Small Wars Journal

Reducing the Mission is Not the Answer

Thomas Donnelly and Frederick Kagan hit a home run with their analysis and recommendations in yesterday's New York Post - The Proud, The Few -- Stretched to its Limits, Our Military Needs One Million Men.

First up -- setting it straight -- defining vs. ignoring the problem.

The fix-the-military argument was recently made at greater length by the New York Times. On May 18, the paper's editorialists noted that the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a serious toll on the Army and Marine Corps, wearing down not only people but equipment "at an unprecedented rate." Well, the loss rates would not have been surprising to the defenders of Bastogne, the armies at Antietam, or the servicemen and women in any other major war, but it is true that US land forces have been asked to do too much with too little for too long.

The question is how we should respond to this fact. The Times and its anti-war allies argue that the remedy is not to expand the force to meet the wartime mission, but to reduce the mission to what a small force can handle, consistent with a decent family life, defense budgets constrained to historic lows and peacetime recruitment and promotion "standards."

In other words, let's not fix the problem. Let's give up.

And second up, the solution.

The Army and the Marines are indeed under great stress, but, as service leaders, officers, and sergeants-major take great pains to explain, they are far from broken. If anything, the tactical performance and discipline of US forces in the field has improved significantly in recent years. The Iraq surge is a case study of counterinsurgency warfare planned and executed brilliantly. Broken forces do not conduct such operations. From the level of team and squad to supreme command, US forces have adapted themselves remarkably to a war they were not at first ready to fight. In retrospect what is remarkable is how resilient and flexible the all-volunteer, professional force has proven to be.

The compelling reason to reinvest in America's Army and Marine Corps is not to withdraw and prepare for the "next war," but to build land forces capable of sustaining and prevailing in the so-called "Long War," the effort to secure more legitimate governments, and thus a more durable stability, in vital regions like the Persian Gulf.

So what does a Long War land force look like?

To begin with, it's bigger. Much bigger...

Read the rest here.


This war is our mission.

We'd find some more bodies fast if we would get rid of our massive bureaucratic overhead.

Close down the puzzle palace.

We also need to take our ground forces from countries not facing war and put them where the war is (NATO, Japan, and Korea).

You can improve retention numbers by other methods of compensation than promotion, which frankly the military uses in lieu of a simple raise. Disconnect pay grade from rank. Better training and mission relevance also improve those numbers.

Parts of the Military, folks, never really deploy, or seldom. And they may not have a relevant mission. Meanwhile the actual warfighters are getting deployed to death.
We need to clean house and operate efficiently before we go asking for more resources.

Is that expansion even demographically practical? I don't have the numbers, so I'm listening.

Ken White

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 7:51pm

Only thing I'd suggest on the broken Army syndrome is that the Army is made up of people and those people consistently produce results that even their leaders often don't expect them to manage. They're pretty adaptable...

The "Army is broke" argument is advanced by those who disagree with the Iraq commitment, wish it had never happened and want it curtailed if not halted.

It is also given credence by some within DoD using the argument that the Army will need massive funding for a reset; to replace the equipment that will be left in Iraq when we do redeploy.

The big ticket funding items are the F22 and F35 (and the latter has international commitments tacked all over it for many reasons, not least survival of the program), the new Tanker, the CSAR Helicopter and a few USAF Black programs; the Navy's new Zumwalt class destroyer and Virginia class subs and the LCS; and the Army's aviation recapitalization and the FCS.

Those programs require massive amounts of money and the battle between the services; and between them and DoD -- and more importantly, between those in Congress who support one or more programs but not the others -- is ongoing. There are those in the Army who say the Army is broken in an effort to raise more funds; there are also many who are truly worried about the state of the Army (which I agree is not ideal but do not believe, personally, is as bad as some believe).

Complex -- and arcane -- but that's our weird budget process.

Kha Nguyen

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 7:11pm


Agree on the pragmatism of other states.

I also agree given my return to true active duty that the Army is indeed not as broken as some of the popular media would put it. Nonetheless, I prefer the precipice image because in my mind, it is not only a matter of time but also matter of what else may put further stress on this system. The proverbial feather that tip the scale of some Looney Cartoons if you will.

As for the war for funds within DoD argument, it is one I've heard of mainly from China analysts who within or near to the beltway. Yet though I have a fair idea of how this tie in with the China threat theory supporters and what branches of service this may come from. I cannot wrap myself around who could advance the Army is broke argument. And I mean no sarcasm, please enlightenment me if only a bit about the murky world of funding wars within DoD using Iraq.

Rob Thornton

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 6:35pm

Hi Kha,

"I agree that the American people does not shirk from casualties when the call rise, but will Taiwan or Iran, given some of the recent evidence and the painful memories of Iraq, be a worthy clarion call?"

I think the answer to your question depends on the injury, fear or interest that is perceived. While the USG may act out of reason, the people hear the call more resolutely when sounded by passion.

With regard to Iran, we're not at that point yet, but if the perception was that they'd crossed the line, we could be. It would not have to be a clear step over the line either, it could be affected by other events that the Iranians might not even consider as related to them. That is the danger of trying to get right up next to the line without actually crossing it. I would tend to agree with Ken, while the rational for invading Iraq can be interpreted to mean one thing; the act itself and the commitment to remain should be evaluated differently.

Best, Rob

Ken White

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 6:17pm


With all respect to Michael Howard -- and acknowledgment there is some merit in what he says but only with respect to that 30% of Americans who do not object to casualties -- he's incorrect about the 30% that do not like casualties, they oppose the Jacksonian response. Those numbers can easily be tracked historically; he just didn't bother to do it. It's the 60% of swing warriors that try to stay out of war but go wholeheartedly if pushed too far. I stand by my assessment. I'd also suggest that few European historians really understand Americans. Heck, few Americans understand Americans...

