The Next Revolution in Military Affairs?

A lot has been written, both here on this blog and elsewhere, about COIN being the most significant military transformation to emerge from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this Small Wars Journal post on a Marine Corps experiment to reduce the smallest independent unit of action from the battalion level to the rifle company level struck me as being potentially more significant.

The move grows out of stabilization operations, and so is perfectly consistent with the COIN tactical emphasis on small-unit autonomy to react to the local social terrain. But that kind of transformation, once begun, will probably outlive the doctrinal fixation on COIN. And if it does, it will represent the hybrid offspring of RMA and COIN.

RMA, through its technological advances in communication, collapsed the chain of command from top down, putting colonels in the middle of the battle space. But the same technology facilitates COIN’s demand for small-unit autonomy, essentially collapsing the chain of command from the bottom up, by turning captains into strategists.

Eventually, though, we won’t be so obsessed with fighting counterinsurgency wars. And when that happens, we’ll be left with a restructured force along the lines of the Marines’ experiment. By nature, I like decentralized authority, but I’d be curious to hear some of the military folks out there weigh in on what this could mean.

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