The Politics of Military Adaptation: The Development of a Theoretical Framework to Explain Military Adaptation's Importance to Politics
This thesis investigates the phenomenon of in-conflict military adaptation and its dependence on political and bureaucratic oversight of military forces. Warfare is co-evolutionary. Armed forces deal with the pressures of a co-evolutionary fight by adapting. It follows that an armed force is likely to gain advantage by adapting and evolving faster than its co-evolving enemy. If armed forces in a conflict achieve objectives set by their political masters, the government in question achieves its geopolitical and/or domestic reasons for entering that conflict. If they fail or are hindered on the path to achievement of those objectives, the electability, reputation and legacy of political leaders is likely to be at risk. Therefore the rate of military adaptation becomes key to warfighter performance in warfare, and key to political success in committing to participation in war. To investigate the link between the fate of political leaders during conflict and the ability of warfighters to adapt within a co-evolutionary fight, this thesis explores a central question: What hinders the ability of an armed force to adapt during conflict, and what enhances the ability to adapt? The search involved the development of a theoretical framework, the Rate of In-Conflict Adaptation (ROICA) Theory, which is applied to a post-9/11 Iraq War case study involving American forces. The ROICA Theory contends that warfare moves in a Three Act Progression where progress through the Second Act of that progression heavily influences the outcomes of participation in a war. Within that Second Act, the rate at which an urgent adaptive request required as a response to a challenging battlespace traverses a hierarchical Chain-of-Decision-Making is measured as a Rate of In-Conflict Adaptation. It is an indicator of what hinders or enhances the ability to adapt during conflict. The ROICA theoretical framework is tested by process tracing the US defense system’s decision-making for the replacement of vulnerable Humvees with Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in IED-rich Iraq. The major argument to emerge from this thesis is that politically successful outcomes in war are dependent on the ability of warfighters to adapt at the tactical level to the fight they are in, and within the tempo of that fight. Therefore tactical battlefield adaptation has strategic consequences. The ROICA Theory also demonstrates that various levels of decision-making impact the ability of the warfighter to adapt, and operate from different paradigms that are rarely aligned to warfighter needs. The resulting disconnect from those paradigm differences can impact the safety of warfighters and the electability, reputation and legacy of Presidents and Prime Ministers.
Advisor: Patman, Robert; Rudd, Christopher; Khoo, Nicholas
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Politics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: military adaptation; agility; co-evolution; strategic theory; ROICA theory; political leadership; bureaucracy; MRAP; casualties; decision-making; IED; warfighter
Research Type: Thesis