The Future of DoD

After tackling Somalia and scientific warfare, I thought I’d try something easier, like restructuring the Dept. of Defense.  As some of you know, I’ve written three books on this subject, starting with A Swift, Elusive Sword in 2001, all exploring the notion that the force we built to deter and if necessary fight the Soviet Union might not be what we need now that the Soviet Union is gone and has not been replaced.

Paul Kane, who served in the Marine Corps (one dare not say ex-Marine), takes on this subject today in the NYT.  His conclusion is slightly different from mine, though:  He wants to abolish the USAF, which, as a retired Air Force officer, I can assure you is a truly dumb idea.  I certainly agree that we don’t need four air forces, but if we follow Kane’s suggestion, we’ll still have three, plus we’ll lose the advantage of a single service dedicated not only to air warfare but to strategic, space, and cyberwar, where the focus on creating and employing high-technology systems is essential (as Bousquet demonstrated, technology may often be oversold, but it’s not unimportant;  Boyd was a technologist, after all).

In any case, one might also ask why we need two armies.  I suggested in A Swift, Elusive Sword that the USMC provides all the heavy combat power we need, particularly when augmented by USAF tacair — A-10s, with F-16s and now it appears F-22s.  Nothing that has happened since 2001 contradicts this.  Plus we have allies.

It all comes down to what we’re going to use military force for.  There is a disturbing trend to build a new DoD to fight our current wars, only better.  This is “lastwaritis,” as it’s often called and although we’ve been calling it that since at least when I got to DoD (1971), we still do it.  In particular, we only need better ways to combat insurgencies overseas if we intend to counter insurgencies overseas.  And the only reason we’re trying to counter insurgencies overseas is because we decided to occupy foreign countries with large populations that espouse religions and other social patterns quite different from our own.

On that subject, Bernard Finel, of the American Security Project and formerly at the National War College, has an article in the Small Wars Journal that examines the argument that we must occupy Afghanistan in order to prevent new terrorist attacks from originating in that country.  Here’s the money ‘graph:

The policy consensus on Afghanistan — that we must remain because a return to the status quo ante is intolerable — is fundamentally a claim about the counterterrorism mission. A better debate on Afghanistan will become possible once we stop assuming that our presence there will prevent a handful of determined and ruthless men from committing an act of mass-murder in an American city. It won’t, and the assumption that it will may provide us a false sense of security at home and inspire an overreaching commitment abroad.

It should be noted in passing that the same logic applies to Somalia or for that matter to any location outside the jurisdiction of the United States.

So what kind of military do we need?  There are many reasonable answers involving various levels of strategic (nuclear), conventional, and special forces.  However the one answer that is not reasonable is to make radical changes in our military posture based on what has or has not worked in Iraq and Afghanistan.  [Cognoscenti of the late quality guru, W. Edwards Deming, will immediately recognize the Demming Funnel at work.]

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