfully acknowledge and be driven by a holistic understanding of the necessity for jointness, rather than by force of law. My personal theory suggests that this approach to joint action will increase success in translating tactical action into strategic effects that promote our national interests.
I can’t help but think of the military evolution in operations from the disaster that was the campaign at Gallipoli to D-Day and Inchon and then to the first Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq slightly more than a decade later.