“Siempre ha sido la lengua compañera del Imperio” Antonio de Nebrija, al presentar su Gramática de la lengua castellana a Isabel de Castilla (1492)


The future of american military strategy

Michael P. Noonan (*) . Foreign Policy Research Institute

www.fpri.org Marzo 2006



Vale la pena publicar material en inglés, si no lo tenemos en nuestro idioma, y dice algo que nos interesa conocer. Muchos compatriotas lo manejan razonablemente bien (mientras, recordemos las sabias palabras de Nebrija)


En este caso, el texto que puse en la página es la transcripción de una conferencia organizada hace pocos meses para analizar estrategias alternativas – diplomáticas y militares - para la política del gobierno estadounidense. No se confundan con la National Security Strategy (Estrategia de Seguridad Nacional), publicación oficial de la Casa Blanca, que nuestros diarios reprodujeron el 17/3/06. Esta es una reunión de militares (en actividad y en retiro), profesores universitarios y miembros del gobierno, reunidos por la iniciativa de una institución privada. Ésta, el F.P.R.I., es cercana al establishment republicano, pero mantiene lazos estrechos con otras entidades vinculadas a los Demócratas (ver lista de aportantes). En todo caso, lo que aquí se habla es lo que piensan sus propios  expertos sobre los intereses y las opciones norteamericanas, especulando libremente, sin estar sujetos por los intereses políticos del gobierno de turno y los convencionalismos de las cancillerías. Estas instituciones son una de las fortalezas a envidiar de lo que Aron llamaba la “república imperial”.


(El artículo ha sido separado en tres partes para facilitar su descarga)


The Foreign Policy Research Institute held a conference on the future of American military strategy on 5 December 2005 at the Union League of Philadelphia. A distinguished group drawn from the current and retired ranks of the military (active and reserve component), academia, and policy analysis convened to explore alternative strategies for American defense policy. Michael P. Noonan and James Kurth, the Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, Editor of Orbis, and Senior Fellow at the FPRI, served as panel moderators. In attendance were over one hundred individuals drawn from academia, non- governmental organizations, the media, the military, and the interested public. The following is a brief summary of the conference proceedings. The complete collection of conference papers will be published in 2006.
The conference was structured around four panels that addressed distinct models ("strategic drivers") for American military strategy: (1) irregular warfare (threat-based), (2) "offshore balancing" (minimalist), (3) countering a rising peer competitor ("Pax Americana"), and (4) a balanced approach ("strategic pluralism"). For each panel, a single presentation served as the starting point of a discussion among the presenter and the other two panelists. In addition, the luncheon keynote address (the W.W. Keen Butcher Lecture on Military Affairs) served as a bridge between the morning and afternoon discussions. The views expressed within this report are those of the respective speakers and should not be construed to represent any agency of the U.S. government or other institution.

FPRI's Program on National Security gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided for this conference by Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., W.W. Keen Butcher, and the Hamilton Family Foundation. Many thanks are also extended to the Honorable John Hillen. Before entering government in autumn 2005, Dr. Hillen, in his role as Director of FPRI's Program on National Security, made many contributions, intellectual and otherwise, to this and other projects.


Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hoffman, USMCR (ret.), a Research Fellow at the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) as well as a non-resident Senior Fellow of the FPRI, began by arguing that a world of irregular (both low-end and high-end) and unconventional warfare is our future, and that this world did not start on 9/11, but rather began either in Beirut in 1983 or else in the World Trade Center attack of 1993. The U.S. military is experiencing its second age of small wars. This necessitates a resilient strategy where institutions need to be more adaptive, agile, and anticipatory.

