Working Group 1: War Studies, Vienna Report

Marzena Zakowska

With plans in progress for our 2020 conference in Helsinki and a larger role for working group chairs, this is a good opportunity to review some of the accomplishments of last year's working groups. This report by Dr Marzena Zakowska of the War Studies University, Warsaw, provides a good overview.

Working Group 1: War Studies. Report from Vienna 2019

Marzena Żakowska, Phd
War Studies University
Chair WG1

This year at ISMS Conference the War Studies Working Group (WG1) included three sessions. The first one was dedicated to problem concept and doctrine. It began with an outstanding presentation of Eystein Meyer (Norwegian Defence University College) entitled “Centre of gravity analysis fails to promote comprehensive approach”. Meyer analyzed the utility of the concept of the Center of Gravity (COG) in NATO planning methods form teleological, methodological, epistemological and ontological perspectives. Basing on the research into the US- and NATO-led operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and supporting the study with his own experience from work in NATO JHQ, he concludes that COG analysis does not promote the Comprehensive Approach in NATO, and is no longer a useful analytical tool in the military planning method.  Meyer sees some ways to improve the utility of COG in finding an answer to informing research question: what does a military planning method need to understand the different actors and potential actors in an operating environment? And what to influence to achieve mission success?


The problem of utilizing the COG concept in military operation was also noted by Miha Šlebir from the University of Ljubljana in the presentation “Centre of gravity from an explanatory perspective”. Based on an extensive overview on modern formulations of the COG (examination of e.g. J. A. Warden’s five rings theory, J. L. Strange’s CG-CC-CR-CV construct, A. J. Echevarria’s understanding of a focal point and M. N. Vego’s critical factors analysis), he discovered that significant difference in understanding the COG was caused by a lack of consistency in the approaches leading to limitation of the validity and reliability of conceptual analysis. Šlebir claimed that the COG can still be used as a powerful explanatory tool, the concept just needs to be unified by re-conceptualizations with emphasis on improving precision and logical consistency.  


Following concept analysis, Per Lindgaard (Royal Danish Defence College) drew attention to how the process of developing and implementing military doctrine affects agility in the military organization. Lindgaard in a methodologically well-advanced analysis “How to navigate in the doctrinal dilemmas!”, indicated that process of doctrine development depends on recognition on which stage the organization is, namely whether it is preparing for a war; is preparing for the war (because war has not yet started); is at war (being at war). The civilian and military domains play an important role in this process. Creating agility makes organizations face essential dilemmas between being responsive and being adaptable to a specific scenario.


In turn, Radoslaw Jagiello (War Studies University, Poland) offered an insightful study - VUCA environment in contemporary doctrine” where he employed two theoretical concepts - Cynefin and VUCA. Cynefin offers a decision-making domain consisting of the following dimensions: complex complicated, chaotic, disorder, and simple/obvious to help managers to identify how they perceive situations and make sense of their own and other people's behavior. The VUCA concept reflected on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of general conditions and situations and helped to understand the changing operational environment and planning the operation. The resolute of synergy of both concepts is the original analytical model, which can be applied to study on contemporary doctrine in military science.


In the last presentation in this session, Ivo Pikner (University of Defence, Czech Republic) referred to the role of military operational concepts in armed forces. To analyze this subject, he used a broad range of theoretical approaches, implying the experience of the USA and NATO in developing the concept, and recalling the effects of lack of its possession in the Czech Republic. Pikner concluded that it is necessary for any state and military organization to develop the concept due to effectively organized defense capabilities. The concept needs to be understood as fundamental strategic documents describing the employment of armed forces in future operations”. In detail, more of his arguments are presented in the paper “Spectrum of approaches to the development of operational concepts in armed forces”.


