Should There be a New Sphere of War, the Human Sphere?
By U.S. Army Captain, Special Forces, Thomas Doherty July 26, 2016Until recently, the sphere of war has been based on elements such as land, sea and air. Recently, the U.S. Armed Forces have added the sphere of cyberspace and have linked it to the other spheres of war. In doing so, the Armed Forces have created a whole new command dedicated to this sphere of war under a basic understanding that the conventional military units within the Army, Navy or Air Force will include it, since it is not assumed that they dominate that sphere. Adding this sphere raises the question: what do we do when the human sphere or terrain is the key, and control over it represents the decisive aspect or point? Should there be a human sphere of war? On whom does it fall to propose a human sphere for waging war? In analyzing the capabilities of the Armed Forces, the United States military has recognized the growing importance of cyberspace; thus, in 2005, they converted it to a sphere of war along with the classical elements of land, sea and air. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also demonstrated the importance of the human sphere of war. In these campaigns, the control of the elements based on classical spheres signified little if anything beyond the tactical sphere. Some analysts surmise that in Afghanistan, "We failed by not denying the enemy the most important factor in any insurgency: the human sphere. The key terrain is sometimes mentioned in a non-doctrinal way as the 'decisive terrain.'" The elemental spheres for waging war are based on terrains which must be dominated in order to be successful. There are certain abstract forms of key terrain that transcend basic elemental functions. Among them is cyberspace, where sending and receiving electronic signals can drastically affect outcomes and can even cause physical damage. A human sphere for waging war (HSfWW) does not imply the restoration of human terrain systems (HTS). Any similarity ends with the names. HTS was assumed to be a function of intelligence gathering, while HSfWW refers to the decisive point of a campaign in operational or strategic terms. Gathering intelligence in the human terrain will always have a place in all phases of Unified Land Operations (previously called Full Spectrum Operations). The purpose of the HSfWW is to concentrate on where a war will be waged. In determining the relationship of a supported command and the supporters in the key terrain that define the decisive point, the relationship should be the deciding factor. That key terrain will be in the sphere or space of combat, and the command responsible for the combat sphere should be the supported command. For example, during the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force counted on the support of the command and the battle was waged in the air. Another example of this concept is a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign. Our military forces have already formed a command for this purpose, with an expertise and command structure in place, consisting of the special forces of the 1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC). The special forces of the 1st SFC are under the command of the only Defense Department units specifically trained to carry out COIN campaigns and trained in the nature of insurgency commonly called non-conventional war. During the last decade, half of our counterinsurgency operations were executed under the command predominantly of conventional operations military commanders. That is to say that the experts in the subject were there as command support and there was no supported command. It is almost like designating the air force to be in charge of formulating plans for a ground campaign. It is proposed that the one having the greatest capability for materializing the campaign plan over the decisive point should be the Decisive Operation, and therefore, by doctrine, the supported and empowered commander. In establishing the human sphere as a combat sphere, there will be a clearly delineated command with responsibilities over that sphere of war. Likewise, as no one questions the leadership and command of the Air Force in planning air campaigns, there should be no doubt about leadership in campaigns for the human sphere. The human sphere is not a malleable medium; it is a mobile medium that occupies with other spheres as needed. It is what converts the elemental spheres for waging war into epiphenomenal entities of the human sphere, and as such, they should be treated strategically. Only tactically, terrains such as the top of a mound or hill will retain their main value as key terrain in contrast to the human sphere and physical terrain, which are only important during limited periods. As the level of planning increases, the control of the human sphere will take on greater value, regardless of the other spheres of war that have been occupied. The HSfWW is essentially different from all other spheres of war. To treat it as totally separate from the rest will open news ways to tackle the problem. Also, in creating a primary proponent for this sphere to wage this war, the conditions would be fixed, so that the force with the greatest probability of capturing or defending the sphere for any operation should be the supported command that is unfolding in the HSfWW. This presupposes that it would be necessary to design doctrinal principles and redesigns of force in order to operate according to said principles. However, as mentioned before, the necessity of those principles and redesigns must not only be recognized, rather it is already evident [already present]. What has not been achieved yet is the correct application of using said force, and the doctrinal principles – that is to say, an umbrella command during the conflict, in order to reach the final desired status within the HSfWW. In contrast to other spaces, the human sphere is a mobile medium. This mobility can be used as an advantage for those who seek to control it. Up to a certain point the human sphere can be utilized as a source of camouflage for other parts of the same. The mobility achieved with this camouflage within the human sphere allows the other part[ie]s to deploy forces and exercise influence within other parts of this global sphere. A current example is ISIS and its capability to spread over the whole world by means of massive immigrations of its forces, camouflaged as refugees who enter Europe and other parts of the world. This allows ISIS to scatter spores in the formerly secured human sphere using a strategic mask like Ink Spot. What part of the human sphere is worth the trouble of trying to dominate it? The answer indicated is "The hearts and the minds." However, this only alludes to a deeper focus that should be achieved: the dominant influence of habits, beliefs and even more importantly, the will of the enemy within the HSfWW which should be forces friendly to us. It is what the opponents try to control or to prevent others from controlling. This requires not only the capacity to fire, mobilize, communicate and provide medical services, but also the capacity to move freely within the human sphere to be dominated. It is from this exposure to the Special Forces Alfa (the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas) over a long term basis that the local population can be influenced, and the objectives declared by the combat commander can be achieved. Adoption of a human sphere of combat will allow for a change in the structure of command, and therefore, in strategy. It will overcome institutional inertia and pressure politics, turning the onus for victory toward the units specifically trained to wage war in the area of souls/spirits. Today there is a kind of war in which the “hearts and minds” of people must be won in order to determine who is victorious and who is left defeated. The doctrine and the structure of the force is already in place and therefore there will be no further costs incurred. What is required is a change in the relationship between the one supported and the adherents, as well as in the application of the existing doctrine. Creating a human sphere of combat would concentrate our military forces better, which would give us a greater probability of achieving victory.