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US Military at a Crossroads- which way do we go?

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posted on Aug, 29 2008 @ 04:11 AM
Donald Rumsfeld was right when he said, "You go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." Our Commander in Chief and his subordinates must anticipate the threats we will face and prepare to address them even before they become clear and present. This requires a great deal of forward-looking strategic consideration.

The question is whether the policies of the current administration, undoubtedly shaped significantly by experience gained in the War on Terror, are to be continued by the next president. Are the lessons of the War on Terror valid in the context of likely future conflicts, and what does the answer to this question mean for our preparations?

Obviously we must begin with the problem that needs to be solved.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Joint Vision 2020, defined the challenges as follows:

Three aspects of the world of 2020 have significant implications for the US Armed Forces. First, the United States will continue to have global interests and be engaged with a variety of regional actors.
Second, potential adversaries will have access to the global commercial industrial base and much of the same technology as the US military.
Third, (...) the appeal of asymmetric approaches and the focus on the development of niche capabilities will increase. By ... using approaches that avoid US strengths ... using significantly different methods of operation, adversaries will attempt to ... delay, deter, or counter the application of US military capabilities.
The potential of such asymmetric approaches is perhaps the most serious danger the United States faces in the immediate future

To put it a little more clearly, they are worried about minor or regional powers and terrorists, using commercially available materials in novel ways.
What they are worried about is really summed up by the Millenium Challenge experiment. In that experiment/exercise, the hostile force was modeled after Israel, and was matched up against an improved version of the US Military, based on the concepts and technologies that Joint Vision 2010 (the precursor to JV 2020) was looking at.

The OPFOR in that experiment was facing superior US information systems which compromised all of their electronic communications. They were also facing network-based management of resources that allowed the US both improved deployability and logistics, but also an unprecedented ability to coordinate fire support between units and services on very short notice- essentially putting every free gun in the theater, from the B-1s and cruise missles all the way down to nearby mortar crews in different units, at the disposal of company grade officers whose tactical situations required them.

But the OPFOR overcame these advantages through less efficient but more reliable low-tech solutions and surprise- such as transmitting counter-intel while sending real orders via motorcycle messenger, and relying on extremely small craft that were difficult for radar to detect in order to visually locate US forces, rather than relying on their own radar.

Setting aside the early flaws in JV 2010 that were revealed by MC 2002, the point for now is the kind of challenge that we are preparing to address. That's nations like Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc: Isolated Regional Powers using commercially available materials in novel ways.

The idea is to enable a small force to mass quickly from locations all around the world, and then strike all together, putting every kind of firepower on just the right target at just the right time, and being able to do that because we have really good information and the ability to place forces anywhere we need to on Land, Air, Sea, or Space with minimal risk of being hit back in a way that stops our plan.

That force would then quickly destroy the ability of the enemy to resist, and if necessary topple their government.

We're planning to keep doing what we did to Iraq, with expensive new toys that make it even more shocking and awesome

So there right off the bat I see a problem. This smaller, lighter, more Iraq-capable military looks more like an imperial police force than a modern army. It's an electrified version of your the token light-infantry based forces that were maintaining empires in the 19th century up until heavy machine guns and tanks made their debut in WWI (and which probably would have eventually lost that war if the Central Powers had the manufacturing edge necessary to out-tank the Allies).

The force they are talking about is not intended to cope with such eventualities as a Russian invasion of Poland, or a Chinese invasion of Indochina or India (either of which is quite unlikely at present but could theoretically be prompted by a famine or other unpredictable events). This force is based on the premise that deterrence will continue to preclude a theater-wide or even multi-theatered engagement between superpowers, which cannot be taken for gospel in a multi-polar environment. The USSR and USA were never able to go to war directly because they each possessed the missiles to anhilate the other, however with the rise of India, China, and possibly Brazil to Superpower status, India having a much smaller nuclear arsenal and Brazil having none, it becomes possible for a super power's interest to be harmed in a devastating way by a conflict to which it is not party, and in this case it is much less certain than nuclear deterence will function, or that the threat will actually be exercised if deterence alone fails.

