The policy maker, if he is to be successful in establishing control, among other things, must have an intimate knowledge of the quantity, quality and the nature of the means at his disposal. There is a large body of literature which addresses the quantitative [1] and qualitative [2] aspects of combat power. The purpose of this paper, however, is to examine the concept of combat power with an aim toward understanding it as an instrument of policy. The approach taken here is neither quantitative nor qualitative but, rather, ontological; that is, the locus of analysis is the nature of combat power. "Wars," said Hugo Grotius, "for the attainment of their objectives, it cannot be denied, must employ force and terror as their most proper agents." [3] This quote from the "Father of International Jurisprudence" [4] succinctly identifies the operative element of war -- combat power.

This study, therefore, may be viewed as an exploratory effort designed to examine the military as an instrument of policy. "Today voices are raised against the maintenance and use of military force. This view ignores the lessons of history, which contain ample proof that there are times when the use of force is not only suitable but essential in the defense of a nation's interests." [5] As a result of our recent experiences, wherein civilian control of the instrument of violence was less than successful, some members of the military (and for that matter, some civilians) have become skeptical about the ability of civilian leadership to employ military force effectively. I believe the failures were primarily the result of a lack of understanding by the civilian leaders of the instrument of violence they were using. We in the military have a responsibility to educate our civilian leaders on the capabilities, limitations, and the nature of the instrument of violence, which is military combat power. "Statesmanship, in the H-bomb age, must control not only the aims but the operations. It should direct military defense planning, and the formulation of military doctrine. Hence statesmen and their diplomatic advisers must have a greater knowledge of military technique than they needed in the past." [6] It is my assertion in this paper that the political instrument of force is combat power and that there are likely to be situations where it will be necessary to use force in the form of combat power. Furthermore, the use of combat power is more likely to take place outside the traditional context of war than in the past. [7] This is not to say that war as sustained violence is unlikely; on the contrary, we must accept the assumption that "despite whatever effort there may be to prevent it, there may be war." [8]

The use of combat power can be likened to the medical instrument of the surgeon. Out of ignorance one may amputate when it is not necessary. By the same token, fear of the surgeon's knife may cost the life of the patient. "...a nation which habitually avoids violence and a society which considers all forms of war immoral may invite disaster by destroying its military credibility." [9] However, just as the surgeon's knife should be the last resort, the use of combat power should be carefully employed and then only in the amount or at the level necessary to accomplish the task.

If combat power is to be a legitimate means for achieving national objectives it must be understood by those employing it. "The policy-maker, among other things, must have an intimate knowledge of the quantity, quality, and nature of the means at his disposal." [10] More than ever our political leaders must thoroughly understand what combat power is, lest they refrain from using it out of fear or they use it inappropriately out of ignorance. "...statesmen must understand the language of war, so that they do not use it incorrectly." [11] In the limited use of combat power the political leaders must be prepared to exploit battlefield success. If violence is to be limited, then its greatest effect will be the political exploitation of it. "The power to hurt is bargaining power. To exploit it is diplomacy..." [12] If the political leaders are not prepared to exploit success in order to gain the desired objectives, then the military leadership may attempt to achieve the objectives through an escalation of violence.

What I hope to do, therefore, in the pages that follow, is to provide a conceptual framework for gaining an understanding of what combat power is and, later in the paper, to ground some of the concepts in empirical reality through the use of an historical example.

The methodology employed in this study consists of a review of the literature to develop the conceptual framework and an analysis of historical data. Some of the historical data consist of extensive notes and taped interviews accumulated by the author as a participant in the Vietnam War. Chapter II is an attempt to develop a theoretical framework and place this work in perspective. Chapter III is a presentation of a model of combat power. The model is intended to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Chapter IV, using Vietnam as an example, provides an historical perspective for some of the key concepts of the model. Chapter V is a rather detailed analysis of the Battle of Kontum which took place in the spring of 1972, in South Vietnam. The purposes of this chapter are first, to illustrate some of the concepts and therefore ground them in an historical event and secondly, to provide an accurate report for interested readers. Chapter VI is a brief examination of current land combat doctrine with an emphasis on helicopter operations in a NATO environment. Based on the results of my work, tentative conclusions and recommendations are suggested in Chapter VI.

