Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why Armies Matter: Navies and air forces can be crucial, but they don’t win wars.

An important essay on strategic land power.

History, therefore, presents one inescapable conclusion. Air and sea power are necessary, sometimes even crucial, ingredients for strategic success, but they are never sufficient in and of themselves to attain positive strategic results. If the next century is to be another American century, with the continuation of the Pax Americana, then this nation must possess a land force — Army, Marines, and Special Forces — of sufficient capacity to meet the numerous challenges, as well as opportunities, an uncertain future will present.

Why Armies Matter 
Navies and air forces can be crucial, but they don’t win wars.
By Jim Lacey
Admiral Gary Roughead

Around the Pentagon, the budget cutters have put away their knives and are reaching for axes. In times like these, every service naturally circles the wagons around its share of the budget pie. The stress is so great that otherwise smart people take incredibly silly stands. Last week, for instance, the former chief of naval operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, published a paper that calls for cutting the Army in half and leaving the Navy’s budget untouched. He sums up the logic for this advice in a few simple words: “The force we propose accepts risk in the burden we are placing on our Army and Marine Corps.” Admiral Roughead, unfortunately, fails to tell us what risk he is accepting in the nation’s behalf. Let me do it for him. The risk he is taking on is summed up in one word: defeat.

A combined Air Force–Navy effort popularly known as Air-Sea Battle takes a seemingly more reasoned approach. At its base, Air-Sea Battle calls for purchasing expensive new weapons (lots of them) so as to clear the sea-lanes of enemies (that don’t yet exist), and to be able to fight through any enemy’s air and coastal defenses. These proposals, however, fail to answer a huge strategic question: To what purpose? After you have opened the sea-lanes and broken through an enemy’s defense, what do you do if that enemy refuses to surrender? In the past, we carried out these missions in order to open the door for the Army and Marines to enter a country and defeat an enemy force.

At present, our Army and Marine Corps are being set up to take an outsized share of the cuts. That will leave precious few troops to do any fighting. This is happening for two primary reasons. The first is that the Air Force and Navy think they were shortchanged during the last ten years as the Army and Marines claimed bigger helpings of the budget pie. Of course, there is an explanation for why the Army and Marines got a bit extra in the past decade, something that may have escaped Admiral Roughead’s notice. Allow me to spell it out: They were fighting two wars.
In fact, if America does find itself in another conflict, in this decade or the next, it is highly doubtful that we will be engaged with another nation’s high-seas fleet, for the simple reason that no other nation has a comparable high-seas fleet. Nor is it likely that the Air Force will fight swirling air battles for control of the skies. The reality is that any future conflict is likely to look a lot like the ones we have fought for the past several decades, when the Air Force and Navy have played crucial, but supporting, roles.

The second reason why the Air Force and Navy may receive a bigger share of the budget is that they have convinced many policymakers that they can win the next war on their own. Never mind that the one inescapable fact of warfare is that in all of recorded history, there is not a single instance of sea power’s winning a conflict on its own. And the record of air power is even more dismal. For instance, during World War II, despite repeated thousand-bomber raids, Germany increased its war production every year. Only by using atomic weapons was air power ever decisive. But one doubts the utility of such weapons in most of the situations we are likely to confront in upcoming decades.
(Continued at the link below)

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