Saddam and the Ba'ath Party were virtually irrelevant to the invasion of Iraq, almost an afterthought. Thus your question re: lives and treasure saved is off the mark.

Kha Nguyen:

We disagree about American acceptance of casualties and loss of allies. Prestige is an eye of the beholder thing, it is transitory and it emphatically does little to affect the actual relationships between nations which are generally far more pragmatic than most realize.

We can also disagree that the Army today is on the edge of a precipice -- though I have no doubt there are many who disagree with me. I do not dispute it is stressed but it's a long way from broken. The stresses you cite are fueling the military debate, no question. However, it is also very much fueled by the eternal and obscene competition for dollars and spaces that occur in Washington.

My belief is the latter slightly outweighs the former in most arguments and that among those at the service headquarters it is the dominant factor. I'd also submit that a relative decline in military power, while harmful to the nation is very much dependent on the definition of 'relative.'

The rift between Europe and the US is over two centuries old, it has waxed and waned throughout that time. Britain and France both resent the fact (rightly so) that FDR forced them out of the colony business and that Eisenhower made them scrub the Suez venture. Still, both are pretty pragmatic. We are not popular anywhere in the world and have not been in my lifetime except when we slam in some place and try to clean up the neighborhood -- and that popularity is very short lived. People resent having to be helped.

Of course AQ (and many others, including politicians in Europe <b>and</b> the US) attempt to exploit that rift; they'd be awfully stupid to not try to do so. I expect them to do so; it's less clear why some of what you call our friends or allies also try to exploit it.

As to your final question, I don't know the answer as the circumstances and how it unfolds will be the determinants of the reaction of the 60% and those cannot be predicted. What I do know is that 30% will be opposed and a surprising amount of who is in that 30% will political affiliation dependent, the opposition party can be expected to provide many ... :)

That, too is an historical fact.

Kha Nguyen

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 5:27pm

My last sentence about areas we have fallen hard on was in reference to the previous points I made about American casualty acceptance and loss of allies in terms of loss of American prestige.

You're right about those two periods. However, I would go further and say that the military in those times were broke and our military(Army specifically) of today is edging upon this precipice. I submit that it is the fear of having to deal with a broken military once again in the new security environment that is pushing the stresses on the military debate to the fore. The military faced massive cuts in the post-WWII era but the emerging foe then, Stalinist Russia, was still recovering from WWII. Likewise, the overall threat to the US was low because despite the state of the Army after Vietnam, the Cold War nuclear umbrella kept our main foe Soviet Russia from hitting the Fulda Gap. Now the times are different. The stakes are small enough(in terms of geographic and objectives) for rising states such as China or perhaps even Russia and terrorist groups(because after all jihad can be a sequential process) that a relative decline in American military power is harmful to the nation.

As for the NATO issue, I agree that interests is at the core of any alliance but that to speak in another realist term: balance of power. The rift between European and US sides of NATO has already shown itself as a gap al-Quaeda is willing to exploit and is successful at reducing the capabilities of the few allies we have left. I think the British example in Basra is illuminating in this case.

Also, I do not know if that 60% you speak of really want to a war against a nation that, in the popular minds, not only increasingly looks like the Russian horde but also makes all their cheap products at Wal-mart. I agree that the American people does not shirk from casualties when the call rise, but will Taiwan or Iran, given some of the recent evidence and the painful memories of Iraq, be a worthy clarion call?

Clearly I am fighting against the wisdom of age and better information access, but then that is why I finally decided on post on this forum.

Ken, you wrote:

"I'd suggest that could be a very mistaken idea; most US wars in the past 22o plus years have been caused by someone thinking the US was too introspective, hedonistic and lazy to fight."

I don't think anyone believes that at all. Professor Michael Howard in his excellent short book "The invention of Peace" talks about America having an "indefinitely sustainable Jacksonian bellicosity".

I would instead suggest that various governments from Tojo and Hitler onwards have failed to understand that America would always prefer to fight rather than negotiate.

To put it another way, how much treasure and lives would we have saved if we had simply paid Saadaam Hussien to retire and the Baath party to democratise?

Ken White

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 4:09pm

I don't think we're off topic at all; the past is they say is (often) prologue.

Post WW II due to the rapid drawdown and a significant cut in funding; post Korea (1953-59). Both at only a slighter greater level of stress compared to today. Post Viet Nam (1974-79) when the stress level was significantly greater than today.

About 30% of the American people -- and thus a similar percentage of Congressional types and serving military persons -- are unquestionably casualty averse in most any circumstance. Another 30% of all are not under almost all circumstances.

The vast 60% in the middle can be swayed either way. They realize war means casualties and merely want the war to be worth the cost; to be concluded fairly quickly on favorable terms (that does not necessarily mean a 'win'); and will support casualties as long as the end result seems worthwhile and progress is being made. Most of the waverers will object to casualties only if those conditions are not met.

One key to this is how well the case for the war is made and accepted by that 60%. Iraq exemplifies how not to do it while the Desert Storm operation was a contrary example.

You're probably correct in the assessment of the Chinese assumption. I'd suggest that could be a very mistaken idea; most US wars in the past 22o plus years have been caused by someone thinking the US was too introspective, hedonistic and lazy to fight. Most have been wrong because we will fight if unduly provoked and we don't play fair when that occurs.

Nations may have traditional allies as you state but I don't think so. The tradition you cite is effectively really only as old as WW I and its continuation WW II plus the addendum Cold War; it is not truly historical. Nations do not have friends, they have interests. NATO is fine for its designed purpose; it should never have been expected to do well on 'out of area' missions due to that self interest.