What's more this force is not designed for counter-insurgency or nation building in non-industrialized countries. It's lighter, lower-manpower nature will make its lines of supply and movement more vulnerable to the proper tactical application of small arms and other man-portable systems than a heavy force would be.
It will also have less ability to project power in rural areas because it lacks the manpower to dispersed resources.
At least in an urban setting this military's ability to close major roads and control the flow of supplies will be somewhat helpful, despite it's lack of the ability to police and maintain true order in such settings.
But in a rural areas, this military will be less effective after the collapse of organized resistance.

This means that responding to yet another possible future scenario: The failure of the Pakistani state, is not within the realistic capabilities of our planned military.

Bringing it back around to the election, our next commander in Chief MUST bring with him a competent team to review the pentagon's current direction and direct it back towards a more gradual, moderate plan of advancement which disowns the flaws that created the situation in Iraq and prepares us for the eventuality of a TRULY NECESSARY conflict where we must respond IN FORCE- as opposed to preparing for slash-and-burn operations like Iraq which focus on building the threat of irrational violence as a diplomatic cudgel.

(If there's any question about what I mean please read the following from General Van Ripper, regarding the experiment with JV 2010- Millenium Challenge 2002)

As I looked at an ultimatum that gave me less than 24 hours to respond to what literally was a surrender document, it was clear to me that there was no advantage in any of this diplomacy. I was very surprised that the Joint Forces Command personnel who had argued for using all of the elements of national power—the economic, the diplomatic, the political information—in some sort of coherent fashion, really came at Red with a blunt military instrument. So it was clear to me that this was not going to be negotiated, this was going to be a fight. And if it was going to be a fight, I was going to get in the first blow.

In other words the training and experimentation with this concept literally involve setting up all of the economic and diplomatic options that a nation really has, and then totally ignoring those, waving a powerful army in the enemy's face, and saying, "you have 24 hours to accept our terms unconditionally, or we will destroy you without regard for the consequences to ourselves, others, or you". The pentagon is actually rehearsing how to ignore non-violent solutions! Which goes to why I say that the entire concept is directly related to the failures in Iraq and needs to be scrapped.

Thanks for bearing with me for so long. That's effectively the end, but I've included some documentation below.

Here's the plan right from the horses mouth. It's 8700 words long and very jargony, so I've digested it to key passages comprising only 4% of the total document length, which capture the essence of our military's plans for the future. I am providing page and paragraph citations so you can quickly check out any individual point of question. All emphasis is mine.

Joint Vision 2020

Key Passages and Digest of Joint Vision 2020
Page 3, Para 2

The overarching focus of this vision is full spectrum dominance – achieved through ... dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics, and full dimensional protection. Attaining that goal requires the steady infusion of new technology and modernization and replacement of equipment.

Page 8, Para 3

full spectrum dominance implies ... prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations ... tailored to specific situations and with ... freedom to operate in ... space, sea, land, air, and information. ... to rapidly project power worldwide

Page 10 Para 2, Page 11 Para 1 and 3, page 12 para 2

full spectrum dominance rests upon information superiority as a key enabler ... “information revolution” is creating not only a quantitative, but a qualitative change in the information environment... The joint force must ... take advantage of superior information ... to achieve “decision superiority” – better decisions arrived at and implemented faster than an opponent can react ... the global information grid ... will be the globally interconnected, end-to-end set of information capabilities ...

