…while some new lessons will be incorporated into the Pentagon review, the spending blueprint for the next four years will largely stick to the script Pentagon officials wrote before the Iraq war, according to those familiar with the nearly final document that will be presented to Congress in early February.
Iraq “is clearly a one-off,” said a Pentagon official who is working on the top-to-bottom study, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. “There is certainly no intention to do it again.”
…in the Pentagon blueprint, officials are once again talking about a futuristic force of robots, networked computers and drone aircraft. And they are planning no significant shift in resources to bulk up ground forces strained by the lengthy occupation of Iraq.
Which neatly amplifies Robin’s point that
So what advantage can we gain and maintain? It will not be numbers of bodies, no matter how well trained they might be. “Boots on the ground” are necessary for many purposes – are in fact irreplaceable – but ultimately it’s not in the simple count of troops that our national competitive advantage lies.
Instead, our strength is in inventing, deploying and using technology as a force multiplier.
Now I’m as big a fan of using technology and training to improve our troop’s lethality as anyone on the planet. As my military friends point out to me, “The military exists, on a fundamental level, to kill people and blow their shit up.”
We’re really good at that.
But the history of counterinsurgency warfare – and while we need to maintain the ability to defeat other standing armies, the likely role our military will play in this 4GW world is in something closely akin to counterinsurgency – shows that it is best defeated in a people to people war.
Our people have to be good a death-dealing, but they also have to be good at building water systems, drinking tea, and helping create schools. Those kinds of roles can’t be outsourced to technology, and the reality is that ‘outsourcing’ them at all degrades the effectiveness of the military – because it is the relationships they build while doing those things that changes the local perception of them and begins to build a virtuous cycle of trust with the population.
There is no substitute for bodies in doing this. They need to be incredibly well-trained, lethal when called on to be, and as good as we can make them – in every sense of the word.
So yeah, I think Bush is binning it by not stepping up and increasing the size of our forces, even at this late date.
And yes, Robin, I know about the effectiveness cost – but the reality is that the war we’re in is unlikely to end in the next three years, and if we haven’t scaled up, we’ll be in more trouble three years ago than we are today.
Finally, I’ll suggest a simple point from poker playing that has some relevance now.
When your ‘bottom’ (willingness to stay in) is in question, your opponents get more aggressive in playing against you. The answer, I have found, is to buy more chips.
It’s a clear and unambiguous signal about your intentions.
Today, as we’re playing ‘blink’ with Iran, the idea that we wouldn’t send a signal by starting the budget process with funds for – say – 150,000 more troops makes no sense whatsoever to me. I’d love to hear other folks explain it in comments.