September 7, 2004


Shift From Traditional War Seen at Pentagon (Thomas E. Ricks, September 03, 2004, The Washington Post)

Top Pentagon officials are considering a new, long-term strategy that shifts spending and resources away from large-scale warfare to build more agile, specialized forces for fighting guerrilla wars, confronting terrorism and handling less conventional threats, officials said yesterday.

The proposal, presented two weeks ago to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others, could carry major implications for defense spending, eventually moving some funds away from ships, tanks and planes and toward troops, elite Special Operations forces and intelligence gathering. The shift has been building for some time, but the plan circulating at the Pentagon would accelerate the changes, analysts said.

The plan's working assumption is that the United States faces almost no serious conventional threats from traditional, state-based militaries. Thus, it says, the United States should accept more risk in that area to pay more attention to other threats: terrorism, the type of low-tech guerrilla fighting confronting troops in Iraq, and the possibility of dramatic technological advances by adversaries. Some of those priorities depend more heavily on troop strength than high-tech weaponry and could increase the pressure on the Pentagon to build the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.

"The lesson learned in [Operation] Iraqi Freedom is that in some areas, we have capabilities overmatch," said Christopher "Ryan" Henry, the principal undersecretary of defense for policy, who wrote and presented the briefing to Rumsfeld on Aug. 19. "We can't see many competitors that are coming at us in the traditional domain.

"In the business world, this is the equivalent of coming up with a new product in a new market," Henry added.

This is what Thomas P. M. Barnett has been arguing for, among others. But the ease with which Saddam went down really drove home the point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 7, 2004 1:58 PM


With over 60 dead, and 1100 wounded in August, due somewhat to stop and start battles in Najaf, you may get your wish for less infantry, just not the way you thought.

Posted by: h-man at September 7, 2004 2:52 PM

The type of war we are fighting has changed. The only potential flashpoint where we face a traditional foe is Korea. And here the ROK should be able to carry on the bulk of the fighting with the assistance of American Special Forces and air power. The South Koreans will after all be defending their country and we should reasonably expect them to do the bulk of the fighting.

We need a military which can deal with an enemy for whom the 'Rules of War' are a nullity. I don't know how you get there other than by adopting as Robert Kaplan suggests a 'Pagan ethos.' We're going to have to fight an enemy that hides in cities, in far off lands, that must be hit quickly and effectively.

Posted by: Bart at September 7, 2004 3:02 PM

There's still China to worry about. I wouldn't put away the tanks yet...

Posted by: Ptah at September 7, 2004 3:06 PM


They wouldn't be dying if they weren't there, would they?

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2004 3:06 PM


Tanks? You're kidding right?

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2004 3:11 PM

Where are we going to face the PLA on the battlefield?

Posted by: Bart at September 7, 2004 3:16 PM

American battle tactics will have to change in a world of asymetrical warfare. There is an interesting article "Swarming - The Next Face of Battle" discussing the transition from AirLand Battle to BattleSwarm doctrine and the effect of netcentric concepts.
Swarming is a seemingly amorphous but carefully structured, coordinated way to strike from all directions at a particular point or points, by means of a sustainable "pulsing" of force and/or fire, close-in as well as from stand-off positions. It will work best -- perhaps it will only work -- if it is designed mainly around the deployment of myriad small, dispersed, networked maneuver units. The aim is to coalesce rapidly and stealthily on a target, attack it, then dissever and redisperse, immediately ready to recombine for a new pulse.
The article credits much of our success in Afganistan and Iraq to such tactics.

Posted by: jd watson at September 7, 2004 3:55 PM

But in military history, reality has a way of blindsiding the best of plans and projections.

I can just see the US military becoming optimized for swarming asymettrical warfare after the Mideast -- only to end up blindsided by a traditional world war with, say, China.

Posted by: Ken at September 7, 2004 5:09 PM

Target acquisition is the problem.

If you believe remote sensors can do a better job of acquiring targets than the Marines did at Najaf, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 7, 2004 7:09 PM

Special Forces guys did it in Afghanistan as well or better.

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2004 7:15 PM

Last Saturday C-SPAN ran a 3 Hour Program of a presentation Barnett made. It was facinating. The wife and I sat up and watched it. Then I bought the DVD. More Info here:

American Perspectives
This week's show features Thomas Barnett discussing "The New Pentagon." His new book is about the military in the 21st Century. Barnett is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and this summer he gave a presentation on his ideas at the National Defense University.
9/4/2004: WASHINGTON, DC:

The DVD is $25 and worth it:

Program ID: 182105-1
Format: Speech
Event Date: 6-2-2004
Location: Washington, District of Columbia, (United States)
Last Airing Date: 9-4-2004
Length: 2 hours, 41 minutes

Fort McNair
National Defense University

Appearances by:
Barnett, Thomas P. Professor -
U.S. Naval War College

In a three-hour Power Point presentation Professor Barnett takes a global perspective that integrates political, economic and military elements in a model for the post-September 11 world. He argues that terrorism and globalization have combined to end the great-power model of war that has developed over 400 years, since the Thirty Years War. Instead, he divides the world into an increasingly expanding "Functioning Core" of economically developed, politically stable states integrated into global systems and a "Non-Integrating Gap," the most likely source of threats to U.S. and international security. Professor Barnett uses this map to call for a new system for deployment of the U.S. armed forces. Professor Barnett is the author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, published by Putnam Publishing Group. In the book he described the changing natures of war, security, and foreign policy in the post-Cold War era. He explained a theory of the effects of globalization that combines security, economic, political, and cultural factors to forecast future military needs. He also uses autobiographical elements to explain the behind the scenes workings of the Pentagon and how his PowerPoint presentation has been used.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 7, 2004 7:47 PM


Where are we going to confront the PLA in a land war?

Posted by: Bart at September 8, 2004 8:16 AM

The article didn't say that the Pentagon wanted less infantry, it said that they wanted more.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 8, 2004 10:24 AM

>Where are we going to confront the PLA in a
>land war?

Actually, I'm thinking more like all those Cold-War-Goes-Hot scenarios inflicted on me through the Sixties and Seventies that never came to pass:

"Goodbye Mom,
I'm off to drop The Bomb,
So don't wait up for me;
As you swelter
Down in your shelter
You can see me
On the TV...

...I'll be back when the war is over --
An hour and a half from now!"
-- Tom Lehrer

Posted by: Ken at September 8, 2004 2:57 PM

If that's so, Orrin, why isn't the war over?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 8, 2004 7:24 PM

The Sunni/Ba'athists don't want to be governed by Shi'ites.

Posted by: oj at September 8, 2004 7:33 PM