In many ways, the McChrystal method is the opposite of shock and awe. It is often painfully deliberate, fed as it is by the patient collection of intelligence wrung from sources as disparate as informants and the big ears of the National Security Agency. Nothing happens without repetitive, realistic planning and rehearsals. No operation goes down without involving many layers of “enablers.” Intelligence officers feed information constantly to teams as they move to the fight. Armed and unarmed drones feed video of enemy movements. Some of the killing is done up close, to be sure, but most comes from precision aerial weapons that obliterate the enemy in the dead of night.
The day will inevitably come when the McChrystal method is employed against the Islamic State. But crushing the group will require a scaling-up of the method, never attempted before. The Islamic State is huge, and, sadly, the men and machines necessary to do the job are too few and have been terribly overused. To succeed, the McChrystal method will have to be cloned to a degree as yet unimagined within the Defense Department.
Obstacles to this are many. The Special Operations Command could be the most intractable enemy of replicating the approach. It argues that such elite forces can be made only in small batches. Truth is, there are more than enough men to fully expand the McChrystal method if some Army and Marine close-combat forces were repurposed.