Effects based operations

topic posted Wed, April 11, 2007 - 1:58 PM by  Djinn

"Those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle. They capture his cities without assaulting them and over-throw the state without protracted operations." Sun Tzu

The success of the allies during the first Gulf War was due to a new approach to the employment of airpower called Effects Based Operations (EBO). It was formulated to take advantage of the following:

* Precision guided munitions (PGM). Bombs that can hit targets with an extremely high degree of accuracy. This minimized the number of aircraft and sorties needed to eliminate a target. It also allowed for minimal damage to the target site to accomplish set goals.

* Stealth. A set of technologies that prevent the detection of aircraft. These technologies eliminated the need for force protection packages and extensive pre-attack preparation. Stealth was synergistic with precision guided munitions.

* A modern target. Iraq, unlike most of the enemies we had fought since WW2, was a semi-modern nation-state. It had extensive networks that were vulnerable to disruption.

The emergence of EBO

It was apparent to airpower enthusiasts that this combination of factors allowed airpower to become a decisive instrument of conventional warfare -- it moved it beyond ground support and carpet bombing (of dubious value). Due to the influence of Boyd and emerging systems theory, they developed a method that went beyond the simple destruction of enemy forces to the systems approach that emphasized the effects these attacks would create (for a nice overview of EBO, read Brig Gen David Deptula's paper, "Effects-Based Operations"). These effects included:

* Ubiquitous system disruption. Stealth and precision enabled parallel attacks against all systems virtually simultaneously. Systems leverage, available due to Iraq's modern urbanized infrastructure, created the opportunity for cascades of failure -- small attacks had system-wide impact. This also completely eliminated the need for the complete reduction of a target set. If the attack took the system down, only those minimal attacks necessary to maintain the condition were necessary.

* Rapid psychological isolation. This worked in two ways. First to isolate the leadership elements of Saddam's government/military to force them into moral collapse. Secondly, to minimize the isolation of the US/allied governments due to the conflict -- speed was essential.

* Minimal collateral damage. Essential to reduce moral outrage (willingness to fight) and manage global public opinion.

The Global Guerrilla Solution
Unfortunately, warfare is a conflict of minds. The opposition learned from the experience of the first Gulf War. This amazing demonstration (who doesn't remember were they were the first night of the attack on Baghdad?) taught the value of systems disruption to both the Iraqi leadership (at ground zero) as well as the entire universe of potential foes. It certainly informed Iraq's strategy for the second Gulf War. Iraq purposely created forces to replicate the USAF's Effects Based Operations with small cells of guerrillas. This has in turn been taught (through a percolation of innovation in Iraq's Bazaar of violence) to other autonomous guerrilla groups. Here's how guerrillas conduct EBO:

* Precision and stealth. Small groups of guerrillas are nearly impossible to detect and neutralize, particularly when they bypass military formations and hard targets to attack systems. Small, precisely aimed/timed attacks by these guerrillas against target systems can drive them into cascades of failure (for example: Iraq's northern oil fields have been nearly inoperative since the end of the conventional war, The attackers have suffered few casualties.).

* Continuous state failure. Iraq's basic services are in a continual state of failure. The state's leadership is in deep isolation due to its inability to deliver political goods to the population.

* An emergence of Primary Loyalties. A primary goal of Iraq's guerrillas is to fragment the country's loyalties -- ethnic, religious, tribal, etc. A hollow, non-functional state that is increasingly reliant on loyalist paramilitaries (Badr Brigades and Peshmerga) is precisely the desired outcome.

NOTE: I've applied the EBO method to a war with Iran (see the brief: Collapsing Iran).
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