Academic journal article Military Review

Challenge and Change: A Legacy for the Future

Academic journal article Military Review

Challenge and Change: A Legacy for the Future

Article excerpt

THE CHANGES INHERENT in the Cold War's aftermath are truly dramatic, but they are only the most recent examples of a condition that has been an integral part of the US Army throughout the entire 20th century. In fact, change has been a consistent aspect of our organizational environment since the United States emerged as a world power earlier this century.

General John J. Pershing laid the foundation for the modern Army during World War I. His refusal to allow American units to be broken up and individual soldiers used as replacements established the principle that cohesion and leadership at every level would be an American Army hallmark. US soldiers would not be used as fodder to be consumed in the pursuit of an attrition strategy that relied on the relentless application of techniques which did not reflect an understanding of the strategic and technological environments in which operations were being prosecuted. Pershing established a tradition of responsibility that every soldier understands and exemplifies today: Army leaders must ensure that soldiers are well trained, organized, equipped and led to accomplish whatever mission they are assigned.

General George C. Marshall and others understood that principle and did all they could to ensure that the leaders of American soldiers would be prepared for the next war's demands. The value of experimentation with new doctrine, organizational schemes and operational concepts was demonstrated vividly in the early 1940's Louisiana Maneuvers. More important, however, was the lesson that remains with us still: balance is the key to success. What we have come to call the six imperativesquality soldiers; forward-looking doctrine; the right mix of forces; tough, realistic training; continuous modernization; and competent, confident leadersare critical for battlefield success. What the interwar years taught us is that without the appropriate balance of these imperatives, US soldiers will pay a heavy price at the opening bell of the next war.

After World War II, President Harry S. Truman reminded the nation that "We must be prepared to pay the price for peace, or assuredly we will pay the price of war." Unfortunately, our experiences in the years after World War II taught us how not to reshape an army in the aftermath of a great victory, and we paid the price of that lesson in blood in the early days of the Korean War. The Cold War's onset focused our efforts on the need for a sustained effort to oppose a committed and capable global competitor.

The Army's experience in Vietnam reminded us of our core values' importance. The 1980s training revolution and modernization programs refocused our attention on the need to balance the six imperatives to produce a credible force capable of carrying out the nation's bidding. Incorporating new technologies and harnessing microprocessor power in the 1990s are but the Army's latest instances of adapting to the environment in which it finds itself.

The point here is simple: change is nothing new. Army leaders throughout the 20th century have lived with change all their careers. The challenges we face today are no different than those our predecessors have faced and mastered. What this century's history teaches us is that the Army's real strength is its ability to change and adapt to the period's requirements. Our ability to change was the key to victory in two world wars and a cold war, and it will be the foundation for our future success.

Change in the Post-Cold War World

The Soviet Union's disintegration removed the paramount security concern of the last half of the 20th century, but it left other dangers undiminished. Indeed, the demise of Soviet power may even have promoted new and potentially destabilizing trends. The rise of new economic centers of influence, polit-, ical organizations and regional military powers may presage new competition for territory or resources. The breakup of nation-states, such as in the former Yugoslavia, can have a significant impact on regional peace and stability. …

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