General Petraeus wisely said once, "Tell me how this ends." It is a very wise and poignant question that we could talk about for days. But, I am going to focus upon what comes after how the Wars end.
The Korean War ended July 27th, 1953. Much has been written about the issues and challenges the the United States Army found itself in, with the beginning of that war. The Pusan Perimeter, Task Force Smith, etc, etc, etc. I think how it ended though was even more important. For that matter how many of our wars ended.
Lets take a quick spin back to the turn of the century. The Spanish American War had ended and we were engaged in a counter-insurgency fight in the Philippines. As that ended in the Philippines and our young field and company grade officers returned to Fort Leavenworth for school, they were greatly dismayed that only conventional military theory was being taught. The great prevailing feeling was that this was a thing of the past and counter-insurgency was the wave of the future. Unfortunately as we all know, barring General Pershing in Mexico, the next conflict that we would be engaged in was World War One.
World War One came upon Europe, and the United States entered the War a couple of years later. As the War ended, the United States drastically down-sized it's military forces and regulated much of them to duty in the Philippines and the Reserves. The prevailing feeling was that a large scale conventional war was not overshadowing us, and was not to be worried about. Truth be told, right up until Pearl Harbor there were isolationists in the the United States decrying our involvement in World War Two.
But Pearl Harbor brought us into the War, and we fought and won it. At the end of it, we again began huge down-sizing. Wars of the future would not be fought like that ever again. They would rely upon air power, the nuclear bomb, and a large Navy. The disciples of Billy Mitchell and Duhet were in their personal Nirvana with this. Unfortunately Korea erupted and now we found ourselves in a war where ground power was needed and this strategic bombing capability really did not mean much.
Korea ended and we began gearing up to face the Soviets. We concentrated on Nuclear Deterrence, Strategic Bombing, and large scale conventional battle. Vietnam then happened, and we found ourselves embroiled within a counter-insurgency fight and a conventional fight. I could continue these trends until present-day, but I hope you are beginning to see them.
Whether it was in favor of all conventional, or all un-conventional, putting all of your eggs in one basket is a bad thing. We do not have crystal balls in front of us, like the old gypsy women in the movies. A perfect vision of the future is impossible to obtain. Military forces must be structured to meet any threat that may emerge.
For example, in 1999, how many Americans would have guessed that we would be embroiled in a War that spans all over the Globe, and especially in Afghanistan and Iraq? My guess would be less than 1% had a general idea. Now we just accept this as a fact.
If I asked that same question, but changed it to: How many of you believe we will be involved in a Cold-War or even a hostile war with another rising hegemon or regional hegemon in the next decade? I would bet that again only about 1% would answer yes. To be honest I don't know what the answer is, and I doubt anyone could give a perfect answer with absolute clarity.
That is why a Nation's Military Forces must be structured to meet any and all of it's National Security Objectives. Whether that be small scale contingencies, humanitarian assistance, or large scale conventional wars. To do anything else, and structure a military to only fight part of the possible threats is just short-sighted.
God Bless America
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