Skip to comments.Andrew J. Bacevich: A smaller U.S. Army should do just fine
Posted on 03/03/2014 7:25:48 AM PST by Colonel Kangaroo
Armies are like newspapers. They have become 21st century anachronisms. To survive, they must adapt. For the press, that means accommodating the demands of the Internet. For the United States Army, it means adjusting to a changing security environment. Nostalgia about a hallowed past is a luxury that neither armies nor newspapers can afford to indulge.
So the hand-wringing triggered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagels plan to reduce the Armys size, while predictable, is beside the point. Yes, those cuts would leave the U.S. with its fewest active-duty soldiers since the eve of World War II.
This isnt 1940. Moreover, as an instrument of coercion, that smaller army would be more lethal than the much larger one that helped defeat Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. Given a choice between a few hundred of todays Abrams tanks and a few thousand vintage Shermans, Gen. George Patton would not hesitate to choose the former.
More relevant questions are: Do we need even a few hundred tanks? And for what? In its 2012 report to Congress , the Armys senior leadership described the service as The Nations Force of Decisive Action. In the 2013 version, they guarantee the agility, versatility and depth to Prevent, Shape and Win.
Yet to judge by outcomes, the Army is not a force for decisive action. It cannot be counted on to achieve definitive results in a timely manner. In Afghanistan and Iraq, actions that momentarily appeared to be decisive served as preludes to protracted and inconclusive wars. As for preventing, shaping and winning, this surely qualifies as bluster the equivalent of a newspaper promising advertisers that it will quadruple its print circulation.
Washingtons preoccupation with budgets provides Army leaders and the entire national security establishment an excuse to dodge core questions. The most pressing: What should the nation expect of its armed forces?
After the Cold War and especially after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, expectations of what the U.S. military should be able to accomplish expanded considerably. Defense per se figured as an afterthought, eclipsed by the conviction that projecting power held the key to transforming the world from what it is into what Washington would like it to be: orderly, predictable, respectful of American values and deferential to U.S. prerogatives.
The Global War on Terror put that proposition to the test, with disappointing results. Putting boots on the ground produced casualties and complications, but little by way of peace and harmony. It did nothing to enhance the standing and reputation of the United States. And as a means to engineer positive political change, Americas Army proved sadly wanting. Thats not a knock against our soldiers. They performed admirably, even if the same cannot be said for those who conceived and mismanaged the wars our soldiers were sent to fight.
Americans today are not inclined to indulge this experiment further. With his widely noted preference for drones and Special Operations forces, President Barack Obama has tacitly endorsed the publics view even if his improvised way of war is devoid of any serious strategic rationale.
The principal military lesson of the Global War on Terror affirms what ought to have been the principal military lesson of the Cold War: Force held in readiness has far greater political utility than force expended. Armies are well suited to defending and containing. But invading and occupying countries are fraught with risk.
Its the Bush Doctrine, just inverted: Rather than engaging in preventive war, commit troops only after exhausting every other alternative. As long as that approach pertains may it do so for many decades the projection of U.S. military might will come in the form of bombs and missiles, falling under the purview of naval and air forces.
What role, then, remains for the U.S. Army? The honorable and necessary one of defending this country. For that task, absent the emergence of a major Mexican or Canadian threat, a smaller Army should serve just fine.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He wrote this column for The Washington Post.
“Armies are like newspapers”
Sorry about that, the author should seek some professional help
What an idiot. The “professor” is the sort of person that doesn’t believe in guns but lives in a gated community protected by police with guns.
“...a smaller Army should serve just fine.”...
...keeping US citizens in check and guarding FEMA camp residents under Obama’s martial law.
“In an article of The American Conservative dated March 24, 2008, Bacevich depicts Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama as the best choice for conservatives in the fall. Part of his argument includes the fact that “this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq. Contained within that promise, if fulfilled, lies some modest prospect of a conservative revival....To believe that President John McCain will reduce the scope and intrusiveness of federal authority, cut the imperial presidency down to size, and put the government on a pay-as-you-go basis is to succumb to a great delusion.”
and how did that work out for you, you jackass.
What we lose is the ability to project force. Why do you think Putin is invading Ukraine? He reads the ink coming out of State Whitehouse and Pentagon. With the philosophy enumerated he knows it is cool to unite the old Soviet block. Why not? Why not try? See what the West will do.
One kick and the whole rotten mess falls down.
“Sorry about that, the author should seek some professional help.”
The author hold the title of “Professor” a title that has been thoroughly bastardized, besmirched, and rendered to the clown category by liberal arts departments throughout the country.
My input, for as little as it is worth, is that any army - large or small - must have competent leadership. It must also respect its commander in chief.
This army has no leadership and I can assure you that it loathes, despises, and f*rts in the general direction of your president, oh great “professor”.
At first, I thought the author is seriously challenged with respect to knowledge of just exactly what a real military is and how one needs to be equipped in this day of American ineptness in foreign policy, complete disregard of our borders, and a debilitating drain on our country’s wealth due to entitlements that dwarf our defense budget.
However, I looked him up on the net and see that he’s a USMA grad, a retired Col and a VOCAL critic of Iraq and Afghanistan involvement by America and have to rethink his knowledge.
I see his son was killed in Iraq in 2007. I have to assume that grief has poisoned his logic and reason - and everything he learned or knew before then about the military. In this regard, his credentials don’t matter any more. He’s really nothing more than that Cindy whatshername at this point. My two cents
The author is a former career army officer whose son died serving in Iraq.
To be fair, there wasn’t much of a choice and regarding foreign affairs, the trigger-happy McCain was very dangerous.
Betting he voted for hussein at least twice.
Speaking purely academically, with the explosion in the sophistication and use of drones and other “super weapons” (e.g. AA12, remotely controlled flying cameras, robots, etc.), the army should be able to shrink, if only because the power wielded by each individual participant is greatly increased.
Again, I’m speaking strictly academically, assuming all other factors are equal.
I agree that we wouldn’t be able to project force, but it can be argued that the costs in blood and money far outweigh the unpredictable gains to be had from projecting force. History provides a long list of nations destroyed by endless foreign adventures.
You just need the capability. If you don’t have the capability you can’t negotiate from strength.
Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, Cap Weinberger taught us that.
And he’s still wrong.
The problem is that we generally can’t rely on our political leadership to have the self-control and probity of Reagan. Despite the leftist slander of him being an out of control cowboy, Reagan knew that military power had the most effect when it wasn’t being endlessly depleted, a lesson our last few presidents have failed to absorb.
Bacevich is brilliant. I have met and talked with him. His thoughts should be taken seriously. His thoughts should also be taken in context. Besides being a tremendous warrior and a brilliant thinker, he is also a grieving Father who lost a beloved Son in a poorly run war. Maybe he can keep that from affecting his thoughts in this area. The man I met was human in the very best sense of that word. I was in awe of his mentoring of his Lieutenants. It was very much like a Father teaching his Sons. I have an intense admiration for Bacevich, and I agree with his take on our leaders in the military, but I disagree with him on how we determine the size of the Army.
“... Yet to judge by outcomes, the Army is not a force for decisive action. It cannot be counted on to achieve definitive results in a timely manner. In Afghanistan and Iraq, actions that momentarily appeared to be decisive served as preludes to protracted and inconclusive wars. As for preventing, shaping and winning, this surely qualifies as bluster the equivalent of a newspaper promising advertisers that it will quadruple its print circulation. ...”
IDIOT! Yeah, sure... “the Army is not a force for decisive action” - particularly when the ROE make it impossible for our guys to inflict the sort of punishment that sends the right message ... “
It cannot be counted on to achieve definitive results in a timely manner” particularly when our military is operating under a cowardly back-stabbing CIC - who is in reality an in-your-face Marxist and an a$$-kissing closet Muslim, one who desires to appease the oligarchs whom hold his leash!
This drivel is the typical perversion and omission of facts that is put forth as “enlightened thinking” by the myopic and traitorous liberal maggots who have infected our nation with their terminally putrid pabulum.
I so despise these self-absorbed egg-heads. The majority of these Marxist-inclined “intelligentsia” are educated beyond their intelligence!
Ya, Andy, we’ll just NUKE all forthcoming opposition....we don’t need no stinkin’ Army!
Obama has the DHS to address all of his MILITARY NEEDS....