The second sessions focused on trends and current conflicts. Marzena Żakowska (War Studies University, Poland) in the meticulous analysis of “Trends in armed conflict and global security” expounded the evolution of the war nature revealing quantitative and qualitative changes. Considering empirical data, she claims that the modern armed conflicts are highly mosaic and conglomerate phenomena (e.g. hybrid warfare in Ukraine, Syria’s war). The major reasons for wars are system/ideology, gaining national power, subnational predomination. Moreover, increasing diversity of actors and foreign interventions in conflict are the main causes of war prolongation and fall of conflict regulation measures. These findings led her to formulate far-reaching questions to the academic discussion: How to define the modern war? What criteria should be taken into this process? The other note which Marzena highlights is urgently investing by international organizations and states in conflict resolution and prevention effort.


After tracing the trends in armed conflict, Krzysztof Drabik (War Studies University, Poland) presented outstanding papers “Morale in the army - ethical aspects” considered the evolution of morale in the army by concentrating on the just war theory and by pointing out the indicators shaping the morale. Drabik makes the case that morale phenomenon covers a broad spectrum of issues e.g. ethical, philosophical, psychological and sociological provenance. He argued that: ,,Morale can be considered through the prism of the state of human consciousness, self-esteem, dignity and honor, the process of identifying with the tasks and responsibilities set by social institutions, and finally, compliance with ethical principles and behavioral patterns preferred in a particular social group”.


An inventive presentation which directly referred to current armed conflict was given by Cyprian Kozera (War Studies University, Poland) - entitled “Study of a potential hybrid warfare scenario against Poland”. The observation on the dynamics of conflict in Ukraine made Kozera consider the great possibility of hybrid warfare on Polish territory. The overarching objective of his study was to imply contemporary research and experience of hybrid warfare in Lebanon 2006, Ukraine, the latest U.S. election interference in the context of the Republic of Poland. Various domains of hybrid warfare (e.g. cyber-security, fake news, election interference, low-intensity conflict, maskirovka, economic pressure) were used to create scenarios. Concluding, Kozera clearly stated that Poland, NATO and Eastern Flank countries should have doctrine and policy countermeasures against hybrid conflict.


Following the issue of hybrid conflict, Jan Krzyżewski (War Studies University, Poland) treated the participants with a clearly articulated paper “The role of the Suwałki Corridor for NATO’s Eastern Flank security strategy”. Krzyżewski pointed out that the Suwałki Corridor located in Poland plays a crucial geostrategic function - constitutes the link between Baltic States, Poland and the rest of NATO countries. Having this in mind, he stressed, that it is of great interest to NATO to strategically strengthen the military presence in this area. It is possible that this territory will be of primary interest to Russia in the event of a potential conflict with the Baltic States. Then, the Russians may use a wide catalog of scenarios, e.g. information on the Western isolation of Kaliningrad, potential "internal instability" in Kaliningrad, activity of nationalist factors or unrest among Russian minorities in the region.


Next, Alekasnder Olech (War Studies University, Poland) presented a well-advanced research project regarding the terrorist threat for security in Central Europe. He emphasized that the critical source of terrorism is a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, criminal activities, regional conflicts, and uncontrolled migration. Regarding migrations, double-sided threats are integration barriers, the establishment of diasporas/ghettos, an increase in xenophobic moods, recruitment to extremist organizations. In the presentation „Contemporary Terrorist threats to the security of Central Europe” Olech illustrated that the most dangerous threat to Central Europe security is a growth of terrorism in the Schengen Zone, e.g. France, Belgium, Germany, and Ukraine. He argued that to effectively counter terrorism it is to essential clarify the definition. The literature review showed that nowadays there are used more than 300 definitions of terrorism, which may hinder cooperation between EU countries regarding developing doctrine and policy to eliminate this threat.


In view of Joao Correia (Military University Institute, Portugal) another cause of potential conflict is the existing crisis between the US and North Korea regarding the development of the nuclear program started by regime of Kim Jong-un. In study entitled “The United States of America in the North Korean crisis: military response options” Correia introduces the USA range of military response options in conflict scenario, e.g. maintain military status quo, increase containment and deterrence, block access to ports, conduct a limited attack, decapitate the regime, conduct a large-scale attack. After examining strategy test criteria (suitability, acceptability, and feasibility), he pointed out that the non-kinetic actions will tend to be the most probably adopted. Besides, he indicated, those options may change when new circumstances occurred, for instance, one of the launchings by North Korean missiles test fell in Japanese soil.