P 26 #1

dominant maneuver will possess unmatched speed and agility in positioning and repositioning tailored forces from widely dispersed locations

P 28 #1

The pivotal characteristic of precision engagement is the linking of sensors, delivery systems, and effects. ... The resulting system of systems will provide the commander the broadest possible range of capabilities ... including both kinetic and nonkinetic weapons capable of ... lethal or nonlethal effects

P 31 #1

Focused logistics will provide military capability by ensuring delivery of the right equipment, supplies, and personnel in the right quantities, to the right place, at the right time to support operational objectives. ... Focused logistics will effectively link all logistics functions and units through advanced information systems that integrate real-time total asset visibility with a common relevant operational picture ... They will also provide a more seamless connection to the commercial sector

P33 #1

...full dimensional protection incorporates ... combat and noncombat actions ... enabled by information superiority. It will be based upon active and passive defensive measures, including theater missile defenses and possibly limited missile defense of the United States; offensive countermeasures; security procedures; antiterrorism measures; enhanced intelligence collection and assessments...

posted on Aug, 29 2008 @ 11:36 AM
reply to post by The Vagabond

Thank you for the post. I do think it is interesting that many of Sen. Obama's ideas are being executed or thought about by the Bush Administration. Increasing the presence in Afghanistan and a pull out date in Iraq.
If they want to be able to fight two or more fronts at once, they have to increase the size of the armed forces. They could ask former veterans to come back (I probably would), but they would need to almost double the military. The job of border patrol is another recent addition that puts a strain on the underfunded guard units.
The next administration has to really think about the situation before having our troops charge into it. They sold Iraq be stating the troops would be in and out in less than six months. They would be greeted by open arms. Iraq would pay for everything with oil. They are right about the oil. The Big Oil companies have already made bids and contracts for the Iraq oil. Iraq has over $70 billion and the United States has spent over $1 trillion if you are to include the cost of taking care of disabled vets medical care and benefits.

posted on Sep, 1 2008 @ 03:10 AM
What concerns me even more than the continued drain on our military and financial resources that Iraq represents is that the strategic model that got us here is still policy, and no one is publically questioning it on either side of the aisle.

The military strategy that was used in Iraq and which is the basis of our plans for the next 20 years or so is designed to destroy armies and infrastructure without regard for the aftermath.

Manuever warfare is not truly a new doctrine. It wasn't a word that you heard a lot in the past, but it was practiced. Now it has become a buzzword, along with "economy of force" which is used to obscure the fact that the size of the United States military is insufficient and its deployability is too limited.

This military relies on "interoperability" with outside forces (which in the absence of a stable local authority means private military and civilian contractors) in order to gain the tools for stabilizing and supporting a society that is nearing or recovering from war.

This means that our military has become a blunt instrument, which for lack of adequate numbers to provide peace/stability operations such as providing a basic level of police presence in occupied territories, lack of capacity to communicate with locals, and lack of ability to deploy additional forces in a timely fashion, can only destroy, but never control.

There are 3 possible solutions to this problem.

1. Acknowledge that we are not, and cannot afford to become, a true Hyperpower, and renounce unilateral action, only undertaking invasions when either the UN or NATO is prepared to deploy a force that is at least equal in size to our own.

2. Institute massive spending on new air and sealift capabilities, and increase military pay and benefits by 50-100% in order to increase the size of the All Volunteer Force to the point where the United States can rapidly deploy and sustain a force of 500-750 thousand troops in an occupied nation.

3. Implement elements of the first two options to a lesser degree, supported by a peacetime draft.

None of these options is acceptable to our political leadership, and so our military has institutionalized these weaknesses as doctrine, effectively denying the existence of a problem, at the expense of our ability to accomplish missions of a constructive nature and at the expense of our international credibility.

Mark my words, Barack Obama or John McCain could come into office with nothing but the best intentions, and out of respect for both the international community and the value of our servicemen's lives save war as a true last resort, but even still, if they DO have to deploy our forces in a full invasion or occupation, there will be virtually nothing they can do in terms of planning or good strategy that will prevent that operation from becoming another Iraq, unless they start firing generals and ordering changes in doctrine IMMEDIATELY upon entering office. It can't wait for the next war. Because Rumsfeld was right. You go to war with the army you have. (not that I'm defending Rumseld. He oversaw the continuation of building the army that he already had and became part of the problem- which is what I fear our next secretary of defense will do, with the full consent of the Commander in Chief.)

posted on Sep, 13 2008 @ 04:35 PM
Sarah Palin's recent revelation of her willingness to go to war with Russia adds a certain level of importance to this topic in my opinion.