The military -- and non-military arms of the government -- should be adapted to deal with a very unconventional world. The global force posture should be flexible using a light international footprint to allow for tailored responses to crises. The Army, while generally moving in the right direction in terms of being more agile and expeditionary, is still too focused on conventional threats. To address this, Hoffman stated that more investment needed to be made in infantry forces, civil affairs and psychological operations units and less emphasis should be placed in heavy mechanized force structure and investment. The Air Force brings significant capabilities to the table in terms of strategic mobility and warfighting, but its investment priorities should focus upon developing a future bomber, space capabilities, information warfare, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) rather than procuring large numbers of expensive fighter aircraft such as the F-22. The Marine Corps should become more modular, and the current three division/three air wing force should transition to six brigades that would be more cohesive and provide a rotation base for long-term conflicts. Because small wars require small unit leaders who are more mature, more seasoned, and more experienced, the Marines need to adjust manpower policies and training to develop and retain such leaders. Lastly, the Navy needs to adjust from its surplus of strike and "blue" water (open ocean) assets and develop more "green" (littoral) and "brown" (inland/riverine) water capabilities. Three aircraft carriers should be mothballed - - leaving nine in the fleet -- and smaller boats should be purchased to deal with unconventional threats. Special Operations Forces (SOF) would be split off to form a distinct, yet small, service.

Hoffman compared the United States to a "one-armed cyclops." The military tool of national power has been developed, resourced, and honed at the expense of other elements of national power. In order to rectify that situation, Hoffman made several recommendations. On the domestic side, more homeland resilience needs to be developed. Most of the National Guard should be transitioned to the Department of Homeland Security with force structure adjustments made to make it more useful for domestic operations. The Coast Guard, too, should have its end-strength increased by 10-20 percent and needs modernized equipment (e.g., ships, helicopters, and UAVs). Internationally, the State Department and other inter-agency actors need to be bolstered and need to work with the international community. Hoffman called for increased funding for State Department stabilization initiatives and more investment in threat reduction programs.
Irregular warfare is not a passing fad. Hoffman declared "complex irregular warfare is the form of conflict that gives us the most problems and will challenge us the most in the future." The United States does not dominate all technologies and all forms of warfare and is particularly weak culturally and capability-wise in the unconventional realm. Our enemies have learned from places such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq to be more efficient, cunning, and savage. The Pentagon is thinking about a much more irregular world, but it must face the imponderables, put aside parochial illusions about the future, and "not allow our enemies to outstrip the march of our imagination, our intelligence or our resolve."

Monica Duffy Toft, an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government and the Assistant Director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University, argued that the idea of using the Department of Defense (DoD) to fight terrorism is, and should remain, a controversial one. The threat from non- state actors is not comparable to the threat of global thermonuclear war or even a major conventional war. "It is not clear that converting the military to resilient structure, capable of engaging complex irregular threats will give the traction we need to do well in a major conventional war," said Toft. Enemies (whose motivations are variable), or potential enemies, will look for our strengths and try to exploit our weaknesses. Future threats are hard to discern, therefore we should make our capabilities opaque. In other words, the U.S. military should develop multiple core competencies to leave our enemies, or potential adversaries, guessing.

Colonel John D. Waghelstein, USA (ret.), a Professor Emeritus of the U.S. Naval War College, opened by saying that opponents going asymmetric is nothing new. But the military has real trouble in dealing with this. According to Waghelstein, "this is not just the fact that we have been unprepared because of the sine wave of 'mobilization, fight the war, demobilization' and then be unprepared in numbers and force structure and infrastructure for the next war, it has also been a preoccupation with the Army in particular of focusing on the next big war, as opposed to whatever little war might be at hand_ that is in the DNA of the Army." He argued that keeping assets such as civil affairs and psychological operations co-located with Special Operations Forces was necessary because otherwise they might fall prey to the budgetary priorities of the big services. He remained skeptical whether the services, even the Marine Corps, would be willing to invest the time and resources into developing irregular warfare capabilities, particularly in the cultural and linguistic domains. To conclude his comments, he held that while he agreed with most of Hoffman's position there would need to for an "insurgency" both within the DoD and from outside -- probably in the Congress -- in order to make the necessary reforms.


(*)Michael P. Noonan is Research Fellow (Defense Policy) and Managing Director of the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.






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