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From Armed Forces Journal - SecDef has signaled a turning point in U.S. defense thinking by Colonel Robert Killebrew (USA Ret.).
Gates' speeches to AUSA and his subsequent "soft power" speech at Kansas State University indicate a turning point in U.S. defense thinking since the neo-isolationism of the "pre-emptive warfare" strategies of the early Bush administration. In many ways, the secretary's call to empower our allies to defend themselves returns to a consistent theme of U.S. foreign policy first employed in the early days of the Cold War, with the Marshall Plan, the Van Fleet advisory mission to Greece and the beginnings of foreign military assistance to U.S. allies.
For the military services, this should be nothing new. Since 1947, U.S. military assistance and advisers have been deployed to wars in Greece, Korea, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Central America and now Southwest Asia, and in hundreds of almost-wars around the globe. American uniforms have been seen, and still are seen, in mud-hut villages and on river deltas worldwide, where individual soldiers or small teams of sweating GIs work alongside local forces to reinforce shaky new nations. But in fact, for the mainstream military generation raised since the end of the Cold War, this is new, since advising foreign armies, providing military assistance and working in harness with the State Department have been out of style for the top leadership of the services for decades.
The defining events, of course, have been the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the failure of the U.S. to plan adequately for the rebuilding of Iraqi and Afghan security forces put us at a grievous disadvantage for the first several years of warfare in those two countries, a disadvantage that is only now being made up by the hard work and sacrifices of dedicated men and women in recently created advisory jobs. Much more remains to be done, but the reconstruction of Iraqi and Afghan security forces is finally on firmer ground.
Iraq and Afghanistan are worst-case examples of "enabling and empowering" allies. The secretary's real thrust — and the topic of debate in Washington, D.C., today — is how to merge military power with other government agencies to support allies in emerging states before events reach crisis proportions, and to help our friends manage their own affairs without U.S. conventional forces. This is a challenge the U.S. has successfully faced before, yet the Washington policy establishment appears singularly ill-informed about how to go about it. Here are some fundamentals...
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