Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Sacred Leviathan by Thomas Barnett

ARTICLE: Short '06 Lebanon War Stokes Pentagon Debate, By Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, April 6, 2009; Page A01

My problem with the U.S.-Israel comparison has always been one of scale: Israel's army is a small fraction of ours (187k, or roughly the size of our Marines, versus our force of somewhere just shy of 1.5 million). That says that if you make a force about the size of Marines get focused on COIN, it could have a rough time in a straight-up conventional fight against a force like Hezbollah.

As for the rest of our 1.3 million? Apparently they just sat around meantime getting fat and stupid and learning nothing, so they were a complete waste.

Ah, then they come back at you with a year-in-the-life description of an average soldier and say "he can't manage both."

Again, why try to make everybody in the entire military good at this? Why not just some appropriate portion and an additional rotatable segment?

Then the argument usually retreats to truly big-war scenarios and opponents state we can't have a portion of our troops unready for that, as we might have to send all our Marines into China for the Big One.

In the end, the only choice that makes your opponents happy is a continued, force-wide focus on big-war and big-war platforms and you discard any attempt to get good at the postwar.

(If you detect industry's big-war constellation of officers and think tankers here, then you're beginning to see the funding dynamics behind a lot of this debate. Gates threatens that, and he's being pre-approved by his opponents for losing our next conventional war. As I said in PNM: no one gets in trouble for screwing up security (postwar), but you can always be condemned for even the tiniest diminution of our national "defense" (war).)

Because you're no good at that, you're back in Powell Doctrine territory: we win meaningless conflicts decisively, having no lasting impact and scheduling return dates that we'll like even less.

Some of this stuff is the usual Marine paranoia about losing their identity. The Army moves back into familiar, most constabulary-heavy venues, and the Marines fear being sucked anonymously into that. It's the same reason why, force structure-wise, the Marines are heading back ... to the sea.

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