Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Commander Van Rant-

Well spoken and well argued. I freely yield that the US military comprises a wildly badass team in the classic spirit of the spread-gun from Contra on NES. I celebrate both. I’m not entirely certain how you differ from me other than degree of change we would prefer. I assert that the US should maintain massive dominance in conventional forces while placing much less onus on counter-insurgency. I should have spelled out my rationale further, but it didn’t seem pertinent. In order to understand why we should remain on-track, I think it may be instructive to consider US grand strategy from slightly higher altitude.

What is the mission of the US military? The easy answer is, of course, to defend America from all enemies foreign and domestic. Fair enough, but how does that play out in our present world? Aside from fighting, one of the primary taskings of the military is to project force and deter potential enemies. Our competitor’s strategies should be countered with our own strategies achieved through mutual use of military tactics. It is vital to note that counter-insurgency is a tactic, not a strategy.

Can a counter-insurgency (CI) force deter foes from using insurgent tactics? CI’s theoretical cousin, special operations (SpecOps) forces, have become ‘scary’ in recent years, but how much they deter is a question of great debate. Traditionally, deterrence comes from both conventional forces as well as nuclear arms. Nukes and tanks deter states and their goals while CI and SpecOps are designed to deal with extremely precise, very limited objectives. The more limited the objective, the less deterrence yielded.

The US has only fought three sustained insurgencies: the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Iraq. Compare this to the number of uses of traditional military forces, which I believe numbers over 200 (though most of the instances were very brief, they were, nevertheless, uses of conventional military forces). Is this worth retooling? How many insurgencies do we need to prepare for? If the US, as I think you rightly suggest, has too many conventional forces, why not simply cut spending instead of creating a new branch?

Because creating a CI force is both minimally-effective in theory and because America has such a rare need for them, CI should be viewed as a temporary tasking for the regular military rather than a complete mission for a new fighting force, If the soul of your argument is that the US is misallocating funds that could be better spent on CI, then I would argue that CI is a highly limited and ultimately unfruitful endeavor. Do we really want all the consequences that come from creating an American Foreign Legion?


Gus Van Rant said...

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, and start...oh yeah, I still got it.

"I assert that the US should maintain massive dominance in conventional forces while placing much less onus on counter-insurgency."

I assert that the US should maintain massive dominance by realizing that any potential foes (who are state actors) will combat us asymmetrically, therefore we must change our training and defense spending to reflect this reality. I don't mean to say that I think we should form an American Foreign Legion to get involved all over the world, but I am saying that if we go to war with another state actor this is what we should be prepared for in the next several decades.

I hope my stance is clearer now, because I'm not sure if it is...

MacGyver said...


I can't disagree with you more. Why in the hell should the US military transform itself in the midst of fighting in Iraq, and the continuing probablity of war with Iran or North Korea? How foolhardy are you? I think you're idea in a perfect world wouldn't work, let alone the one we live in now.

Gus Van Rant said...


I could care less whether you agree with me or not. You want to bash my ideas? Well fine, but I don't hear you offering an alternative view. Get a life.