I don't expect America to be a nation that abandons its friends at the first sign of trouble, so I'm not entirely faulting Palin for saying that the US would stand by NATO allies.

It is, however, very important that a hawk understand our military capabilities and how they need to be improved. Speaking softly and carrying a big stick is preferable, and if the McCain campaign is going to speak loudly, it has to be very conscious of how big a stick it is really carrying, lest we become a nation whose bark is worse than its bite.

I don't suppose anyone has heard any rumblings I have missed recently about whether or not McCain and Palin have a military policy that in some way distinguishishes itself from our nations current one?

posted on Sep, 13 2008 @ 05:24 PM
On their website, you can read about how they will not leave Iraq until it's stable and secure, economically, militarily, and politically. (It would be nice if our country were all those.)

Get Iraq's Economy Back on its Feet

John McCain believes that economic progress is essential to sustaining security gains in Iraq. Markets that were once silent and deserted have come back to life in many areas, but high unemployment rates continue to fuel criminal and insurgent violence. To move young men away from the attractions of well-funded extremists, we need a vibrant, growing Iraqi economy.
Call for International Pressure on Syria and Iran

Syria and Iran have aided and abetted the violence in Iraq for too long. Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating within its territory. Iran has been providing the most extreme and violent Shia militias with training, weapons, and technology that kill American and Iraqi troops. American military spokesmen have also said there is evidence that Iran has provided aid to Sunni insurgents.

The answer is not unconditional dialogues with these two dictatorships from a position of weakness. The answer is for the international community to apply real pressure to Syria and Iran to change their behavior. The United States must also bolster its regional military posture to make clear to Iran our determination to protect our forces and deter Iranian intervention.

So, if McCain's policy is distinguished from Bush's, it's that it's a tad more aggressive militarily and the policy seems to outline our job to uh... rule the entire Middle East.

I'm not at all comfortable with talking loudly and carrying a twig...

posted on Sep, 13 2008 @ 10:53 PM
I took a little glance through McCain's National Security Policy. It is, of course, sufficiently vague that it can only be praised or codemned on the most basic level, but there are a few things right and wrong with it.

He does apparently understand that the military isn't big enough to keep up our current way of doing things, and plans to increase the military accordingly. Unfortunately he doesn't say anything about just how many extra troops we're going to need and exactly what sort of incentive package it's going to take to get expand the recruiting pool beyond just southerners and kids from Detroit and Las Vegas (Boot Camp was like a reunion for those guys- apparently there ain't much a guy won't do to get the hell out of the Motor City, but I digress).

Unfortunately it sounds like he might agree with what Donald Rumsfeld started as far as doctrine is concerned.

These asymmetric conflicts require a very different force structure than the one we used to fight and win the Cold War.

The missions of the 21st century will not center on traditional territorial defense or mass armor engagements. Instead, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces will be engaged in, among other things, counter insurgency, counter terrorism, missile defense, counter proliferation and information warfare.

The counter-insurgency part is the most disconcerting. Counter-insurgency operations have more often than not arisen from failure by the United States to field sufficient forces to take a country with its government and civilian infrastructure intact.

The military that won WWII did not get bogged down by a major insurgency, because they arrived with overwhelming force and forced the enemy government and military not merely to disband and hide, but to surrender and be taken under Allied control.

The counter-insurgency model as we have operated it since Vietnam, of moving smaller highly mobile forces into hot zones when needed, shooting the place up, then heading back for the green zone, is precisely what creates insurgencies to begin with. A larger, heavier, more widely present force may not be idea for showing up to a hot zone on a moments notice, but it's does tend to take stronger control and deter any local who thinks maybe they'd stand a chance against us.

I need to find out who McCain's friends and enemies in the military are. If he's taken a shine to any of the generals currently in the minority in the Pentagon, maybe the influences on him are pushing in the right direction. But the way his policy is written gives me the impression that unless he's eyeing some staff changes, he'll get led down the wrong path by the current heirarchy.

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