Middle Ground

By Sebastian Sprenger / June 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In a draft white paper first reported here yesterday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey makes the case for moving the Army's "aim point" away from traditional warfare toward hybrid warfare, the oft-cited blend of high-intensity combat and guerrilla-style conflict.

The idea, Casey argues, is that a focus on the middle ground between peacetime operations and high-intensity warfare would enable the Army to do both better.

"Shifting our aim is not exchanging one 'Either-Or' position for another. Aiming more towards the center of the conflict spectrum will enable us to respond quickly and effectively to hybrid threats across the spectrum, as the situation and mission dictate."

We ran Casey's view by counterinsurgency expert John Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

In a brief interview yesterday, Nagl called the chief's thinking a "move in the right direction."

"The interesting question is whether the Army, in fact, needs two aim points; whether some forces should be optimized for high-end conflicts -- peer and near-peer threats -- and other forces should be optimized for counterinsurgency or hybrid war. If you're going to go with single aim point, then hybrid is the right aim point, without a doubt."