Lt. Gen. Brown's unique perspective on war

Lunch with Sun Tzu

By J.M. Simpson on November 26, 2013

The office was orderly and neat, much like the man who works there.

To the left was a small table on which there were two fruit dishes, white napkins and forks.

Lunch was in the offing, and I was hungry.

Lt. Gen. Robert Brown and I had worked our schedules in order to meet and talk.  In between the time of the invitation to have lunch and the actually sitting down to break bread, the Army had announced that he would lead the Combined Arms Center, or CAC, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

An NCO brought in two plates, each with a salmon sandwich and barbequed chips.  Brown had a bottled tea; I opted for bottled water.

"I'm looking forward to the new position," the I Corps' commanding general said as we sat down to eat.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, currently commanding the 7th Infantry Division, has been selected as Brown's successor.

For the past 16 months, Brown has redirected the Corps' focus to the Pacific Rim as the Army rebalances its force. He has also addressed suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention and helping soldiers transition to the civilian workforce.

Before leaving though, Brown will lead I Corps for an exercise.

"We are leaving very soon, and I am looking forward to it," he commented.

Prior to this upcoming exercise, the Corps's largest exercise under Brown took place this past July in Australia during Talisman Saber, a bilateral exercise between American and Australian forces.

"I have been honored to serve for over 30 years, and I am looking forward to working at the Center."

Since 1882, the Combined Arms Center, and its predecessor organizations have engaged in the primary mission of preparing the Army's leaders for war.

To do this, the CAC develops and integrates Army leader development, doctrine, education, lessons learned, functional training, training support, training development and proponent responsibilities to conduct unified land operations in a joint, inter-agency, intergovernmental and multinational environment.

As our lunch proceeded and I listened to Brown talk about the challenges facing the Army, it dawned on me that Brown is as much a scholar as he is a warrior.

The warrior aspect of Brown's nature is clear - he lead and deployed with then Fort Lewis based 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division to Iraq in 2004 - 2005.

But the scholarly side, the thinking outside of the box and into the future, is what began to emerge as lunch finished and a piece of white paper and a pen became the focus of our discussion.

"It's the ability to work in the human domain that we need to be aware of," Brown said as he drew a circle on the paper.

"We've got to be working out here on the edges, not the center, in order to win our next engagements."

With the lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and as the Army moves forward, it is refining its methods of applying landpower in the technologically driven 21st century.

One of the most important aspects of this is the ability to operate in the human domain of conflict.

In an unpublished paper written for the Army's Maneuver Center for Excellence, Brown and Maj. Ronald Spring have defined human domain as the "totality of the physical, cultural, and social environments that influence human behavior to the extend that success of any military operation or campaign depends on the application of unique capabilities designed to fight and win population centric conflicts."

In other words, the way in which war is waged is changing, and Brown is on the leading edge of that change.

As I reflected back on our lunch and discussion, I was reminded of Sun Tzu, the Chinese theorist of war who wrote over 2,000 years ago, "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

Brown will step into the line of those few who are scholars and warriors, and who work toward the objective of subjugation without conflict.