Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Future Focus of US Military Force Structure

I have a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about the ongoing debate concerning the future makeup of US military forces. The main players are, on the one hand the "Long War" advocates who claim we should be builiding forces to fight insurgencies and other small wars, and on the other, the "traditionalists" who contend that we need to prepare for conventional wars, because they are the ones that matter the most.

I argue that we can’t afford to go down a single path. We did that in the 1950s and our adversaries found "work-arounds." I also maintain that this can’t be simply an issues left to the services. The Army created a force structure after Vietnam that hamstrung the executive power. Unfortunately, for reasons having to do with space, a very important paragraph was dropped from the final version.

"Constraints on executive power may very well be a good and necessary thing, but it is not a decision for the Army-or any other uniformed military service-to make on its own. Statements by some of the traditionalists indicate that they see their enterprise as a similar way of limiting the use of US military power by deemphasizing the capabilities necessary for intervening in small wars."

Discussions - 2 Comments


And we can't bet the proverbial farm on one path or the other. The United States Armed Forces must be prepared to face down any challenge flowing from anywhere along the wide spectrum of strategic threat.

That paragraph does seem important. The article is very good, but it would seem to me that you are asking something obvious. Except then there is that bit about "traditionalists" seeking to keep us out of small wars and control US Foreign policy by giving a military incompetent to do what they don't like. I sent the article to my son, who wrote me this:

Strangely, this is not an argument at ALL in the actual service. We can do anything they ask us to, basically. We're set up to do anything. I mean, I understand that this is a doctrine thing, but we actually depend a lot less on high-tech ability in most operations than we do on manpower, which we always have, and ability to think outside the box. Pakistan drones or no Pakistan drones, we mostly work with rotten supplies, under-funded, under-fed and under-prepared, to do anything that is required. Actual on-the-ground leaders pretty much ignore that sort of doctrine.

I quibbled. Surely, it is better for our military to be prepared for what we are currently fighting, which seems to require flexibility, and to anticipate a requirement for what looks to be the reality of our defensive future. He wrote back:

There is a difference between doctrine and actual, day-to-day experience. They are working out the doctrine which then, over a long time if it doesn't change, filters down to us. And there are all sorts of meetings over that time where the doctrine is questioned by on the ground leadership and it is modified and tweaked into usefulness, usually just in time to be changed at the highest levels.

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