The military's purpose is to fight and win the nation's wars (yes I know it is a cliche and some would say a throw away statement but I think it is worth remembering at all times).If there is demonstrated political will (leadership and popular) combined with the military capability we can achieve deterrence (though we have to understand deterrence can never be assured because the enemy does have a vote).With the national will and military capability to fight and win the nation's wars diplomacy is able to take the lead among the elements of national power.With diplomacy in the lead and the will and capability to fight and win the nation's wars then and only then can we pay attention to the question of the former senior US Diplomat Madeline Albright when she said "What good is having a military if you do not use it."I of course think it is a damn good thing not to have to use the military but if it is necessary to use it for purposes other than fighting and winning the nation's wars (e.g., humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, operating in the "gray zone" conducting political or unconventional warfare as required) we can make the political decision to do so and know that if we have properly organized, trained, and resourced the military for its fundamental purpose then we can have the agility and flexibility to do other tasks to support policy, diplomacy, and strategy.
From: David Maxwell <David.Maxwell@georgetown.edu>
Date: Wed, Aug 26, 2015 at 6:01 AM
Subject: The Military’s Purpose is Not to Kill People and Break Things
Critics will counter with Clausewitz, dismissing my argument as the naïve, “kind-hearted” words of someone that misguidedly believes there is “some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed.” But Clausewitz was writing in an era of limited options, when a bloodsucking leech was often the medical profession’s first and only recourse. Today is different. New U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley just alluded to the same kind of red stuff. “As America, we have no luxury of a single opponent,” Milley said, warning that “we will pay the butcher’s bill in blood” if the military is not prepared to succeed at tasks across the full spectrum. Limiting the military to killing and breaking would inappropriately constrain us to black/white responses in a Technicolor world....The purpose of the military is not to kill people and break things. While sometimes it must break, it must always guard. While sometimes it must kill, it must always keep. In all things, in all tasks, beyond any debate, the military’s purpose is to serve and protect America.