Small Wars Journal

The Coming Era of U.S. Security Policy Will be Dominated by the Navy

The Coming Era of U.S. Security Policy Will be Dominated by the Navy by Robert D. Kaplan – Washington Post

President Trump’s decision to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan has found grudging support among sectors of the foreign policy establishment and the Democratic Party. Clearly, out of a sense of collective fatigue, we are ending an era of land interventions in the Middle East that began with the 1991 liberation of Kuwait by President George H.W. Bush. At a cost of 7,000 lives and several trillion dollars for remarkably little demonstrable result, those interventions have not been a happy experience. The admonition about never fighting a land war in Asia could also be applied to the Middle East.

 

After 28 years of land wars in the Middle East, counterinsurgency doctrine is now for the bookshelves: lessons learned the hard way, and always available for use upon the next mistake or quagmire, but hopefully allowed to gather dust. No military service has suffered so much and learned so many lessons as the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the object of strategy is to avoid its use in such a manner again.

 

The upshot of this will not be isolationism. Instead, we will project power across large swaths of the earth the way maritime empires have done so throughout history: using our Navy. The Navy is our “away team,” as Obama-era Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus liked to say. You can move an aircraft carrier strike group — with almost a half-dozen big warships, thousands of sailors and enough weaponry to destroy an entire city — from one conflict zone to another with the media barely noticing. We do it all the time. But to move a commensurate number of soldiers and their equipment is impossible without a debate in Congress, or a front-page headline. Given the moral taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, the Navy is the United States' primary strategic instrument, projecting power 24/7 around the globe. And by Navy, I mean naval power in all its dimensions: sea, air and ship-based missiles…

Read on.

Comments

From our article above:

"After 28 years of land wars in the Middle East, counterinsurgency doctrine is now for the bookshelves: lessons learned the hard way, and always available for use upon the next mistake or quagmire, but hopefully allowed to gather dust. No military service has suffered so much and learned so many lessons as the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the object of strategy is to avoid its use in such a manner again."

Given that "counterinsurgency," today, must be understood more in "insurgency" terms, might we say that Kaplan may have put "counterinsurgency doctrine" to bed much too early?

Explanation:

In his "Counterinsurgency Redux," Kilcullen notes that:

a.  "Only the insurgent can initiate" revolutionary war (an effort to eliminate -- or to significantly alter -- the way of life, the way of governance, etc., of a state, society and/or civilization -- and to replace same with completely new structures).  And that:

b.  It is governments today -- in an effort to better provide for, and/or to better benefit from, such things as globalism, globalization and the global economy -- who have actually taken on this such "transformative"/this such "insurgent" role.

(This, as Kilcullen notes, making the populations of the world -- who do not wish to see their states, societies and/or civilizations so "transformed" -- and who thus actively resist these such "transformative" activities -- to be rightfully seen today as the "counterinsurgents."  In this regard, see the bottom of Page 2 and the top half of Page 3   https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e7f3/f7fd5e525d6dfe177357a894839bc770348b.pdf  )

Thus, should we note that:

a.  Neither the need/requirement for governments to undertake such "revolutionary" activity -- this, so as to better provide for and/or better benefit from such things as globalism, globalization and the global economy. 

b.  Nor the perceived need/requirement of populations to actively resist these such "transformative" efforts -- this, so as to retain the benefits, the status, the protections, etc., provided by the status quo.

NEITHER of these conflicting/diametrically opposed needs/requirements would seem to have magically come to an end.      

This being the case, then how can we say -- as Kaplan does above -- that:

a.  "After 28 years of land wars in the Middle East, counterinsurgency doctrine is now for the bookshelves?"  And/or that: 

b.  "The coming era of U.S. security policy will be dominated by the Navy?"

(There simply isn't much that a Navy can do when it comes to causing/forcing states and societies to adopt new ways of life, new ways of governance, new values, etc.  This, in fact, being a job more for an Army; whether we like it or not?)

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Due to such things as globalism, globalization and the global economy, revolutionary war/revolutionary activity (i.e., "insurgency"/"transformative" activity -- as described by Kilcullen and I above) -- for the governments of the world -- this will continue to be their "order of the day."  

Likewise, due to such things as globalization, etc, "resistance" to these such governments' transformative demands (to wit: "counterinsurgency" -- as described by Kilcullen and I above) -- for the populations of the world -- this will continue to be the focus of their efforts. 

And, in this regard, it would seem that:

a.  Both China and the U.S. are in this exact same "boat?"  And, thus (whether they like it or not),  

b.  May need to focus more on "insurgency" and "counterinsurgency;" this, rather than on conflict with each other?