Small Wars Journal

Questions Remain Over Pentagon’s Strategy to Pivot Towards a Large-Scale Conventional Conflict

Questions Remain Over Pentagon’s Strategy to Pivot Towards a Large-Scale Conventional Conflict by Ashley Roque - Jane's 360

When Pentagon leaders defend their fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020) budget request early next year, there could be mounting pressure to detail precise plans for how they are prioritising spending and shifting towards a 'great power competition' with China and Russia.

Nearly 11 months after the release of the new National Defense Strategy (NDS), it is still not clear if Department of Defense (DoD) leaders have a firm grip on what the shift means, according to key members of the congressionally mandated NDS Commission.

In late November, the commission released a 99-page report detailing its findings on the NDS, defence policy, and making a case for increased DoD spending…

Read on.


Given my comparison, in my comment immediately below, of:

a.  The containment and roll back strategy of the Rest; this versus the expansionist Soviets/communists during the Old Cold War; this, in comparison to:

b.  The containment and roll back strategy of the new Rest; this, versus the expansionist U.S./West post-the Old Cold War;

Given my such comparison, let's look at what was called the Reagan Doctrine back in our Old Cold War days:


Reagan Doctrine, 1985

The “Reagan Doctrine” was used to characterize the Reagan administration’s (1981-1988) policy of supporting anti-Communist insurgents wherever they might be. In his 1985 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan called upon Congress and the American people to stand up to the Soviet Union, what he had previously called the “Evil Empire”:

"We must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth."

Breaking with the doctrine of “Containment," established during the Truman administration—President Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy was based on John Foster Dulles’ “Roll-Back” strategy from the 1950s in which the United States would actively push back the influence of the Soviet Union. Reagan’s policy differed, however, in the sense that he relied primarily on the overt support of those fighting Soviet dominance. This strategy was perhaps best encapsulated in NSC National Security Decision Directive 75. This 1983 directive stated that a central priority of the U.S. in its policy toward the Soviet Union would be “to contain and over time reverse Soviet expansionism,” particularly in the developing world. As the directive noted:

"The U.S. must rebuild the credibility of its commitment to resist Soviet encroachment on U.S. interests and those of its Allies and friends, and to support effectively those Third World states that are willing to resist Soviet pressures or oppose Soviet initiatives hostile to the United States, or are special targets of Soviet policy."

To that end, the Reagan administration focused much of its energy on supporting proxy armies to curtail Soviet influence. Among the more prominent examples of the Reagan Doctrine’s application, in Nicaragua, the United States sponsored the contra movement in an effort to force the leftist Sandinista government from power. And in Afghanistan, the United States provided material support to Afghan rebels—known as the mujahadeen—helping them end Soviet occupation of their country.



If our present-day opponents have taken such things as the Reagan Doctrine -- this, as their/one of their strategic guides for dealing with the the U.S./the West today -- then: 

a.  How might we, in these such circumstances, best employ and deploy our limited instruments of power and persuasion -- this, to thwart/counter/overcome same?  And, accordingly, 

b.  How might the acknowledgement of this information, if indeed it is correct, influence our decisions -- such as -- whether it makes sense to have "The "Pentagon Pivot Toward Large-Scale Conventional Conflict?"

(Note:  From the perspective of the Reagan Doctrine strategy noted above, the use of conventional forces -- to achieve the U.S./the West's strategic ends -- this would not seemed to have been exceptionally important/did not come into play? 

This, given that, as our U.S. State Department document notes in its third paragraph above, the "central priority of the U.S. in its policy toward the Soviet Union would be 'to contain and over time reverse Soviet expansionism,' particularly in the developing world.")

As I have suggested in the past, possibly the best way to look at these matters is through the lens of a single conflict/a single war; a single conflict/a single war in which:

a.  The U.S./the West today (much like the Soviets/the communists before us) seeks to transform the outlying states and societies of the world; this, more along our now ("their" back then) -- unusual and unique -- political, economic, social and value lines.  And where:

b.  The U.S./the West today (much like the Soviets/the communists before us) -- re: this such "world transformation" mission -- finds itself:

1.  Facing "resisting transformation" both great nations and small, and "resisting transformation" both state and non-state entities; all these such entities

2.  Seeking to "contain" -- and/or "roll back" -- the U.S./the West's such expansionist efforts and designs.

(Herein, the common overall goal of our such, many and varied, "resisting transformation"/"containment" and "roll back" strategy-employing opponents; this such common overall goal would seem to be to [a] have what happened to the Soviets/the communists at the end of the Old Cold War; to [b] have this happen now to the U.S./the West also?)  

Based on this description of our current "conflict environment" -- and our "limited," as we all know know, "instruments of power and persuasion" --

a.  Where, and indeed how, might we (must we) deploy our such -- limited -- "instruments of power and persuasion;" this,

b.  So as to not assume the same fate as the Soviets/the communists before us?