Professor Martin Blumenson, in a talk at the Naval War College in November 1971, [13] stressed that in doing research, especially historical research, we all have a tendency to simplify, to get at the essentials -- to get at the meaning of things so that we may understand. We tend, therefore, to distort the truth. In order to limit the scope of this study and remain within the parameters of my resources, I have been selective in the presentation of data. There is, therefore, distortion. My hope, however, is that I have remained faithful enough to my charge so that this work proves of some use. If it does nothing more than stimulate thought on the issues addressed then I will consider the effort worthwhile.

Aristotle once wrote, "Almost all things have been found out, but some have been forgotten." [14] I make no pretensions of originality in this work; if one wanted to invest the time and effort almost all the ideas presented can be traced to their antecedents. As Edward Atkeson has stated, "...few have contributed much that cannot be found in some form in the works of Sun, Clausewitz, and Jomini." [15] I have assiduously attempted to provide citations; however, I am sure there are errors of omission. The approach taken here is not intended to be new in the sense of new pieces to a puzzle but, rather, a slight rearranging of the old pieces to reveal a little different picture. Throughout the preparation of this paper I have found Liddell Hart's aphorism to be accurate: "...cold print is a merciless exposer of mental fog." [16]

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1. The current proliferation of quantitative models and the American penchant for them has, in my opinion, established a dangerous trend. The words of Andre Beaufre should be heard by more members of the American Defense community -- "Now, the present dominant trend of American thinking puts the emphasis on material superiority, as did the French Army after 1918, forgetting that the measurable factors are only a part - and often a minimal part - of the overall problem. This leads to a strategy which tends to be more logistical than psychological or even operational, and which presupposes an overwhelming superiority." See Andre Beaufre, "The Disease of Victory," The Atlantic Monthly, June 1968, p. 93.

An over reliance on quantitative models, especially in force planning and policymaking may set us up for a "paper defeat" which could lead to a moral defeat. The determinism implicit in F. W. Lanchester's work remains with us today - Also one must not overlook the demoralizing effect on the personnel of the fleet first to go into action, of the knowledge that they are hopelessly outnumbered and already beaten on paper - that they are, in fact, regarded by the King and country as 'canon fodder.'" See F.W. Lanchester, Aircraft in Warfare: The Dawn of the Fourth Arm, (London: V Constable and Company Limited, 1916), p. 38. [ Return ]

2. For examples of various computer models see, Reiner A K. Huber, Lynn F. Jones and Egil Reine ed. Military Strategy and Tactics: Computer Modeling of Land War Problems (New York: Plenum Press, 1974). For an excellent example of a quantitative model read, T. N. Dupuy, "Application of the Quantified Judgment Method of Analysis of Historical Combat to Current Force Assessments," in Military Strategy and Tactics, p. 133-151. A critical analysis of the current modeling techniques is provided by J. A. Stockfisch, Models, Data and War: A Critigue of the Study of Conventional Forces, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, March 1975. "Indeed, on the subject of force structure, the new fire- power indexes, and models that use them, should be silent because they have nothing to offer." p. 78. [ Return ]

3. Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace (Including the Law of Nature and of Nation) Translated from the original Latin of Grotius by A.C. Campbell, with an introduction by David J. Hill (Washington: M. Walter Dunne, Publisher, 1901), p. 249. [ Return ]

4. Ibid., p. 11. [ Return ]

5. B. Mitchell Simpson III, ed., War, Strategy and Maritime Power (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1977), p. x. [ Return ]

6. B. H. Liddell Hart, Deterrent or Defence (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960), p. 67. [ Return ]

7. For example, the raid on Entebbe, Mayaguez affair and the Korean tree cutting incident. See also, Barry M. Blechman and Stephen S. Kaplan, "Armed Forces as Political Instruments," Survival, July/August 1977, p. 169-173. [ Return ]

8. J. C. Wylie, Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1967), p. 78. [ Return ]

9. Duncan L. Clarke, Strategy and Policy: Their Theoretical Relationship (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms, Inc., 1971), p. 54. See footnote number 108. [ Return ]

10. Ibid., p. 35. [ Return ]

11. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret, introductory translation with essays by Peter Paret, Michael Howard, and Bernard Brodie, and a commentary by Bernard Brodie (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 706. [ Return ]

12. Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 16. [ Return ]

13. This was an informal lecture presented to the students at the Naval War College in November 1971. I have paraphrased Professor Blumenson's comments on the subjects. [ Return ]

14. T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness, (New York: Pocket Books, Inc., 1964), p. 706. [ Return ]

15. Edward B. Atkenson, The Dimensions of Military Strategy, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, February 1977, p. 9. [ Return ]

16. B. H. Liddell Hart, Thoughts on War (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1944), p. 119. [ Return ]