Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Victory at Risk: Restoring America's Military Power: A New War Plan for the Pentagon

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Victory at Risk: Restoring America's Military Power: A New War Plan for the Pentagon

Article excerpt

By Michael W. Davidson

Zenith Press, 2009

256 pp. $25.00

ISBN: 978-0-7603-3557-4

In his first book, Michael Davidson, a retired Army National Guard major general, has issued a clarion call for the U.S. military to fundamentally change course or face the sobering prospect of losing our next war. As a decorated citizen-Soldier whose long service began with Vietnam, Davidson advocates a renewed emphasis on preparing for major conflicts while doubting the wisdom of the "war on terrorism." He reserves special criticism for the tenures of Defense Secretaries Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld as periods of wrongheaded arrogance by civilian officials. His analysis of American military history since World War II provides an important backdrop for his argument that poor civil-military relations have led the United States to an extremely dangerous strategic position. Our force is exhausted and out of balance. Returning to the model of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and General George C. Marshall, where military advice was given greater weight, would be an important step toward crafting a sensible defense strategy devoid of political posturing. The solutions he offers are wide ranging and would require radical movement away from Afghanistan and current defense strategies.

The book is divided into three parts and begins with a survey of the current poor state of military readiness for conventional conflicts. Soldiers need more time, training, and resources. Our war plans are unrealistically optimistic and framed by Pentagon battles between the Services. The Army's funding bears little relation to its missions, and ground forces have been overtaxed. We have borrowed from long-term equipment modernization to the short-term costs of contingency operations. He does single out the special operations community for praise, complimenting their joint approach across the full spectrum of military operations.

The second and third parts of the book illustrate his key points about needed defense reforms. Based on his experience in key National Guard and Army Reserve positions, Davidson makes the case for a fundamentally different defense structure and a return to a citizen-soldier army. He assesses that the Pentagon has a "rush-to-war" mindset that favors the expensive Active-duty force when every major American war has been fought and won by citizen-soldier armies. Like Morris Janowitz and other Republican theorists, he views military service as a positive obligation that will increase the connection between the military and American people. We will have more time to build an army with broad-based national service now that the Cold War has ended. Although he acknowledges that the conventional warfight is extremely complex, his prescriptions are not as detailed as his strong historical examples. He does not discuss how an Army with more conventional combat National Guard forces would overcome the challenges of peacetime and postmobilization training that were apparent in roundout brigades during Operation Desert Storm. During that war, the Army's premobilization information on the proficiency of its roundout brigades overstated their capabilities and created significant capability shortfalls. With limited peacetime training, it is still likely the lack of opportunities for realistic training and constraints on the extent of collective training will limit Reserve units to lower levels of organization. …

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