Monday, October 6, 2008

Transcendent warfare: New Army manual, research report are valuable

By Steve Hammons

Two new documents by and about the U.S. Army are sparking discussion and debate about various elements of the Army’s missions and future directions.

Both documents, a field manual and a research study report, expand perspectives about achieving short-term and long-term success in various kinds of missions.

Taken together, along with other comprehensive considerations, these views might be considered part of an “outside-the-box” and valuable concept sometimes referred to as “transcendent warfare.”

The new Stability Operations Field Manual, to be released today according to an Oct. 5 Washington Post article, emphasizes the role of “stability operations” in countries and regions that include fragile states and failed states.

The article quoted Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV as saying, "This is the document that bridges from conflict to peace." Caldwell is commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The manual was created with the past year at the center.

Another new document is a report by the Rand Corporation based on a study they conducted for the Army Environmental Policy Institute (AEPI). The report is titled “Green Warriors: Army Environmental Considerations for Contingency Operations from Planning Through Post-Conflict.”

The report notes that issues such as clean water, sewage and sanitation, proper handling of hazardous waste and similar challenges can affect mission success in establishing stability and support for U.S. missions by local residents, according to an Oct. 3 report in Newsweek.

How do the Stability Operations Field Manual, the Green Warriors research report and other approaches contribute to thinking and perceptions about transcendent warfare and future success for U.S. missions and activities?


When a U.S. Navy SEAL officer coined the term “transcendent warfare” several years ago, he was referring to the development of perspectives that include various advances in knowledge about psychology, sociology, physics, intelligence-gathering and other important elements.

The officer’s graduate-level research paper was titled, “Unconventional Human Intelligence Support: Transcendent and Asymmetric Warfare Implications of Remote Viewing.”

The 2001 report by then-Commander L.R. “Rick” Bremseth was part of his studies at the Marine Corps War College, Marine Corps University, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia.

During and after extensive research and interviews, Bremseth noted that emerging developments and perspectives could be very helpful in various kinds of U.S. military and intelligence operations.

Do some of his research findings correlate with ideas such as those expressed in communications platforms such as the Stability Operations Field Manual and Rand’s Green Warriors study?

The answer is probably yes. Thorough, effective planning and implementation of those plans that take into account a wide scope of factors involved in U.S. military and intelligence activities can contribute to success.

While some comprehensive thinking may seem “outside the box,” some of it might be perceived as logical and common sense.

The Stability Operations Field Manual proposes that nations and regions that are havens for terrorism, criminal activities and religious extremism may pose a greater threat to the U.S. than the threat of major conventional battlefield wars.

The Green Warriors report noted that developing and sustaining the support from indigenous populations, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be impacted by how well or poorly local circumstances involving clean water, sanitation and similar issues are handled.

The concepts in the field manual and the Rand report are not new.

The importance and value of comprehensive approaches in “winning hearts and minds” has long been recognized. Perhaps the value of these documents is to remind us that U.S. objectives can be achieved with “soft power” as well as the bombs and bullets of “hard power.”

The ideas of transcendent warfare simply add to the tools and options that are associated with both soft power and hard power.


Using Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, it is widely recognized that improving jobs and economic opportunity, getting business and agriculture up and running, providing basic services such as roads and electricity, opening schools and medical facilities, supporting the local communications media and similar activities all work hand-in-hand with hard-power military activities.

Making friends for America can be more helpful than making enemies.

Competence in the use of hard power, “killing people and blowing things up” as some like to say, is a given for military activities, whether we are talking about armies, navies or air forces. But, as we know, sometimes the battle is won but the war is lost.

What is sometimes a more challenging mission is to create peace, stability and long-term friends.

This assumes, of course, that the goal is actually to create stability and peace. When it is claimed or believed that military actions are undertaken for purposes of war-profiteering, to access natural resources such as oil or to intrude upon or dominate a specific region, then the moral authority of a military action will be questioned and possibly resisted.

It is possible that in some cases, conflict and war could be more desirable by some than peace and stability, at least by war-profiteers and those who have less-than-honorable motives.

Here again, perhaps transcendent warfare concepts can be of assistance. This is because some aspects of transcendent warfare look at human consciousness and human psychology in ways that can be helpful in a higher, deeper and more inclusive scope of understanding.

This can be helpful in dealing with other societies. And, it can be helpful in the understanding and advancement of our own nation.

In his Marine Corps War College report, Navy SEAL Bremseth noted that, "The real challenge for the United States is not asymmetric warfare, but rather what this writer calls transcendent warfare, the ability to conceptualize and subsequently actualize an entirely new form of warfare that transcends all previously known models."

He also stated that it would be useful to, "Explore a myriad of phenomena having potential military applications with the goal of developing transcendent and asymmetrical warfare approaches."

Using perspectives and methods that take into consideration the implementation of stabilization activities, peace operations, constructive psychological operations (PSYOP), information operations, open-source intelligence (OSINT), unconventional approaches, transcendent warfare concepts and other tactics and strategies might be very helpful now and in the future.