The third session brought our discussion to the topic “wider and deeper war studies”.  The starting point was an exceptional analysis by José Paulo Silva Bartolomeu (Portuguese Military University) about “Tactical considerations to prepare and conduct operations in subterranean systems”. He argued that “in the future, more conflicts will take place in subsurface areas or at least incorporate subterranean warfare elements”. This thought became the keynote for his research, where the overall objective was defined summarize tactical considerations in subterranean systems to support the preparation, planning, and execution of land operations at the tactical level”. Combining theoretical and empirical data (e.g. used by the Hamas subterranean systems) Bartolomeu crated the analytical model. The core structure of it emphasized the characteristics and tactical considerations of the following dimensions: the character of the mission, enemy, terrain, and weather, troops and support available, time available/time-consuming, civil considerations. This model is a holistic tool to prepare and conduct operations in subterranean systems.


A very promising research project regarding misinformation was presented by Aneta Kołodziej (War Studies University, Poland). She chose Poland as a case study, where misinformation inflow from the Russian Federation in a long run might affect the engineering structure of the Polish society. In the paper “Military force or civil institutions – who understands better and combats misinformation more effectively?” she presented a broad range of examples of the Russian actions.  Kołodziej informed that the Polish government in response to this threat is setting up a system to counteract fake news, post-truths, and the misinformation processes. Now, she takes the opportunity to investigate the construction of this system and find an answer to a question: How will the rules and the area of collaboration between the military and the civil institution be defined in this system?


Then, Major Kieun SUNG (Korean Military Academy) provided an insightful intellectual framework that reveled a discussion on weather, climate control technology and winning the war. In the analysis “Spatially specific meteorology to support operations” he presented a carefully documented study based on employing HERO dataset (372 battle cases covering 1905 to 1973) and NCEP Reanalysis dataset containing monthly mean precipitation and temperature. He found out that ,,mild weather provides the better opportunity to fight well for combatants and this positive effect of weather is more pronounced on the first battle than ensuing later battles in conflict and further dispatched combatants are more concerned about the weather of battlefield away from home country”. This analysis let the participants realize the importance of the link between weather conditions and waging the battles, and general winning the war.


The final contribution to this session was a well-reasoned analysis by Robert Boroch (War Studies University, Poland) built on literature review and empirical material gathered in the Warmia region in Poland, where there are records of cultural and historical tensions caused by the historical influence of Germany and Russia. In a paper entitled “Anthropological Aggression” Boroch he first clarified the definition of anthropological aggression and next pointed out that it takes different forms e.g. informational, ideological or symbolic conflict. He stated the main purpose of action taken within anthropological aggression is control over informational space to remove "existing narration' and imply new one "ideological narration”. The first level of anthropological aggression is driven by aggressor pressure on key areas of the opponent’s state, (e.g. informational, economic, political, educational). In sequence, the anthropological defence is mostly conducted by using the symbolic dimension and symbolic relocating (for instance, memorial parks, memorials, public buildings, or logistic infrastructure).


To conclude these reportorial remarks and summary overview, the sessions of War Studies Working Group’s at the ISMS Annual Conference 2019 enjoyed very good attendance - 15 participants and active follow-up discussions on the topics under review. The presentations were  concentrated on (1) concept and doctrine, (2) war, modern armed conflict, trends, challenges (3) security threats causing the conflict - terrorism, hybrid war, misinformation, anthropological aggression, (4) military operation -  military response option, operation in subterranean system, meteorology to support operation. The presentations were well-structured, they were characterized by an application a broad diversity of theoretical and empirical data, which in a significant way increased the level of discussion. 


At this point, I would like to thank all the WG1 participants, paper-givers and contributors to discussions. Thank you for the competent and inspired guidance to Brigadier General Wolfgang Peischel, President of ISMS for 2018-2019, ISMS Council Members, and prof. David Last, General Secretary of ISMS. Your input was insightful, powerful, and helped to organize WG1 panel and discussions.


We will continue on WG1 in next year’s ISMS Annual Conference in Helsinki.


Marzena Żakowska, Phd

War Studies University

Chair WG1