Geography, National Power, And Strategy CSC 1992 SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Title: Geography, National Power, and Strategy Author: Major Robert I. Boland, III, United States Marine Corps Thesis: To be effective in dealing with regional crises, military leaders must understand the way in which geography affects strategic and operational planning, tactics, logistics operations, relations with civilian populations, and the military evaluations of areas. Background: The United States currently finds itself thrust into an international leadership role in a time of tremendous international instability. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and its fall from superpower status has removed the principal threat to the national security interests of the United States and has caused it to adopt a regional focus in designing strategic responses to future crises. The term regional is used in a geographic sense, and that is the framework upon which future national security strategy will be built. This change in focus brings with it new demands on both civilian policy makers and military strategists. In order to build strategies for dealing with regional crises, an understanding of geography and its impact on national power and strategy is essential. Military leaders in particular must understand geography in its broadest sense. Any credible military response to a regional conflict requires an indepth understanding of the geography of that region, as the geographic conditions may enhance or constrain the exercise of military power. As the nation's expeditionary force in readiness, the Marine Corps must be ready to respond to regional conflicts that threaten the national security interests of the United States. This will require Marine leaders to have a solid foundation in geography in order to be successful in resolving crises through military means. Recommendation: Marine leaders must understand the relationship between geography, the exercise of national power, and the development of strategy. This will require a deliberate institutional emphasis on the study of geography and its influence on the exercise of military power. GEOGRAPHY, NATIONAL POWER, AND STRATEGY OUTLINE Thesis: To be effective in dealing with regional crises, military leaders must understand the way in which geography affects strategic and operational planning, tactics, logistics operations, relations with civilian populations, and the military evaluations of areas. I. The Relationship of Geography to the Exercise of National Power A. General Definitions of Geographic Terms B. Geography's Impact on Political, Economic and Military Elements of Power C. Geography, Strategy, and the Military Leader D. Geography and the Exercise of Military Power II. National Security Strategy and the Marine Corps A. The U.S. Adopts a Regional Focus B. The Marine Corps' Role in Crisis Response C. Geography and the Marine Leader III. How to Get There From Here A. Institutional Emphasis on the Study of Geography B. Incorporating Geography into Formal School POI's C. Additional Methods for Promoting an Understanding of Geography GEOGRAPHY, NATIONAL POWER, AND STRATEGY The disintegration of the Soviet Union and its subsequent fall from superpower status has removed the principal threat to the national security interests of the United States. The lack of a single superpower threat does not mean the world is no longer a dangerous place. Quite the contrary is the case. This fact has been clearly recognized by policy makers, as demonstrated in the following statement taken from the National Security Strategy of the United States, published by the White House in August of 1991: In some regions there is a danger of locally dominant powers, armed with modern weaponry and ancient ambitions. We see regimes that have made themselves champions of regional radicalism, states that are all too vulner- able to such pressures, governments that re- fuse to recognize one another, and countries that have claims on one another's territory-- some with significant military capabilities and a history of recurring war. A key task for the future will be maintaining regional balances and resolving such disputes before they erupt in military conflict. (7:7) Thus the United States has adopted a regional focus in designing its national security strategy. The term regional is used in a geographic sense, and that is the framework upon which future national security strategy will be built. In order to build such a strategy one must have an understanding of geography in its broadest sense and how it impacts on national power and strategy. Geography is not itself an element of national power, which is normally descibed as having political, economic, and military elements. Geography might better be viewed as the foundation on which these three elements of national power are built. Accordingly, statesmen must possess a thorough knowledge of a broad range of geographic factors in order to effectively wield the elements of national power in pursuit of their national interests. So too must military leaders understand geography in its broadest sense. Any credible military response to a regional conflict requires an understanding of the geography of that region, as the geographic conditions may enhance or constrain the exercise of military power. To be effective in dealing with regional crises, military leaders must understand the way in which geography affects strategic and operational planning, tactics, logistics operations, relations with civilian populations, and the military evaluations of areas. The Marine Corps in particular prides itself on its expeditionary nature and ability to respond to crises worldwide, and so has no small stake in ensuring its leaders are well educated in geography and its military applications. After discussing the relationship between