Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

A Transformation Gap? American Innovations and European Military Change

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

A Transformation Gap? American Innovations and European Military Change

Article excerpt

Despite being the subject of copious volumes, a succinct description of military transformation is hard to come by. To some, transformation is about technology; to others, it is about doctrine; and still others see transformation as a shift toward expeditionary warfare. The genius of A Transformation Gap? is that it provides a rubric for analyzing transformation in Europe that accounts for all three perspectives. Six essays examine the transformation records of Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland relative to the United States. An excellent introductory essay also offers a theoretical construct for examining why and how each country has (or has not) embraced transformation (and to what degree), offering explanations from literature on military innovation, norm diffusion theories, and alliance theory. A short intellectual history of U.S. military transformation provides a common backdrop for subsequent essays, tracing its roots from early innovations such as AirLand Battle, through the "Revolution in Military Affairs" of the 1990s, and into Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

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Throughout this period, the United States has urged its European allies to adopt the major tenets of American transformation. These efforts have met with uneven success for a variety of reasons, and the authors show how both external and internal factors have affected the pace and form of European transformation. In the case of the British, a major external factor driving transformation has been a desire for technological and doctrinal interoperability with American forces. But two internal constraints have hampered the British military's ability to transform alongside the Americans: Fiscal considerations have limited the nation's investment in transformational technologies, and the British are culturally skeptical of the promises of new technologies, particularly when they claim to obviate the need for human intuition and innovation.

The other nations show a similar interplay between external and internal factors. For example, a major external factor driving French military transformation was reintegration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command structure. This drove a desire for interoperability with the Allies. The Spanish experienced a comparable external stimulus following their 1996 accession to NATO, as have the Poles more recently. While the Netherlands did not experience a sudden imperative for change as did France, Spain, and Poland, NATO has nonetheless spurred innovation within the Dutch armed forces. The Dutch always participate in military operations with others due to their small size, and this has driven a corresponding desire for technical and tactical interoperability with their NATO Allies.

Throughout continental Europe, however, internal factors including fiscal, cultural, and organizational constraints have precluded full emulation of the U.S. model. Defense budgets across the continent have always been constrained, and in the aftermath of the Cold War and absence of any clear existential threat, the pressure to reduce military spending has only increased. Culturally, each nation has a unique history that affects the path of transformation. For example, the proud military traditions of France have helped motivate transformation as a means for securing a leadership role within NATO. Conversely, in Germany, a historic aversion to extraterritorial deployments has precluded the creation of a fully expeditionary force. …

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