Reinventing U.S. Military Policy

Article excerpt

Reinventing U.S. Military Policy Finding The Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy. Frederick W. Kagan. Encounter Books. 444 pages; index; $29.95.

By Maj. Gen. Edward B. Atkeson

U.S. Army retired

Frederick Kagan's Finding the Target is a compendium and critique of the development of virtually all serious American military theory during the service of our entire officer corps currently on active duty, and a fair share of what has gone before. The unprepossessing dust cover, depicting a single combat aircraft high in its operational environment, suggests a narrow interpretation of the title. Aeronautical specialists will search in vain for discussion of target acquisition techniques close to their stock-in-trade, for that is not what Kagan offers us. On the contrary, he brings us an impressive discussion of the full range of military intellectual challenges to the security of the United States at both the operational and strategic levels over the last half century. While he tends to focus on ground conflict, he also covers theories applicable to air and sea operations.

The first four chapters of this work set the stage for Kagan's inventory of where we are in our pursuit of military theory. They deal with problems of recovery from Vietnam, especially the Army's difficulties in developing a sensible doctrine oriented towards Europe for dealing with the enormous Soviet threat. Kagan argues that the abolition of the draft improved the Army, but a number of measures adopted in that period were counterproductive. He points out that the 1976 version of Field Manual (FM) 100-5 Operations resulted in an overemphasis on forward defense in Europe and oversight of the threat posed by the Soviets' "second echelon" or "follow-on-forces." In Kagan's view, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commander Gen. William DePuy's concept of an "active defense" was a "fiasco"-so much so that "not even the Army accepted the doctrine or its underlying concepts, and outside the service it was entirely stillborn."

From there, Kagan delves into the "Reagan Revolution," overcoming the threat of Soviet aggression and succeeding concepts of airpower. He highlights John Boyd's OODA (observation, orientation, decision, action) loop, a concept of how people interact with each other and their environment, and also discusses John Warden's focus on airpower as the single most essential requirement for victory in any modem conflict. …