geography, national power, and strategy, and the need for military leaders to understand it, a recommendation for incorporating the study of geography into the Marine Corps' formal education system will be presented. When a state is enclosed by three other states its territory is focal. He who first gets con- trol of it will gain the support of All-Under- Heaven. (11:130) Sun Tzu's dictum speaks directly to one of the most important geographic factors, location, and why some countries or regions have long histories of recurring warfare. There are many other aspects of geography that bear directly on the power that a nation develops and the strategies it employs in seeking to secure its national interests. Some definitions are in order before proceeding with the discussion of the relationship between geography, power, and strategy. Geography, in its broadest sense, deals with the description of the Earth's surface; its division into regions, continents, and countries; climate, plants, animals; natural resources and industries; people, their cultures, and religions. National power is the measure of a state's ability to achieve its goals and protect its national interests. Geopolitics is the science of the relation of politics to geography. The geopolitical viewpoint is that the strength of a nation and its chances of survival are dependent to a great extent on geographic factors: location, size, shape, depth, climate, population and manpower, natural resources, industrial capacity, and social and political organization. (6:2) Strategy, from a military perspective, involves deciding upon the geographic regions of military operations, the planning for, and the directing of the military forces to be employed there. (6:2) Strategic position implies one that is favorable or advantageous, primarily because of its geographic location. Historically, there has always been a strong relationship between geography and international problems. Examples of long-standing struggles for power among nations abound, and cannot really be understood without the help of geography. Indeed, in many cases geographic factors are actually the cause of wars. In devising a strategy to prevent war, a complete understanding of geography in relation to human affairs is necessary. Geography has always been an integral part of planning for war. It is not surprising then that the United States' national security strategy is based on regional geographic considerations. A nation seeks to achieve its foreign policy aims by employing all three elements of power. Thus it will have a political strategy relying on the use of diplomacy and negotiation. This strategy is closely linked with the nation's economic strategy, and both are used in concert in the building of alliances and the protection of national interests. The employment of military strategy is typically the last resort, used when diplomatic and economic efforts have failed to protect national security interests. A nations power, and therefore its national interests and strategies, is an outgrowth of a wide variety of geographic factors. As stated earlier, location is an extremely important factor in the development of power because it determines climates, economics, natural resources strategic position, and even national policies. Favorable geographic location results in tremendous economic and strategic advantages. The United States, for example, enjoys significant advantages due to its location. It has friendly neighbors on its northern and southern borders and is seperated from Europe and Asia by large oceans. These factors have allowed the United States to shape its national policies in relative freedom from external pressures. Its location as the natural terminus of trade routes across those same oceans has brought the United States significant economic advantages as well. The strategic significance of Turkey is also a function of its location as a land bridge between Europe and Asia, and as a land barrier across the only outlet of the Black Sea. Turkeys' location is also significant strategically as the world's largest source of chromite. (12:45) The size and shape of a nation are also important considerations which impact on the political, economic, and military policies it adopts. Compactness may foster political unity and help in the rapid mobilization of military, labor and industrial forces. This can also be a liability. Small countries such as Belgium may be extremely susceptible to sudden attack. Countries that are elongated, such as Chile or Italy, or that have seperated areas, such as Turkey or the United States, may be more vulnerable to invasion. Very large countries may have to contend with the problems of regionalism, which can adversely affect national unity and stability. Climatic conditions determine the nature and distribution of food supplies and influences the peoples' living habits. All of the world's great powers lie in the middle latitudes, in which variations in climate and soil are not too great. Nations that are large in area, such as the United States, benefit from the fact that climates of different types contribute to variety and balance of productive capabilities. (6:5) In evaluating nations or regions, consideration must be given to their physiography - highlands, lowlands, coastlines, plains, forests, and cultivated areas. Topography is extremely important in determining the military strategies applied to problems. Physiography plays a vital role in a nations position of strength or weakness. For example, a country divided up by a mountain range may be difficult to unify and thus be vulnerable. Cohesion is the ability of the people to work together in pursuit of the national interest in spite of individual or group differences. (6:7) This important consideration also includes such things as common languages, religion, law, class problems and racial differences. The