Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back to The Future, for the Army and Navy

There has been a series of battles going on in the Pentagon about the future role of the different branches of the U.S. Military. The sounds of battle have echoed across the Potomac, and into the halls of congress, where sides have been drawn depending on who's favorite procurement project is threatened. Within the services, officers who's views in the past would be privy only to their colleagues, are published in articles and op-ed pieces like, "Misreading the Surge and A Battalion's Worth of Good Ideas, giving the general public a window on the conversation about how to best prepare to defend the nation.

Jim Hoadland of the Washington Post in an article this Sunday writes about the, War at the Pentagon.

The most intense arguments over U.S. involvement in Iraq do not flare at this point on Capitol Hill or on the campaign trail. Those rhetorical battles pale in comparison to the high-stakes struggle being waged behind closed doors at the Pentagon

On one side are the "fight-win guys," as some describe themselves. They are led by Gen. David Petraeus and other commanders who argue that the counterinsurgency struggle in Iraq must be pursued as the military's top priority and ultimately resolved on U.S. terms.
In this view, the
Middle East is the most likely arena for future conflicts, and Iraq is the prototype of the war that U.S. forces must be trained and equipped to win.

Arrayed against them are the uniformed chiefs of the military services who foresee a "broken army" emerging from an all-out commitment to Iraq that neglects other needs and potential conflicts. It is time to rebuild Army tank battalions, Marine amphibious forces and other traditional instruments of big-nation warfare -- while muddling through in Iraq.

Hoagland notes that each service the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are struggling to define their roles.

In a related article, Thomas Barnett in his This week's column sheds further light on the battle within the Pentagon. He echos Hoagland when he describes the two sides.

On one side are those who argue that Iraq is "ruining" the force, making it unprepared for major wars. On the other side are those who see Iraq as harbinger for a far messier global landscape.
Americans should pay attention to this larger debate because our nation's military capabilities determine the possibilities of its foreign policy and grand strategy.

Tom again as in his column last week, reaches back into American History to explain the changes that the military is debating and in principle are implementing.

The big shift here is between the Army and Navy, and both sides feel plenty of angst.
For the vast bulk of its history, the Navy, in combination with the Marines, has been that "everything else" force: Until World War II, America had a Department of War (Army) and a Department of Navy.
During the Cold War, the Navy became fixated on the Soviet threat like every other service, and submarine commanders dominated its leadership.

After the Cold War, the Navy and Marines made a doctrinal bid to manage the world. In a mini-me version of the Powell Doctrine, they promised to deal with smaller crises, leaving the Air Force and Army to worry about big wars.
But that combination proved insufficient across the 1990s, and once the global war on terror kicked in and America quickly became saddled with two long-term nation-building exercises, it became clear that the Army was looking at a back-to-the-future transformation.

By that I mean the Army returns to what it did prior to World War I, serving as the nation's primary constabulary/frontier integrating force. Think back to the post-Civil War Army "departments" in the trans-Mississippi West -- basically forerunners to today's worldwide system of regional combatant commands.

Tom goes on to note that the Army has broken the force structure back down to brigade size units that resemble the old regimental system that served the Army prior to WW I. Frontier Cavalry.

Covering the Navy transition to "Back to the Future" when the Navy was the department of everything else, is the informative blog,Information Dissemination which has a series of posts on
. In the years prior to World War II the U S Navy was the mailed fist of diplomacy, securing the sea lanes, showing the flag, and providing assistance in times of distress.
Those interested in following this ongoing battle can follow the skirmishes, reported by their favorite news source, or visit the Small Wars Journal and the links on this blog, for in depth reflection.

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