After the Vietnam War, the U.S. military was convinced that a renewed focus on warfighting was vital for its revival. The military's leaders knew they might be ordered to do other things such as peacekeeping and counterinsurgency, but concluded that skilled warfighters could naturally handle these other jobs. There was little need for specialized organizations or technology for operations other than war. Large-scale warfighting became the coin of the realm, defining the U.S. military's spending, training and promotion priorities.
However appealing, this idea was always on shaky ground, since it assumed that ineffectiveness in military activities other than large-scale war was acceptable. When the chances of engaging in conventional warfighting were significant, the United States could reasonably tolerate shortcomings in stability operations, including peacekeeping and counterinsurgency. As the likelihood of a large-scale conventional war declined, however, this made less and less sense. Subsequent peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that people and organizations optimized for conventional combat could eventually adapt to stabilization activities, but also that it took time. This had strategic costs, most visibly in Iraq, where the “golden moment” when a major effort might have prevented the spread of insurgency slipped away while the U.S. military reorganized and adjusted. ...
To read the rest, sign up to try World Politics Review
Sign up for two weeks of free access with your credit card. Cancel any time during the free trial and you will be charged nothing.
Request a free trial for your office or school. Everyone at a given site can get access through our institutional subscriptions.
- Strategic Horizons: Staffing the Future U.S. Military Will Require Thinking Outside the Box
- World Citizen: Venezuela Sanctions Undo Gains of U.S. Policy of Restraint
- The Realist Prism: For Iran Nuclear Deal, All Scenarios Amount to Leap of Faith
- Like It or Not, U.S. Needs Iran to Stabilize the Middle East
- To Secure FARC Deal, Colombia’s Santos Must Face Down Uribe