In what area(s) have we "fallen hard?"

Kha Nguyen

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 1:50pm

Since we're already off topic:

As a young'un, I would like to know the two points where the military was even more stressed than today.

I also do not know if the belief about US fears of casualties have disappeared in the minds of other defence ministries. I admit that I am still a neophyte on the Chinese military, but I still see a belief in the US' inability to sustain a war with large casualties in the Chinese calculus on Taiwan. Though I do not wish to diminish the sacrifices of those in the armed forces, but our casualties pales in comparison to those of previous conflicts, or even more important perhaps what the Chinese believe they can inflict in order to deter or halt a US intervention. Worse, the commitment of large US land forces is shown as a quagmire in Chinese military writings. Is it a wonder then Taiwan has backed off from its 90s independence high.

Furthermore, I think the Iraq war has caused some serious doubts about the ability and commitment of NATO and our traditional allies. Perhaps the unity of NATO was never as strong to begin with on ME issues, but Iraq, not to say Afghanistan, has made this split even more evident than before.

I will agree that we are ahead in certain ways, but have fallen hard in other areas as well.

Ken White

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 12:42pm

Sigh. Corrections:

6th paragraph should start ""I do <b>NOT</b> think we removed a "threat...""

7th paragraph add, after synergies; ""all without significantly interrupting global oil supplies (we really want China and India to have all the oil they need...)"".


Ken White

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 12:34pm


You're a nice guy and you elide the fact that I'm old (either that or you forgot). Thank you!

I've seen our prestige and influence at lower ebbs on at least two occasions; I've several times seen ALL our military, not just the Army and Marines, far more stressed than today. Thus I don't see what is to my mind just another -- and less significant -- dip in 'prestige' or stretched forces as any real concern.

Nor do I think I agree that our influence is that low; debilitated yes but very little in real terms. That is a function of global clout, scale, economic power and a few other things and they are really hardly affected.

I submit that we do not have a <i>significant</i> lack of ability to address security problems elsewhere and that we have not really inspired tens of thousands of new Islamic radicals. Though we did confirm in the minds of many something they always thought -- we're nuts.

I think the plus is that every defense ministry in the world realizes the US has the most combat experienced armed forces in the world, bar none and that those forces are almost unbelievably capable. Any myth of being unwilling or unable to fight and excessive public concern for casualties has been put to rest. Those are the pluses...

I do think we removed a "threat that was already contained and minimized." Iraq was not a threat, not at all; it was simply geographically central to an area of the world that needed a push to modify its thinking and was a pariah state with an unloved dictator which made it the least bad target for force insertion.

The fact that such insertion would also disrupt French, German and Russian minor hegemony in the area and restore economic entry to Britain and the US (some wonder why the UK was so supportive...), allow reinsertion of IC efforts in the area (and provide some proof of sanction violations to use as a hammer), halt or slow the impending change of oil trading from the dollar to the Euro, disrupt the coalescence of the EU and provide a half dozen or so other minor benefits were good synergies.

We are ahead in that most of those goals have been realized. More importantly, the most important reason for the effort; to send a message to the ME (not Islam - and Afghanistan is not in the ME)that we would no longer accept their probes and efforts to build international terrorism and that we would and could fight (and stick until the job was completed) has been effectively accomplished. We should not leave too soon but we have been there long enough and done enough that the folks in the ME are unlikely to attempt any challenges in the near future.

So I'd say we're ahead; not all goals, some setbacks and downsides -- but enough that on balance we're ahead. Much of the world realizes that though the latte set is in denial...

Steven Metz (not verified)

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 6:28am


How are we "already ahead in the strategic calculus"? Our prestige and influence are plummeting. Our military is stressed. Our ability to address other security problems elsewhere. We have inspired tens of thousands of new Islamic radicals. But on the plus site, we removed a threat that was already contained and minimized.

Schmedlap (not verified)

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 10:03pm

Completely agree with Ken's last comment. And it is for that reason that I would not be surprised if we launch an attack upon Iran's nuclear research infrastructure before President Bush's term is up. If the current admin fears that the next will not do enough to prevent Iran from getting nukes, then it may act before its term runs out.

Ken White

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 8:38pm

Heh. True. In this case, I think the timing was to do get it done (by the original, flawed plan) in the first term in the event there was no second term. That due to the fact that he feared a successor would likely not do it. Flawed reasoning in my opinion but then, I'm not a politician though I can understand his logic (if I'm correct).

Regardless of the flaws and though I wouldn't have done it that way, I'll give them an attaboy for doing something -- and I firmly believe that something beyond Afghanistan was necessary to counteract the failure to act on the part of four Presidents from both parties over 22 years. Those failures almost inarguably led to 9/11.

I agree that lacking 9/11 and the apparent success in Afghanistan, it likely wouldn't have happened. As Steve said, he saw a window and leaped through it (without full knowledge of what lay inside... :D ). My belief is that leap will eventually be vindicated. Even with the costs and the screwups -- and there have been plenty by most everyone involved -- we are already ahead in the strategic calculus and I suspect that also will improve.

Kha Nguyen

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 7:26pm

Doing requires not only a different skillset, but also timing.

I will add that, though post 9/11 hysteria fears about terrorism and WMDs was the major factor affecting the minds of American citizens, of no little effect was the successful campaign in Afghanistan. From the Taliban almost unexpected collapse and the sights of Afghanis enjoying simple pleasures such as a shave or music again, American power and our ability to change a region never seemed greater. Hence the price of invading the "gathering storm" of Iraq, though I will submit that the containment poilicy was working better than many would give it due credit, was easily swallowed by the American public.

Political leverage or not, what is the chance of Iraq had the current troubles of Afghanistan surfaced sooner?

Ken White

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 6:58pm

Saying and doing require different skill sets...:)

Steven Metz (not verified)

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 2:31pm

"People forgot that Bush told CNN in January of 2002 that "Regime change in Iraq is a goal of my administration."

He said it and he did it." <--- Well, that had been official U.S. policy since 1997. It was the policy of the Clinton administration as well.

I also buy the notion, though, that it was more a post-9/11 window of opportunity than a really compelling case that Iraq was a "gathering storm."

Ken White

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 12:46pm

I think you're absolutely correct:<blockquote>"Then after 9/11, President Bush realized that he had the political capital to remove Saddam from power, which seemed to be more decisive than playing cat and mouse games with UN inspectors and Iraqi ADA weapons. So he did."</blockquote>There were other, mostly synergistic contributors and, I think, belief on the President's part that his successor probably would not pursue that advantage or stick with the effort (that factor has also colored other, later actions in the area and still does, I'm pretty sure).

The WMD and other public arguments never made any sense whatsoever. People forgot that Bush told CNN in January of 2002 that "Regime change in Iraq is a goal of my administration."

He said it and he did it.

Schmedlap (not verified)

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 11:14am

I'm not a strategy guy, but I don't think we invaded Iraq due to it being an "ungoverned space," due to its role in supporting terrorism, or even due to the WMD threat. If any of those truly were part of the reasoning process used by our policymakers behind closed doors, then I would find that frightening. Those reasons seemed more like convenient public appeals, since they played to concerns stemming from 9/11. From an objective standpoint, before or after 2003, those reasons made little to no sense. When I watched Colin Powell present the "evidence" at the UN on television, I was expecting a smoking gun. Instead, when he was done making his case, even as a young, naive 1LT, I was left dumbfounded on my couch asking, "that's it? That's the evidence?" It was a weak and nonsensical case only made because most Americans were willing to buy it - kind of like Lou Dobbs complaining about trade policy - it makes no sense, but people will buy it.

I think it was recognized that Iraq was a destabilizing force in the mideast and that our only course of action for 12 years was to guard against that potential instability through enforcement of UN sanctions that had no teeth and no-fly zones that had little impact. Then after 9/11, President Bush realized that he had the political capital to remove Saddam from power, which seemed to be more decisive than playing cat and mouse games with UN inspectors and Iraqi ADA weapons. So he did.

And if someone has a good rebuttal to any of that, please make it. I really do want to be wrong in this case. As someone who believed then, and still believes now, that removing Saddam from power was the right thing to do, I would love to be reassured that the public justification for our invasion a) made sense and b) was also the rationale used by policy makers behind closed doors. But I suspect the two are entirely different and that the public case was one crafted to appeal to the prevailing concerns of the day (terrorism and WMD) because policymakers realized that Americans would not swallow the real justification (mideast stability).

Rob Thornton

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 9:29am

Steve, As I was running something I should have said early came to mind. If the demand signal generated by "ways" expressed in the theater campaign plan indicates more military forces - then the rational as a military problem should indicate it - e.g a current war such as Iraq or Afghanistan, or the need to deter military aggression which regional states we place value on or either unable or unwilling to do.

However, if the ways expressed in the campaign plan require other then military means to realize, then we should acknowledge that and support the appropriate USG agency, MN partner, IO or NGO. The issue may be capacity, and as such we may have to fill the gap, but that should not prevent us from placing immediate resources at their disposable where it serves the need, or from resourcing their development appropriately.

I think many of our O4s, and O5s are understanding this - as are many O6s and O7s who are working through these problems with the wrong tool sets.

I think I saw your name on the UQ Global Panel - I was actually on Panel #3 (lots of O4s and O5s). Its one of the reason I liked ODP - because it meant taking the time to understand and consider before committing resources to planning for the wrong problem. How did the global panel go?

Best, Rob

Rob Thornton

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 8:38am

Hi Steve,

Good points - I may not have come across that way, but I probably agree with you more then it sounded. One thing that came across in UQ 08 was that using military means to force a solution on what is not really a military problem may potentially protract the conflict, even spread it - that is when I went back and reread your piece on rethinking insurgency. In many cases our interests (and those of most involved) may be better served by allowing the conflict play out while strengthening the states around it to resist the effects, and by standing ready to assist a new government that may in fact be more in line with our own tolerances.

This is also why I think the GEF requirements for integrated theater campaign plans is more sound then basing numbers off of good SWAGS from inside the beltway - planners are now considering means beyond military ones, and looking at problems differently. SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM and PACOM planners are exploring more indirect approaches that build capacity through different ways. Some of that capacity is security, but some is also economic and political. This goes back to your comment about the best way to achieve our security objectives is not always through an increase in military forces.

Your observation about really getting after transnational terror makes sense to me. We are still geographically oriented in many ways. While we acknowledge many new things about the people within the geography, its hard to break out of the boundaries people draw for various reasons.

Best, Rob

Steven Metz (not verified)

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 6:47am

And to once again follow up on my own position, I feel that our stress on "ungoverned spaces" is one more example of the thinking we used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We've identified transnational terrorism as the primary threat. OK. But then rather than come up with a strategy which most effectively and efficiently cuts at transnational terrorism, we come up with a strategy that best suits our predilection for military solutions. Iraq was at best a modest component of the transnational terrorism network, probably an insignificant one. Today, "ungoverned spaces" are at best a most component of the transnational terrorism network, probably an insignificant one. Yet we focus on them because that justifies a larger military.

Steven Metz (not verified)

Thu, 05/29/2008 - 6:43am


I think you've expressed the logic of the official position (and one that Kagan and Donnelly have pushed even further) but, to be frank, I don't get it. If the problem is "proliferation of dangerous technologies, transnational crime, terrorism" how is the expansion of the U.S. military's ground component the best or most effective solution?

I believe we have develop what I call the myth of ungoverned spaces--we contend that "ungoverned spaces" are a primary security threat not, in my opinion, because they are truly crucial for transnational terrorists, but because we have to think of some reason that we need larger ground forces.

Rob Thornton

Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:07pm

Hi Thinker,

While I'd agree that a non-petroleum driven economy and increased energy security would take the edge of the associated fear and interest as rational to go to war, I think it'd be some time before our economy was really transformed. It'd be a great start, but the more I begin to understand what replacing petroleum in our economy really means the more difficult I think it would be to find a sole replacement where the benefits are seen to outweigh the risks - which is a statement that can be seen from a number of angles.

The other part to the equation is not just our access to petroleum and natural gas, but the growing demand abroad of the developing world and how their own development impacts our broad interests. Even if we could readily transform our economy, its unlikely the rest of the world could or would unless it was guaranteed in terms of cost effective and long term viability. Its not just about cheap goods from abroad, its also about proliferation of dangerous technologies, transnational crime, terrorism, and other security issues.

As one of those folks in uniform with kids, I'm all for better sources of energy that prove less risky in a number of ways, but I'm also concerned about the preservation of our republic and the freedoms it provides to my kids from other threats as well.

I also believe the increases need to be justified by more then a really good guess. I think we're on that track, and I'd argue that most of us prefer quality over quantity and are aware that an authorization to grow means a good deal of hard work to maintain the edge. If the policies are resolute and require growth, then the numbers should bear it out.

Best, Rob

Thinker (not verified)

Wed, 05/28/2008 - 10:17pm

I think I want to see the plan before offering up a permanent troop increase. The authors have not detailed significantly the application of this enhanced force - and that is troubling. It comes down to a question of money spent vs. security objective obtained. For example, does our country become more secure by growing our military and engaging in hot middle eastern wars or by becoming energy independent? I'd rather spend money, and I think many in our volunteer military would agree, on a Manhattan type project dedicated to energy independence rather than put soldiers into further battles. Take the energy resources out of the battle/no battle equation and our country can go back to what it does very well, which is run proxy wars playing countries against one another.

Rob Thornton

Wed, 05/28/2008 - 3:17pm

Steve, my apologies - wherever I wrote "theater strategy", it should read "theater campaign plan". Sorry for any confusion the mistake may have generated. Best, Rob

Rob Thornton

Wed, 05/28/2008 - 10:07am

Hi Steve,
That is not really what I was trying to get at. The "ends" I think are part of a policy argument, but that argument needs to be a better informed one. I think the GEF and the GDF may be a better manner of understanding how ends translate into required means (size, type, etc.) so that shortfalls may be better evaluated. If we do it right then choices can be made to either develop/change capabilities to meet those ends.

With regards to the means - rather then top down refinement on total numbers, we need clarity on the demand signal, and we need to know if that demand signal is aligned to match our policy ends.

I think the GEF recognizes that clarity can better come from the GCCs, however it needs to come as an integrated strategy vs. separate plans. Holistically, it needs to show how the various pieces work together to achieve regional objectives.

While some policy ends will remain fairly consistent, although articulated differently with regards to administrations, some will reflect changing geopolitical conditions.

The best we may be able to do on the uniformed side is:

- to show the costs and gaps in achieving those ends
- to point out where those ends may be incongruent
- to show where specific ends may engender risk to other ends we've placed more value on
- show where there may be better ways of achieving those ends
- show where what we thought was a problem with a viable solution was really an open ended commitment - which might protract or worsen the problem

It may not preclude the politics associated with the end(s), but at least we'll be better informed to the costs, and more resistant to making decisions based off what we think we know. Donnelly and Kagan are smart guys, but it will take the work of all the GCCs and staffs to establish what the real demand signal is, and it will require the Joint Staff and OSD to see how that demand signal will stack up against the GEF, the NMS and the NDS. That should be the basis for the ends/means mismatch discussion.

Best, Rob

Steven Metz (not verified)

Wed, 05/28/2008 - 7:23am


Let me see if I understand what you're saying: you don't believe there is a means/ends mismatch which requires either increasing the means (enlarging the military) or decreasing the ends, but that we simply need better planning procedures?

Rob Thornton

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 4:05pm

DoD may be ahead of the curve in how best to assess future requirements. Secretary Gates recently signed two important documents: the GEF (Guidance for the Employment of Forces Document)and the GDF (Guidance for the Development of the Force). I've heard there is a new NDS in the works.

I think the GEF and the GDF together will probably provide better rationale for force sizing and capabilities then any current estimates. One way to think of the GEF is as a policy "operationalization" document that takes the goals and objectives from NSS, the NDS and NMS and formats them so they are linked, contextualized, and in some degree prioritized for military commanders and planners, OSD policy folks, etc. The GEF calls for the GCCs to produce and integrated theater strategy.

This is important because if done correctly it show the demand signal for that GCC, it also should show capability and capacity gaps. Since it calls for an integrated theater strategy, the draw on units and individuals by size and capability is looked at as one pool to feed one set of requirements, vs. using one pool to feed multiple sets of requirements. Its a question of physics - being dual or triple hatted to perform multiple complex functions (often very different in nature and scope), or to be in two remote places at once is a bad way to do business.

The GEF calls for a change - by requiring that all the GCCs requirements under one integrated strategy, accountability and oversight become easier, and the plans that are produced account for a fuller spectrum of possibilities. This should be true both at the planner level where conflicting requirements become easier to spot because the stove piping at least lets out into the same strategy, and at the Joint Staff and OSD levels where demand signals should be accounted for.

The linkage from the GEF to the GDF is that the demand signal should drive force development and generation. Those capability and capacity gaps such as those up for debate get scrutinized against the GCCs demand signal looked at as both an aggregate and as regions. While the future beyond the immediate is still speculative, indications of new and/or growing requirements should be more refined and more justified - this is important if we are to develop the correct approached, capabilities and structure to meet our requirements.

Will it 100% account for surge requirements? Probably not, that is hard to do when you cant predict the future. However, it will give the generating force a better idea of steady state requirements over time for the global force which may help us achieve a better degree of balance in the right place and at the right time vs. strategic knee jerks - which often result in solving the wrong problem perfectly.

Best, Rob

Kha Nguyen

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 11:58am

I firmly believe the article's argument is flawed in how it underestimates the cost of creating a bigger military.

1) The socioeconomic conditions of yesteryears that allowed the existence of the large Cold War Army does not exist today. A quick glance of stories about recruiting troubles and the quality of recruits, the Army's new automatic E-5 promotion and captain's retention program(choices of which includes graduate school or post of choice) will underscores how hard the Army is already working to keep its currentg numbers much less increase it in an increasingly neglected(if not unpopular) war.

2) Where did the authors get their figures of 240 billion for their new 800k military? US military spending in 2004 was already at 650 billion without the new discretionary funds for the GWOT. Did they really took into account how much it will take to, using an appropriate Chinese military term "informationize" the military? Even only one BCT in the army is testing the Land Warrior System. I think we need to heed the words "fuzzy math" here gents.

3) Lastly, I think the purpose of a larger military would be to increase the downtime troops have away from the hectic deployment and pre-deployment schedules troops have to deal with these days. Yet their argument really had nothing to say about the employment of a larger military. If my experience with the military says anything, this simply means the next surge will only be larger, even though successful COIN and nation-building, and democratization will always take years if not decades.

Steven Metz (not verified)

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 10:04am

And let me follow up. One theme that I hit hard in my book is that conservative idealists (I don't like the word "neoconservative") were so in awe of Reagan that they drew inappropriate lessons from his administration. To oversimplify it, they concluded that the United States could do anything; the only constraint was a lack of will. In Bush, they saw someone with the will.

I think Tom and Fred are continuing this thinking today--that the United States can both be the world's provider of security and be prosperous if only there is strong leadership.

I disagree. That may have been true in the 1980s, but no longer is. What we need is massive investment in education, science, technology, and infrastructure, not more far away military actions.

Steven Metz (not verified)

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 9:55am

Well, both Fred and Tom are friends and I have great respect for them, but I disagree with the Heritage/AEI position of more defense spending and an increase in the size of the U.S. armed forces. The bottom like (and I'm more in line with the argument made by Chris Preble at the Cato Institute): the bulk of our defense spending is actually protecting other nations which are capable of doing more on their own behalf than actually protecting Americans.

In the past, we could "have it all"--we could be the world's provider of security and still be dominant economically, scientifically, educationally, technologically, etc. We didn't have to make the tough strategic decisions that others nations faced on a regular basis.

I think those days are past. I can think of many investments that would make the United States safer and more competitive than adding BCTs.

Ken White

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 12:44am

Oops, forgot -- yes but they're internal and not visible...

Ken White

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 12:42am

Actually, the points about leftist socialism -- not liberalism, two different things -- are not appropos here and I request forgiveness for surfacing them. That said, corporate strategy and geo political strategy differ in several respects though they of course also have similarities.

Military forces also like clear simple and concrete mission statements and most always have them. I strongly doubt there's a unit in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere in the world -- and we do have units in many other places -- that does not have such a mission statement. Recall that to a rifle company, a 3m deep, 20m wide stream can be an obstacle; to a battalion, type dependent it may or may not be; to a brigade it will not be and a division will barely know it's there. The Corps certainly won't and a Theater Army, well...

As go obstacles, so go missions -- the higher one goes the more amorphous they become. Consider Eisenhower's in 1944:<blockquote>"Task. You will enter the continent of Europe and, in conjunction with the other United Nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces. The date for entering the Continent is the month of May, 1944. After adequate channel ports have been secured, exploitation will be directed towards securing an area that will facilitate both ground and air operations against the enemy."</blockquote>Consider a notional model for the US Army today:<blockquote>Conduct military operations as required world wide in support of the national strategy to reduce incidences of international terrorism to minmal levels.</blockquote>Also note that the 1944 guidance got modified for several reasons and May slipped into June. Stuff happens in wars.

Point of all that is you want the strategy, not the mission.

I can't give you that because Bush has not shared it with me -- or anyone else, much -- for obvious (I should think * ) reasons. What has been said in public is that the primary effort is to reduce the flow of funding and the secondary is to disrupt the support mechanisms and that both these activities will take place over a number of years, will involve primarily intelligence and law enforcement persons and will generally not be visible or publicized.

On the military side, Afghanistan was attacked to dislodge AQ and discourage the Taliban; Iraq was attacked to send the message that US interests being attacked anywhere in the world would result in the nutty Americans running around upsetting date carts in unexpected places -- and oh, by the way, all that minimal response to 20 plus years of provocations from the ME? Forget that, those days are over. You <i>will</i> get a response and we will NOT disappear if it gets hectic.

All that is happening.

On the million man Army, not going to happen so don't worry about it. However to answer your questions; Whatever the president says is the mission though it will, like this 500K Army (plus 400K Guard and Reserve folks; only 900K), probably have many missions in many places.

Nah, States have to repair themselves, all we can do is help. Nope, criminal networks are generally not a concern. Yeah, we could do a dictator removal now and then -- or not, depends on the politics. No mandate required, desired sometimes but not required. The President's authority -- provided Congress will pay for it, the money's their call.

Not much re: the Russians and Chinese; fulminate and shake fingers in the case of the Europeans.

* The elements of the US Army committed have clear and concise missions -- not easy missions in many cases but clear and concise. The strategy, which is what you're really questioning, is not publicly enunciated because to do so would be to give our competitors a clear advantage in countering our aims.

Isn't that how it works in the corporate world; clear, concise missions for the operating entities, some corporate strategy stated, the obvious stuff -- but some withheld from competitors?

Ken and Schmedlap, while I confess to being a mere former infantryman with some training in counterinsurgency from Canungra JTC, your points about leftist liberalism are way short of the mark. I am a student and practitioner of corporate and business strategy these days and I have the scars to prove it.

One of the axioms I live by in the corporate world is the development of a very clear, lucid, simple, concrete Mission Statement - what you would call "The Mission" and in AUstralian/British infantry officers school terminology was called "selection and maintenance of the aim".

As you would know, without a clear understanding of "The Mission", so clear that you can just about taste it, your efforts are doomed to failure from the start. This is why the amorphous "War On Terror" has produced the opposite results from what's intended - no crystal clear mission.

And now, from the architects of "The War On Terror", you want to buy an equally amorphous ""mission" - "The Long War"??????

What, precisely is a million man army supposed to achieve? What is it's mission? Repairing the failed states that exist around the globe? Prevent global criminal networks from moving in and out of said failed states? Removing Dictatorships wherever they occur? Under what mandate? On whose authority?

Furthermore, what do you expect the Russians, Chinese and Europeans to do if you embark on this process?

Please explain.

I'm all ears (does a Walrus have ears?)

Ken White

Mon, 05/26/2008 - 10:02pm


asked a cogent question:<blockquote>"I find it odd that this topic has drawn criticism in the comment section, but none of it has anything to do with the recommendation of increasing the size of our force, other than to make a comparison to the amount of money spent by other nations, without regard to how their militaries are used."</blockquote>

It is annoying but not really odd -- there are those that absolutely refuse to accept this is an essentially apolitical site to discuss military topics; they just have try to get into two bit political rhetoric which is waste of time and effort. Most of them have minimal military knowledge but a lot of political ideas and points they just have to make. Don't know why they come here, there are plenty of political sites out there that welcome inane and unnecessary commentary.

I for one agree that a larger force would be beneficial but do not think it is, politically, a viable option at this time. I think the money to do it is available -- or could be with a restructure of priorities (like pulling impacted teeth...) -- but doubt the political will. I think a restructured recruiting program and, more importantly, a restructured training program could attract the numbers but I suspect the leftish Democrats and the rightish Republicans will join in not supporting an expansion.

As to the use of other countries as a standard, some rather foolish people try. Sort of pointless and the question of scale alone and one would think the average intellect would realize that it is. Apparently not.

Ken White

Mon, 05/26/2008 - 9:45pm

Careful where you put your flipper...

Methinks you give the talking heads far more credence than do the real policy makers -- or most, not all, of the American public. Your prerogative, pray continue.

Words do matter. However, some speakers or writers are far more credible than others. Unless the user of the words is highly credible, the words are essentially just so much bloviating.

We can agree that 'homeland' was a silly choice of words. We can also agree that PNAC was and is silly. We would probably disagree on how much influence it had on the last eight years of history as my answer would be very little and not nearly as much as it's authors would have liked.

I'd also suggest that what you call 'mandatory' spending is not in fact mandatory -- it is called that as a ploy to make it seem graven in stone; it is not. None of it is Constitutionally directed (or even, in the opinion of many, Constitutional at all) it is all by Statute -- and what Congress has decreed, Congress can un-decree.

Of course, since they tend to ignore the Constitution up on the Hill, they can also discard their Constitutional responsibility to fund and Army and a Navy.

You did note that at no time did I say or imply I didn't feel secure. I'm more than comfortable in that respect, thanks for asking. In the event, security isn't the issue -- missions are. What I did say was that I was happy with the defense budget being high -- and that I was not all that happy with all the really stupid and not terribly helpful social engineering spending.

The UN isn't going to be reformed unless the evil Capitalist nations gang together and stop paying their dues -- however, that will foster a blowback that would be messy so we'll just putter along being inefficient while the UN bureaucracy tries to take over the world. They won't succeed but they'll make a bigger mess trying.

Budget deficit isn't that large -- or that significant a problem. We accrue several big advantages from the depressed dollar. Not that we were smart enough to get that way on purpose, you understand... ;)

Schmedlap (not verified)

Mon, 05/26/2008 - 8:30pm

Are there any objections to the proposal suggested by Donnelly/Kagan?

I find it odd that this topic has drawn criticism in the comment section, but none of it has anything to do with the recommendation of increasing the size of our force, other than to make a comparison to the amount of money spent by other nations, without regard to how their militaries are used. Instead, the first commenter complains that OIF has not gone smoothly and the next commenter complains about Kagan's real and imagined associations with people whom we are apparently to regard as villians.

Is it a bad idea to increase the size of our force? Or were the comments simply intended to remind us that some people dislike the President, some people dislike Kagan, and some people like to use Europe and other countries as the standard by which we should judge our budgets and policies?

P.S. As for spending on socialist programs, dependency etc. I think we could agree that there are far better ways of spending any surplus arising from budget reducing foreign borrowings that fund the budget deficit..

