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On Point

The End of the Two War Strategy


by Austin Bay

Ending World War II is a tough job, especially inside America's bureaucratic monument to "the big one," the Pentagon.

However, that's what the leaked demise of the "two war strategy" (leaked by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office) means in the language of Joe and Josephine Six-Pack: World War II is over.

The world created by World War II has changed. It's time for the Pentagon, its concrete poured because of Pearl Harbor, to recognize those changes.

While preparing and positioning military forces to fight both Hitler and Tojo (or their echoes, like Saddam and Kim il Sung) once provided a useful "large-scale pattern" for building American defenses, demographic, economic, political, historical and technological change have produced new strategic conditions.

In the 21st century, preparing for "East War and West War" is at best strategically misleading. Continuing to shell out tax dollars for World War II and Cold War bureaucratic overhead (to include base infrastructure) is economic and military nonsense.

Quibblers may argue that Rumsfeld is canning the 1990s' strategy of preparing to wage "two major regional wars." Throughout the 1990s, cognoscenti spent a lot of Ivy League time parsing that strategy, which when first articulated called for "winning two simultaneous major wars."

While FDR and Churchhill agreed to defeat Hitler first (win in the European theater), then tackle Japan ("hold" in the Pacific, then after the Nazis' defeat, take the offensive in Asia), once America revved its war machine, we conducted simultaneous strategic offensive operations in both theaters.

After the brief respite of post-World War II U.S. demobilization (when the United States alone possessed nukes), Stalin's Berlin squeeze, Soviet nukes, a Communist China and then the Korean War entrenched the Cold War. In a very real sense, the Cold War was World War II's long goodbye, with U.S. and Russian troops facing each other in a divided Germany and America's direct involvement in Asian tumults the fallout of smashing Japan.

The Cold War was "East War and West War." With the Cold War kaput, America only faces one nation that could possibly prosecute a sustained, long-term, high-intensity war: China. China, however, is a giant with clay feet, riven by corruption and regional infighting.

Given China's potential, however, the UnitedStates mulls an "Asian-focused" strategy. "Win, hold, win" has also explicitly returned as an organizing principle for defense.

But 21st century threats, however, aren't "one war" nor are they "East and West." Yes, the United States might have to fight two wars at once, or more. Technology, however, has altered the compass. Instant global communications and trade-entwined economies have changed strategic calculations.

The 21st century military challenges reflect this complex array of political and economic challenges.

"Capabilities-based threats" have emerged -- for example, the terrorist with chemical and biological weapons. Rogue nations, though unable to sustain all-out war with the United States, can rattle ballistic missiles and threaten U.S. targets and U.S. allies.

Cyberspace becomes a critical theater of war. A military website I visit got hacked last weekend. The attackers claimed to be Chinese. The webmaster says he can't confirm the attackers' claim, but the site is critical of China's handling of the EP-3 incident. Small-scale information warfare? Who knows. However, a concerted digital attack on the U.S. stock exchanges is an act of war.

"Capabilities-based defense" is one way of describing the Pentagon's replacement for the "two war" construct. "Maintaining homeland security, while ensuring quick and global military reach" is another.

This new pattern places intense demands on U.S. intelligence capabilities. Military forces designed to deter and defeat multi-valent, rapidly emerging threats must be flexible, agile, fast, highly trained and well-led.

If a symbol for the "two war strategy" is two heavy broadswords, the new American defense icons might be a shield (homeland security) and a rapier (fast global thrust and strike).

The Pentagon is acquiring pieces of "the rapier force" required to execute a rapier strategy: robot weapons, stealth missiles, air-lifted mobile ground forces.

Nixing the "two war" military will help accelerate the Pentagon's process of change, moving from defending a world that was to promoting peace in a world that is.

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