Small Wars Journal

Which Way I Ought To Go From Here?

By John Collins

Alice in Wonderland asked the Cheshire Cat, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

The answer was, "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."

The Honorable Les Aspin, as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked much the same question on 9 October 1985 when he held hearings entitled "What Have We Got for a Trillion dollars?"

The world has changed a lot since then, when the US-Soviet military balance was still center stage, but structured ways of appraising national security problems and potential solutions have not. I'm therefore resurrecting my 23-year-old testimony for reconsideration, because it deals with a flock of fundamentals that the new Administration might usefully apply in its quest for ways to match military ends, ways, and means most successfully. Mismatches between forces and objectives, forces and threats, forces and strategies, forces and other forces remain prominent today.

Our superlative All-Volunteer Force, to cite just one of many examples, is hard pressed to cope with simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less Iran, North Korea, or anywhere else, because concentration on quality at the expense of quantity creates gaps between objectives and military power. A more prudent posture depends on increased capabilities, decreased ambitions, or both in some combination.

US policy-makers, planners, and programmers in the upcoming administration therefore would be well advised to review short-, mid-, and long-range requirements across the board, bearing in mind that the most dangerous enemy capabilities imaginable do not necessarily constitute dangerous threats, for reasons the attachment explores.

John M. Collins began to amass military experience when he enlisted in the Army as a private in 1942. Thirty years and three wars later, in 1972, he retired as a colonel. He spent the next quarter century as the leading analyst on military and defense issues at the Congressional Research Service. Many of us address him as Warlord.



Excellent contribution. I also enjoyed Principles of Deterrence which I found as a result of this testimony.

You decision to avoid programs in that testimony truly makes it timeless advice and guidance.