By Courtesy Story
U.S. Army Central
There are age-old sayings that any Army officer will invariably hear during their military career from the mouth of a historian or strategist about the importance of retracing the steps of doomed warriors. Perhaps none is more famously clichéd as the one that is attributed to so many historic figures - something along the lines of, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
With its headquarters in close proximity to Revolutionary War battlefields at Camden, Kings Mountain, and Cowpens, the strategic planners and security cooperation officers of U.S. Army Central’s Strategic Plans division (G5) set out to analyze the British campaign in the American South.
The Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Strategy, Col. David Williams, appointed Maj. Mark Askew, a former professor of history at West Point, the task of planning the excursion on Mar. 27, 2019. Williams wanted his staff to examine the effects that renewed great power competition have on military strategy; the challenges of operating in an economy of force theater; the need to rely on local partners with varying degrees of capability; the importance of the information domain; and the art and science of campaign planning.
At each of the battlefield sites, members of the G5 assessed the operational and strategic choices made by the British and how those decisions influenced the tactical outcome and psychological impact of each battle. Officers evaluated the British Army’s performance of vital warfighting functions, their campaign design, the influence of terrain on the campaign’s plan and execution, and how well their commanders understood and mitigated operational risk.
During group discussion, the participants debated the British “theory of victory” that underpinned the campaign and its viability. They also assessed whether the campaign was lost due to poor strategy or poor operational and tactical performance, how well the British targeted the American operational center of gravity, and how the British might have avoided culminating in different phases of their offensives.
When the G5 team concluded their tour, they came away with a greater appreciation for how poor decision-making and execution turned an economy-of-force theater into the primary engine of British defeat in the American Revolution.
So what can these battles of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War teach us about campaign planning considerations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility? Here are five lessons our modern Army can take from our British ally’s early missteps:
During the Revolution, Britain and the United States both had temporary moments of extraordinary freedom of action at the strategic level. Both Britain and the U.S. had to confront the re-emergence of previously defeated strategic rivals at inopportune moments. Both countries shared global interests and concerns. Both faced multi-domain threats. The parallels, while not exact, can provide today's military planners with some context on contemporary problems.
Courtesy Story Contributors:
Col. Angela Funaro, U.S. Army Central Public Affairs Office
Maj. Mark Askew, U.S. Army Central Strategic Plans (G5)
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION