Remember the Yalu River
So our current SECDEF has spoken:
Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services, the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere. The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations, is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions. But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.
We are not a land power by need or design. We need to be home-based with global reach. We need robust friends to partner with – not pampered dependents to garrison or play mercenary for. We need to spend out money on things to create global effects at minimal impact in blood and treasure. That is done at sea, in the air, and in space.
That is our future. We can either get it right now, or suffer later.
Much has been made of SecDef Gates quote, “But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” SecDef Gates seems to be ruling out any future large interventions in Asia or Africa. Would that it were so easy! If the Secretary(who by the way has himself advocated for large deployments to Asia, twice!) is referring to the potentially large domestic political costs of such a course of action, he’s probably right
Here’s the rub, during the Korean War, the PLA marched across the Yalu river just at the time the US believed that they wouldn’t. Among the American commanders was General MacArthur. His call for more firepower and attempt to appeal to Congress and the populace cause President Truman to fire him. Same thing with Vietnam. The NVA used the VC until American will was broken. See how well air strikes and naval power worked that time.
Not every war will be OIF/OEF. Behind every insurgency/terrorist movement is a government somewhere that stands to profit. Our enemies tried guerrilla tactics when force or force didn’t work (or they couldn’t afford it). In the future they’ll try both. Given that Chinese and Russian arms are on the market…this won’t be good for the “strike from afar” thinking. Interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan with Predator drones and air strikes are criticized and denounced for collateral damage. How would that be avoided in the future? The “surgical strike” exists only in fiction. China spent lots of money on missiles designed to exploit weaknesses in our navy. Google “Club-K” and see the scary Russian missile that’s for sale. (I’ll wait)
You want to hold territory? Want that dictator out? Want that city or “safe haven” protected? Sent in the Army or Marines. not the Air Force and not the Navy. Want food distribued in a war torn region? Special Forces teams are way to small, send in a national guard unit.
Why is it that PATRIOT and THAAD are Army and not Air Force? The Army remembers that we are all a team working for the soldier/marine on the ground.
Washington dreams of the day they can push a button and some evil guy goes boom. Keep dreaming. Armies are expensive. So is losing. So is genocide. Screw the media, do what’s right by those with boots on the ground. Let’em sail and let’em fly, the Army (and yes the Marines) will never go out of style and will always be the best. And remember the media is not the friend of the military.