Monday, February 1, 2016

What's in a warfare device?

A few weeks ago I was rewarded by the NEX with a 300 dollar uniform bill when I had to purchase new sets of khakis and NWUs (losing over 30 pounds will do that to you).  I was able to take all my old patches in to save a few dollars, but I had to explain why I had two different secondary warfare devices.  For officers, its already rare to have more than one warfare device, and having three is even more rare.

Which begs the question: what's in a warfare device?  Why do we wear these small pieces of metal?  It hasn't always been that way.  The Navy operated up until the 1900s without any sort of warfare device.  Naval aviation was the first (as far as I can tell) to begin using a warfare designator, which they established in 1918.  Submarines followed suit in 1923.  Some are far more recent: SWOs didn't have a pin until 1975, and the Information Dominance Warfare Device is only a few years old.

The argument about warfare devices typically revolves around what exactly WARFARE is and the QUALIFICATION behind the device.  There are far too many definitions for warfare (although not one in JP 1-02!), but let's go with old man Clausewitz, who says war (and thus warfare) is "an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."  Two pieces are key here.  First, it involves violence, or put simply, breaking things.  Compelling opponents with statesmanship and treaties is the realm of the State Department, not the DoD.  Second, you have conflict, because if your opponent was already inclined to fulfill your will, you wouldn't need to employ any violence.

Because a 50 caliber upside the head is a foreign policy win everyday
A definition alone is insufficient.  Anyone can employ violence.  One can pick up the newspaper to see violence employed on our own citizens every day, and we call that crime.  The most significant thing that makes warfare different from crime is that it is conducted by professionals.  We consider ourselves professional Sailors, men and women who execute warfare in the maritime domain to defend the Constitution and American interests around the world.

Professionals carry out their duties according to a standard.  For example, professional engineers are expected to certify blueprints to prevent buildings from collapsing or circuits from overheating.  Doctors understand the vast complexity that is the human body to help cure patients of disease and injury.  Following that same line of thinking, professional Sailors would be expected to carry out duties assigned and qualified for to conduct warfare according to the rules that we fight by.
I hope the LT that approved the blueprints paid attention in school! (from CJTF HOA)
In the case of rules and standards, there is a technical piece and a moral piece to this.  Doctors are another great example.  They have to understand the interaction that medicine, diet and all sorts of external stimuli have on the human body, so that they can manipulate them to make someone better.  That's the technical side of things.  But they also have a moral obligation to do no harm, hence taking the Hippocratic Oath.  Professional Sailors also posses the know-how to execute warfare, but also the morality (via such things as the Geneva Convention) to execute warfare in such a manner that peace can eventually return.
"And we store all the Motrin over here that we're trying to cure cancer with." (image from Wikipedia)
Taking all this into account, the unrestricted line warfare devices fit nicely into this setup.  Information dominance does as well, due to the ability to damage people and equipment through the radio frequency spectrum.  Supply warfare pins?  Not buying it, and the pins for our medical community seems like a mismatch between their professional obligation to help people and warfare's requirement to hurt people.

Although if the Chop bought Taco Tuesday meat from here, we may accuse him of conducting biological warfare (from Wikipedia)
I have to make a plug here for Information Warfare, since I get a lot of questions and flack on this.  Ever since the first radio operator jammed communications during the Russo-Japanese War, information warfare has existed.  You can now send electronic energy to damage equipment and degrade an enemies military and civilian infrastructure, and the end effect is the same as if you had dropped a bomb on.  Think about it:
IW isn't warfare! Now just let me go back to guiding missiles and aircraft with a system that the enemy can't possibly electronically attack...
- If I jam your TACAN and your airplane crashes, it's the same effect as if I shot it down.
- If I jam your GPS and you can't pass GPS information to your planes or missiles and they can't get to a target, it's the same effect as scrambling my own fighters to force you away.
- If I insert a virus into your ship and the engine room shuts down, it's the same effect as putting a missile into that engine room.

Khan didn't think IW was warfare either, and it didn't work well for him.

In case you need more proof, recently Germany suffered a steel mill hack that caused serious damage.  So now we can break a plant that could be devoted to producing military goods, all without leaving the safety of our own country.  Please tell me again why that isn't warfare?

We can disagree about which warfare devices are harder.  I've qualified on Submarines, Aviation Observer and Information Dominance (or whatever we're calling it this week).  All three had their own challenges. The ease of getting them more often than not depended more on the command than the actual knowledge required.  The warfare devices will ultimately look different and have different qualification programs, some easier than others.  The end result is a badge that represents our ability, as professional Sailors, to execute warfare in our discipline against an enemy.