Saturday, November 23, 2013

The uses of force: Two difficult wars offer compelling lessons

Nice play on the old adage by Mr. Shapiro of amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics.

Capacity is important of course but capacity without strategy is like the adage that Sun Tzu never said but is commonly attributed to him: "tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."  We can have all the capacity in the world but if we do not have effective policies and strategy it will do us little good.

But I do agree that the military must but cut but not to the quick.

The uses of force

Two difficult wars offer compelling lessons

Nov 23rd 2013 |From the print edition
We’re the US Army and we’re here to help

“AMATEURS TALK STRATEGY, professionals talk capacity.” Jeremy Shapiro, who recently left the State Department to join the Brookings Institution in Washington, has put his finger on a central question for foreign policy. For the liberal, open-market system to endure is in America’s interest—and in the general interest, too. America does not yet face a direct challenge from China and Russia. But as the dominant power it must be able and willing to maintain the system, or norms will fray and tensions grow. Does it have the capacity?
The question forces itself on policymakers just now because the demands placed on American primacy have changed. In the cold war, explains John Ikenberry, an academic, America provided security and other services to many countries. But the threat is no longer so great and security is therefore no longer so valuable. For many countries in large parts of the world, the past decade has been not about war and financial crisis but about peace and prosperity. Those countries want more of a say. 
    At the same time, according to Moisés Naím of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the old centres of power, including governments, have less room for manoeuvre. Their authority to dictate values and behaviour has been undermined by a profusion of new political actors and interest groups who are mobile and connected.
    Some conclude that in such a world dominance is impossible: there are too many actors with the power to block anything they dislike. The rest of this special report will examine how far that is true by looking at the components of American primacy—sharp military power, sticky economic power and the sweet power of American values—before drawing some conclusions about how America should act. In each case, as Mr Shapiro has observed, the starting point is capacity.
    Seen from Washington, the main threat to America’s armed forces is to be found not in Helmand or Hainan but in the automatic budget cuts of the sequester. This roughly doubles the savings that will have to come from the Pentagon’s budget in the next nine years, to about $1 trillion.
    During the summer Chuck Hagel, the defence secretary, mapped out a possible first round of cuts: shrinking the army by up to 110,000 troops from its current target of 490,000; and losing possibly two of ten aircraft-carriers, as well as bombers and transport aircraft. The alternative, Mr Hagel said, was to cut spending on modernisation.
    Cut, but not to the quick
    Inevitably, the proposed cuts have stirred up a hornets’ nest. But just how bad are they? In the ten years to 2011, when America was at war, pay and benefits for the army increased by 57% in real terms. The number of support staff, too, grew rapidly. Because Congress will not touch this large and politically sensitive part of the budget, the cuts must be borne elsewhere.
    That is a foolish way to run an army. However, even without the sequester, much of the enormous build-up in spending after the attacks of September 11th 2001 should be going into reverse. Moreover, America’s military might will remain unchallenged, even after the cuts. Just after Mr Hagel set out his ideas, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress about the Pentagon’s revised plans for potential wars around the world. Large invasions may be out, but it can draw on quick-reaction forces and stealth air power and ships. And not only does it outspend most of the rest of the world combined on conventional defence (see chart 3), it also has a formidable nuclear arsenal and the wherewithal for cyber-warfare.
    The real question is not whether the country can go to war if it has to, but whether it fights the right sort of war when it chooses to. Modern America has shown an unrivalled appetite for battle. During more than half the years since the end of the cold war it has been in combat. That is not just because of the war in Iraq, which lasted from 2003 to 2011, and that in Afghanistan, which began two years earlier and is still unfinished. Even before that, between 1989 and 2001 the United States intervened abroad on average once every 16 months—more frequently than in any period in its history.
    (Continued at the link below)

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