former Soviet Union and India provide excellent examples of the factors that make cohesion difficult. The Soviet Union had many diverse racial groups and languages. India has these problems as well as a caste system and difficulties between its two major religious groups, Moslems and Hindus. China, by contrast, is almost racially pure Chinese. Natural resources, or the access to them, are another essential element of national power. Nations without them lack the ability to fully protect and realize their national interests. A well-developed system of interior communications and transportation is an important ecomomic as well as military consideration. Of great importance in determining the strategic position and military potential of a nation is its location with respect to the major land and sea trade routes, and the development and extent of its external transportation system. (6:10) Without its strategic lift capability by both sea and air, the United States would not be able to employ its Maritime Prepositioned Force (MPF) concept. Although the discussion of how geographic factors relate to the development of a nations power could continue at great length, the importance of a knowledge of geography to the statesman and military strategist should be evident. Since power and national security are essentially based on geographic factors, military leaders must think in terms of geography. This observation is obviously not new. Military strategists have long considered geography in choosing locations for advanced operating bases. Their location must be viewed in light of their proximity to both the home country and prospective battle area they may support. The United States currently faces just such a concern in searching for a replacement for its bases at Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base in the Phillippines, an issue of significant strategic importance. Nor are these considerations of concern only to statesman and high level military strategists. Military leaders at all levels must know the effects of geography on military operations. Again, to quote Sun Tzu: To estimate the enemy situation and to calculate distances and the degree of difficulty of the terrain so as to control victory are the virtues of the superior general. He who fights with full knowledge of these factors is certain to win; he who does not will surely be defeated. (11:128) Sun Tzu's "estimate of the enemy situation" includes more than just an understanding of an adversary's strength or location on the battlefield. Of equal, if not greater, importance is an understanding of the history, culture, societal organization, and psychology of an enemy nation, and how these factors influence its military leaders and the way they fight. This knowledge is the key to finding an exploitable weakness, which will lead to victory. In "On War", Carl Von Clausewitz also emphasizes the importance of an understanding of the relationship between warfare and terrain. In Clausewitz's view, a commanders understanding of the relationship is what determines the particular character of a military action. Since a commander will never be completely familiar with the area(s) in which he may fight, and also will never be able to reconnoiter it completely, he is faced with many unknowns when planning and conducting battle. The enemy, of course, may not be better off, though the defender more often than not has at least a local tactical advantage. Clausewitz believes that the commander with enough talent and experience to overcome this dilemma will gain a real advantage. To master this problem requires a special gift, which Clausewitz calls a sense of locality. This is made up of a combination of imagination, learning and experience and gives the commander the ability to quickly and accurately understand the topography of an area, enabling him to find his way around the battlefield at any time. Though imagination is a natural talent, with learning and experience this sense of locality grows in scope. Senior commanders must aquire an overall knowledge of an entire country or region. He must be able to picture in his mind the road networks, riverlines, and mountain ranges without losing his sense of his immediate surroundings. Both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz demonstrate the need for military leaders to move beyond a basic understanding of the effects of terrain and weather on the military operations. Geography, in its broadest sense, must be mastered to be successful in the conduct of military operations. Current doctrine, as contained in the Marine Corps Warfighting manual FMFM 1, "Warfighting", also emphasizes the requirements for and understanding of geography and its relationship to the political, economic, and military elements of power. A commander must assess his enemy's centers of gravity (strengths) and critical vulnerabilities (weaknesses) as well as his own. He must view them not only in respect to military concerns on a tactical, operational, and strategic level, but must recognize that these strengths and weaknesses may not be military at all, but rather of a political, psychological, or economic nature. A thorough understanding of FMFM-1 is not enough, by itself, to educate Marines in the military applications of geography. An institutional emphasis on incorporating the study of geography into the Marine Corps' formal education system would ensure that Marines are truely able to go to war on a moments notice, anywhere in the world, in keeping with their expeditionary nature. The Marine Corps has not completely ignored all aspects of military geography. The effects of terrain and weather on military operations are an essential consideration in the planning process and are constantly emphasized in doctrinal publications, war games, and field exercises and training. No intelligence officer fails to