Thank you for your comments Ken.

I don't ignore talking heads like Kagan because I know that what is one day's idle chatter is next week's "policy initiative" unless confronted and debunked. You may wish to read about the PR technique called the "Overton Window" in which ideas, such as a million man army go through the following stages:

* Unthinkable
* Radical
* Acceptable
* Sensible
* Popular
* Policy

Watch Kagan's friends take up the call. Watch Senator McCain, if you hear him talking about "The Long War" instead of "The War On Terror", you will realise that he has adopted Kagan's mantra.

Or, to put it another way Ken, words matter.

For example the word "Homeland" (the terms "Fatherland" and "Motherland" already having been appropriated and sullied) was not a part of America's national security vocabularly until it was used in the PNAC "Project For The New American Century" document.

President Bush used it in a speech about seven months later and only one journalist Peggy Noonan I think, commented on it being a "kind of creepy" word, but couldn't pin down why.

As for liking a big military budget, I suggest that you look at the statistics. According to Wikipedia,

"The 2005 U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined [7] and is over eight times larger than the official military budget of China. (Note that this comparison is done in nominal value US dollars and thus is not adjusted for purchasing power parity.) The United States and its close allies are responsible for about two-thirds of the world's military spending (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for the majority).

Military discretionary spending accounts for more than half of the U.S. federal discretionary spending, which is all of the U.S. federal government budget that is not appropriated for mandatory spending.[8]

In 2003, the United States spent about 47% of the world's total military spending of US$910.6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute."

And that still isn't big enough to make you feel secure??????

As for me being stryne, correct, it's your corporations (unless the Chinese buy 'em) my flipper slipped.

I share your frustration with the UN, but I believe we are not playing a very productive role in trying to reform it.

Ken White

Mon, 05/26/2008 - 7:00pm

Pinniped piddle... Re: Walrus' multi numbered points:

1. Kagan, like most talking heads, is as well ignored as not. That's what I do with him and the others. I recommend that course of inaction to you.

2. Even those readers not astute may have. Not being either astute or remotely interested in PNAC etc. I had no idea. Thank you for sharing...

I'm unsure who Mr. Kagan's master is but nonetheless:

1) We like our big military budget, but thanks for your interest. We also spend more on domestic social programs, by far, than we do on defense. What that buys us, mostly, is a socialist culture of dependency in an increasing supine populace.

2)Toppling regimes resistant to OUR corporate interests? I thought you were a Stryne? Our???

3) We're dumb but even we are smart enough to know one cannot force democracy at the point of a gun. What we believe is that if one provides the opportunity -- with or without a gun -- others may be able to democratize on their own.

4) The UN has a role in preserving and extending international order? Not doing very well at it, are they? Afghanistan and Iraq -- where they decline involvement (which is fine with me) not withstanding, there are numerous other places in the world where they seem to be groping.

<i>"you owe it to yourselves to give such a proposal an extremely close scrutiny with your personal BS detectors tuned to the maximum for precisely this reason."</i>

Well said...

"The compelling reason to reinvest in America's Army and Marine Corps is not to withdraw and prepare for the "next war," but to build land forces capable of sustaining and prevailing in the so-called "Long War," the effort to secure more legitimate governments, and thus a more durable stability, in vital regions like the Persian Gulf."

1. I would take anything written by Mr. Kagan with a large grain of salt, all he appears to be doing is trying to transmute a failed "War on Terror", that has strengthened Iran';s influence and weakened America's in the Middle East, into what's now "The Long War" - a change of focus into a more ostensibly charitable and just war.

2. Astute readers would by now have noted that "The project For The New American Century" is no more. It's website, has been quietly taken down and it's participants have shut up and slunk off to new lairs........

....Except it seems for Mr. Kagan, who still writes this drivel supporting his masters aims:

1) Increase an already enormous military budget at the expense of domestic social programs

2) Toppling of regimes resistant to our corporate interests

3) Forcing democracy at the barrel of a gun in regions that have no history of the democratic process

4) Replacing the UNs role of preserving and extending international order.

Or, to put it another way, exactly why does America get to choose what is a "Legitimate" Government in some other pert of the world?

What does America define as "Stability" in other regions? Acquiescence to American corporate demands? Passivity towards Israel and it's current activities?

While such siren calls for expanding Defence forces are superficially attractive, especially to the Officer Corps, you owe it to yourselves to give such a proposal an extremely close scrutiny with your personal BS detectors tuned to the maximum for precisely this reason.

I think the first step is realizing that the first problem has been that this administration started this war with extremely poor planning on what to do after we took over that country, and an absolute lack of preparation for actually winning (by whatever measure, by whatever terms) this war. I don't really blame the military, I blame the incompetent commander-in-chief.
<blockquote>as service leaders, officers, and sergeants-major take great pains to explain, they are far from broken.</blockquote>
They may not be broken, but how far down does morale have to fall before it is? Not much in my opinion. It's one thing to go on a deployment knowing that you're going to be there for 15 months. It's another when you were originally ordered to deploy for 12 months and 4 weeks before you are looking to go home, you get extended another 3 months. Which is what the surge did. I don't know how many soldiers this affected, but I know of one of my son's who was so affected.

It's not too much fun trying to raise the spirits with the occasional phone call.

While I thought that the surge was a good thing in principle (a big step for somebody as against the war as I was from the beginning), the execution was a joke. If we had doubled the current boots on ground, then I think it would have been a successful operation, we would already be calling it a real win, and we would be withdrawing troops.

I don't think we had the bodies to do so. I'm not even sure that we would have had the support material to do so either.