New Military Strategy Is Really Just a Wish List

Article excerpt

In early February, the Pentagon finally released its first new National Military Strategy (NMS) since 2004. It's an interesting read. It's also a disappointing one.

There's much to approve in the new document its recognition that we confront a complex and volatile international environment; its tacit acknowledgment that the military is only one means, and not invariably the most useful, by which to manage that environment; and its commitment to seeking military partnership With other states whenever common interests permit.

Moreover, at least so far as its rhetoric is concerned, the new strategy is distinctly more modest than its predecessor. Absent are such ambitious terms as "prevail against" and "swiftly defeat" in relation to armed enemies. Indeed, the document is positively selfabnegating in its commitment to the "disciplined application of force . . . consistent with our values and international law."

Absent as well are repeated references to "the war on terrorism," replaced in the new document by the considerably less bellicose, if also more insipid, requirement to "counter violent extremism."

Nor is the new strategy wholly insensitive to today's difficult fiscal environment. "Both our Nation and military will face increased budget pressures," the document acknowledges frankly, "and we cannot assume an increase in the defense budget."

"As we adjust to these pressures," it adds, "we must not become a hollow force with a large force structure lacking the readiness, framing, and modern equipment it needs." Instead, in lieu of its predecessor's optimistic vision of a "transformed" military, the new strategy forecasts "difficult tradeoffs between modernization, capacity, capability, posture, and risk."

Not many are likely to take exception to any of these claims. But at a time when fiscal realities and the public mood both would seem to urge curbing - if not contracting - America's defense commitments, the new NMS in many ways proposes to enlarge them.

That's probably no surprise, given that release of the new strategy was preceded rather than followed by announcement of a $553 billion defense budget that already is politically controversial.

Whatever the impulse, where the new strategy is positively expansive is in its description of the range of threats to which, it argues, America's joint military forces must increasingly be prepared to respond.

In addition to traditional military aggression and the challenge of stateless terrorism, these now are held to include such diverse problems as space and cyber warfare, piracy prevention, human trafficking, natural disasters, pandemic diseases, and even the adverse consequences of climate change. …