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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Army Doctrine

The Army just released a new doctrine and it echoes the September 2002 National Security Strategy, which declared that "America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." That NSS served to justify wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were both very weak states when the US went to war with them.

The Washington Post, October 5 has the details on the latest strategic plan:
The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security.

...Today, such fragile states, if neglected, will pose mounting risks for the United States, according to Lt. Col. Steve Leonard, the manual's lead author. Weak states "create vast ungoverned areas that are breeding grounds for the threats that we fear the most, criminal networks, international terrorists, ethnic strife, genocide," he said. "The argument against it is: Forget all that; you still have . . . near peer competitors who are on the verge of closing the superpower gap."
The Post ran this story on p. A16, but my local paper had it on the front page above the fold.

In the October 2008 Atlantic Monthly, historian Andrew Bacevich writes that the development of the so-called "Petraeus Doctrine" meant that the Army is again fighting the last war -- Iraq -- instead of the next one.
According to the emerging Petrae­us Doctrine, the Army (like it or not) is entering an era in which armed conflict will be protracted, ambiguous, and continuous—with the application of force becoming a lesser part of the soldier’s repertoire...Historically, expectations that the next war will resemble the last one have seldom served the military well.
Bacevich fears that civilians will not engage in a debate with the professional military, meaning that "the power of decision may well devolve by default upon soldiers."

The Post story certainly suggests that the debate has been resolved within the army:
The stability operations doctrine is an engine that will drive Army resources, organization and training for years to come, Caldwell said, and Army officials already have detailed plans to execute it. The operations directive underpinning the manual "elevated stability operations to a status equal to that of the offense and defense," the manual reads, describing the move as a "fundamental change in emphasis" for the Army...

"It's certainly going to shape how we will allocate resources and how we direct training," said Col. Mike Redmond, director of the Army's stability operations division, who is executing an action plan to implement the doctrine with 157 different initiatives, such as directing the Army's medical command to develop plans advising foreign health ministries.
However, Bacevich notes dissent from Gian Gentile, an Army Lt. Col.
Iraq bids to transform the entire force into a “dead army walking.” We who believe this to be the case may be in error on some counts. Preparing to fight the last war will not be one of them.
The Post also quotes Gentile:
"All we need to do is look at Russia and Georgia a few months ago. That suggests the description . . . of future war is too narrow," said Col. Gian P. Gentile, an Iraq war veteran with a doctorate in history who is a leading thinker in the Army camp opposed to the new doctrine.

"I don't think the Army should transform itself into a light-infantry-based constabulary force," Gentile said. Instead, he said, "the organizing principle for the U.S. Army should be the Army's capability to fight on all levels of war."
For a defense of the transformation, Bacevich recommends consulting John Nagl's book.

This is an ironic end to the Bush era, given what GWB said about nation-building in his 2000 debates with Al Gore.

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