brief these considerations and no commander fails to take them into account when making decisions. The Marine Corps does not, however, include courses in geography in its formal school's program of instruction (POI), and officers conceivably may not have studied geography since their high school days. Those who gain an appreciation for the importance of studying geography do so through self-study and/or practical experience. This has not always been the case. A look at the 1940 edition of the Marine Corps' "Small Arms Manual", NAVMC 2890, reveals a three-page form for the study of a theater of operations to be prepared by the intelligence officer. (8:2-15) This form includes items such as political history, internal and international politics; economic characteristics, national productive capacity, commerce, transportation; physical geography; and psychological situation, to include education, religion and cultural aspects. Recruiting methods, training of resources and officer promotion methods are additional items for consideration. No "re-invention of the wheel" is required, just increased institutional emphasis. An introduction to the military aspects of geography should be taught at The Basic School so that all Marine officers are exposed to the importance of geographic considerations. This instruction need not be especially broad in scope and should focus on tactical concerns. This would place an institutional emphasis on the study of geography during the formative stage of an officer's career. As an officer makes his way up through the formal education system the scope and emphasis of instruction in geography should broaden progressively. Marine officers would gain a more complete understanding of demographics, religion, industry, agriculture, cultural customs, and other geo- political factors. The Marine Corps' career, intermediate, and top level schools provide an ideal environment for the sort of practical exercises, war games, and area studies necessary to amplify formal classroom instruction. In studying history, emphasis must be placed not only on what happened, but why it happened and what influenced commanders to make the decisions they made. Invariably, some aspect of geography will appear. For example, in preparation for the Battle of France, General Patton states that he read Freeman's "The Norman Conquest", "paying particular attention to the roads William the Conquerer used in his operations in Normandy and Brittany." (12:19) Obviously, a parallel program for enlisted and staff NCO formal school POI's should be incorporated. It is an unfortunate fact that the majority of Marine officers are unable to attend resident formal schools beyond entry level. Therefore, an emphasis on the study of geography must be included in the non-resident studies programs as well. Assigned reading and exercise scenarios should be included in these courses. Additionally, the inclusion of books on geography and geopolitics on the Commandant's reading list would promote the continued study of this essential subject. The United States has been thrust into a leadership role in a time of tremendous international instability. The economic, social, and political impact of such turmoil is of great concern to policy makers in the United States as they work to promote regional stablility around the globe. This continuing development of modern warriors concepts and the expansion of military areas of interest and responsibility have broadened the scope of military interest in geography. Military leaders can no longer confine their interest to the study of terrain and weather, but must also include social, economic, and political matters. Many of today's complex world problems - boundary disputes, population pressures, and uneven distribution of natural resources - have their roots in geographic as well as socio-political phenomena. (13:vii) Military leaders have an obligation to understand how these phenomena influence plans and operations. As the nation's expeditionary force in readiness, the Marine Corps must be ready to respond to regional conflicts that threaten the security interests of the United States. Marine leaders must have a solid foundation in geography in order to be successful in resolving these conlficts through military means. A deliberate, continuous institutional emphasis on the study of geography will prepare Marine leaders for an uncertain and evolving future. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Brinkerhoff, John R. "The Nature of Modern Military Geography". West Point: United States Military Academy, 1963. 2. Clausewitz, Carl Von. "On War". Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976. 3. Drew, Col Dennis M. and Snow, Dr. Donald M. "Making Strategy: An Introduction to National Security Processes and Problems". Alabama: Air University Press, 1988. 4. "FMFM-1 Warfighting". Quantico, Va.: MCCDC, 1989. 5. Hartmann, Frederick H. "The Relations of Nations". New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1978. 6. Jeffries, William W. "Geography and National Power". Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1967. 7. National Security Strategy of the United States. The White House, 1991. 8. "NAVMC 2890 Small Wars Manual". Reprint of the 1940 edition. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1987. 9. O'Sullivan, Patrick and Miller, Jesse W. "The Geography of Warfare". New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983. 10. Peltier, Louis C. and Pearcy, G. Etzell. "Military Geography". Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1966. 11. Sun Tzu. "The Art Of War". Translated by Samuel B. Griffith. London: Oxford University Press, 1963. 12. Thompson, Edmund R. "The Nature of Military Geography: A Pre- liminary Survey" . Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, Inc., 1962.
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