Small Wars Journal

New Strategy Offers More Opportunities than Liabilities

Dempsey: New Strategy Offers More Opportunities than Liabilities

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

Also changed is the two-war construct, Dempsey said -- the idea that arose in the era of the Soviet Union that the United States should be able to fight two large-scale land wars at the same time.

“Somebody said, ‘Aha, you’re taking that language out because now you’re only going to fight one war,” he said. “I would never say that. The nation doesn’t need a military that can only do one thing at a time. The nation needs a military that can do multiple things” to give the nation’s leaders as many options as possible.

Taking the two-war wording out of the defense strategy released the department from the “tyranny of language” associated with that construct, Dempsey said.

“That was fine when the world was like that and it was fine when resources were not an independent variable,” the chairman said, “and so by freeing ourselves from that tyranny of vocabulary I think what we can actually allow ourselves to do now is to think differently about how we achieve the outcome.”


Dave Maxwell

Sat, 01/14/2012 - 6:35am


"Taking the two-war wording out of the defense strategy released the department from the "tyranny of language" associated with that construct, Dempsey said.

"That was fine when the world was like that and it was fine when resources were not an independent variable," the chairman said, "and so by freeing ourselves from that tyranny of vocabulary I think what we can actually allow ourselves to do now is to think differently about how we achieve the outcome."

I do think this idea of "tyranny of language" or "tyranny of vocabulary" is an important one because I think:
- We spend more time trying to name conflicts rather than understand the conflicts.
- We spend more time and effort trying to name a strategy than we do trying to develop and execute one.

I think our quest for the silver bullet of technology and the holy grail of names of concepts (that then becomes useless jargon) does hamstring our strategic thinking.


Fri, 01/13/2012 - 6:57pm

I'm sorry, I lack the polish to state this eloquently, but I've gotta say this is - in my opinion - garbage.

We're talking about "when resources were not an independent variable". Come on, resources have flopped between independent, dependent and confounding variable status in a perpetual cycle.

This whitewashing is just that. It's a sales pitch. Just a few months ago we were told it was the coming age of austerity, times would be tough, we would have to "eat our peas". Now we're going to discuss the same COA as some great opportunity? We've gone from hard choices to great opportunities?

Tyranny of language? Purging 490,000 people, canceling tens or hundreds of procurement packages, developing a new strategic platform, preparing to slash and burn training and operational budgets...everywhere we look there's going to be less of everything, and the resulting changes are nothing more than freeing us from a tyranny of language? Makes no sense.

There's going to be less "stuff", less people, and less capability. No matter how nicely we word it, that's what it will result in.


Fri, 01/13/2012 - 12:49pm

One of the opportunities this new strategy provides is the chance to significantly enhance our nation’s irregular warfare capabilities and ability to fight small wars. In my opinion, the best way to take advantage of this opportunity and not lose the lessons learned and capabilities built from the past ten years of conflict is to have the U.S. Marine Corps take over the current core activities of U.S. Special Operations Command, (see my August 2010 Marine Corps Gazette article. “An Old New Role for the Marine Corps”).

As the Marine Corps attempts to define its role in Joint Force of the future, I believe the Marines Corps’ traditional expeditionary nature, responsiveness, flexibility, air-ground task force structure, and war fighting philosophies are best suited to focus on irregular warfare and the small wars through 2020 and beyond. Instead of trying to fit in as a middle-weight force filling a gap between our nations conventional and special operations forces, the Marine Corps can better provide the Joint Force a dedicated irregular warfare capability that is harmonized and integrated with our conventional air, land, and sea forces. A Marine Corps structured this way could provide units capable of executing and supporting nine of the ten primary missions spelled out in the new defense strategy. It would have the primarily responsible for two of the missions:

-Counter terrorism and irregular warfare.
-Conduct stability and counterinsurgency operations.

The irregular warfare focused Marine Corps would also provide support to the following missions:

-Deter and defeat aggression.
-Project power despite anti-access/area denial challenges.
-Counter weapons of mass destruction.
-Operate effectively in cyberspace and space.
-Defend the homeland and provide support to civil authorities.
-Provide a stabilizing presence.
-Conduct humanitarian, disaster relief, and other operations.

The benefits of an irregular warfare focused Marine Corps, in addition to enhancing our nation’s small/irregular warfare abilities, are fiscal savings realized through efficiencies gained in essentially combining U.S. Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps, the return of service specific special operational capability to the Army, Navy and Air Force, and a Joint Force that is more effectively and efficiently structured to conduct operations across the entire realm of military operations while fitting into the whole of government concept of executing our national security strategy and policies.

Capt Shawn A. Miller, USMC

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 9:56am

I find this to be an interesting proclamation:

"The strategy honors four principles -- that the U.S. military must remain preeminent, that there will be no hollow force, that financial savings must be balanced, and that the all-volunteer force must be preserved, keeping faith with men and women in uniform and their families."

Certainly these are all worthy, even important goals for the current era; but when, pray tell, did these become "Principles" of US military strategy??

Principles for the US would be more along the line of:
"Recognizing the geostrategic security of our homeland and our historic roots as a nation, we will have no large standing armies in times of peace, but build armies of citizen soldiers from across the populace to fight wars, standing them down once the crisis is resolved."


"Recognizing that we are a maritime nation, reliant on global trade, to include access to markets and resources, we will maintain a robust navy purpose built to that mission. Also recognizing how technology has opened new global domains, we will augment that historic navy with Air, space, and cyber capabilities as well."


"Recognizing that our far-flung interests will at times demand boots on the ground in times of peace, both for low impact persistent engagement in critical locations, and short-duration expeditionary interventions far from our shores, we will maintain a reasonable amount of Marine and Army expeditionary capacity with associated lift and support; and a robust SOF capability as well."


"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, we will ensure a robust National Guard exists in every state, organized and equipped to meet the peacetime needs of their respective Governors, and to serve as the bulk of our warfighting force in time of war until such time our small Regular force can be expanded by a draft to meet any greater needs. Such a Militia will not be employed in times of peace, such as the past 10 years, requiring the President to go to Congress to ask for either a declaration of war or for funding to build an expeditionary army in order to employ large forces short of war."

Those are closer to American principles, and more closely aligned with what might be considered an American Way of War.


Robert C. Jones