Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Interwar Years. (Letters ...)

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Interwar Years. (Letters ...)

Article excerpt

To the Editor--Frederick Kagan has written another excellent synthesis of history and derived wisdom. His "Strategy and Force Structure in an Interwar Period" (JFQ, Spring/Summer 01) is both well supported and direct in its advice. There is, however, a crucial gap in the logic underpinning his recommendations.

Kagan outlines his recipe for accomplishing readiness (shaping, maintaining, and preparing) while simultaneously acknowledging but skipping lightly over the crucial point that almost no democracy accomplishes this task in the absence of an identified and sustained threat. In other words, he is preaching to the choir while neglecting the rest of the flock. What confronts the United States is not a lack of resources but rather the absence of sustained political will.

Perhaps it is time thinkers and actors on the national stage consider other methods to act on Kagan's thoughts on readiness. While actions such as those pursued by the Creel Commission would likely be illegal today, other routes can be explored. Kagan is undoubtedly correct in saying that this is an interwar period. The conundrum is bringing that realization to the national security community and selling it to the rest of America.

MAJ Robert Bateman, USA
Center for Strategic and International

To the Editor--While I agree with Frederick Kagan's overall message--that the United States must have the goal of "prolonging the current epoch of peace and prosperity as long as possible and being ready to fight and win the conflict that will ultimately end it"--I question some of his assertions as well as his seemingly contradictory conclusion about the best way to accomplish that goal.

First, I am astonished at Kagan's limited definition of what it means "to shape" the global environment. In his view, America "must continually shape the international environment by the use of force or its threat, and by stability and peace operations when appropriate." He advocates "aggressive involvement" as "the best way" to accomplish these three tasks. I think he has his priorities backward. While it is true that, as the national military strategy states, "The Armed Forces help shape the international environment primarily through their inherent deterrent qualities," that deterrent capability provides a backdrop to the true means of shaping the environment: "foster[ing] the institutions and international relationships that constitute a peaceful strategic environment by promoting stability; preventing and reducing conflict and threats; and deterring aggression and coercion."

Next, Kagan decries withdrawing forces from overseas in favor of long-range strike capabilities because that "would immediately increase instability by signaling that America is no longer committed to the peace." As evidence, he points to past aggression by North Korea, North Vietnam, Iraq, and Serbia. But what he fails to recognize is that the US global presence was greater, not less, when that aggression occurred and it did not deter it.

In writing off U.S. nuclear capabilities as having become "largely irrelevant to regional security," Kagan reveals the greatest fault of his argument: a singular focus on fighting the last war (indeed, perhaps even a war of 60 years ago). We would be naive not to realize that inherent in the U.S. abandonment of the strategy of two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts is the option of resorting to nuclear weapons should an aggressor exploit the U.S. preoccupation elsewhere.

Fourth, in discussing force structure, Kagan argues that "the real test will be how many troops are ready to go without notice at any time." But the real test is how rapidly the military transportation system can get those troops to the battlefield. The problem with force structure is not the number of divisions or air expeditionary forces, but whether we have adequately addressed thruput.

Finally, Kagan concludes that the Army should adopt a brigade-sized model similar to that recommended by Douglas Macgregor in Breaking the Phalanx. …

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