Friday, April 27, 2007

A Christmas Eve visit from the Ghost of Carl von Clausewitz

A fascinating article has appeared in the Armed Forced Journal that offers a blistering critique of the Amerian military by calling into question what has always seemed to me to be the most sacred of military cows, the approach to warfare of the post Vietnam, and more specifically the post Gulf War, American Military.
Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In "The Sling and the Stone," T.X. Hammes argues that the Defense Department's transformation strategy focuses almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars. The doctrine, organizations, equipment and training of the U.S. military confirm this observation. The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts

It has always seemed to me that it is Gospel, never to be questioned, that the American military of the post-Vietnam era is the best ever, period. No one is taken seriously that questions their doctrine, their approach to unconvetional warfare, their force structure or the leadership qualifications of their top leaders. This guy drops the hammer on every sacred cow in the services.

I was particularly intrigued by his recommendations for the advanced degree qualifications for Senior Leaders at the Pentagon:
Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer's potential for senior leadership.

Give the article a read...

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