Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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US Armed Forces

By Raoul Sherrard

Recently an American military video has been leaked on the website Wiki leaks. The event may be deeply damaging to public opinion and can even have ramifications for national security and the armed forces, even if it does not lead to further investigation by American authorities. It highlights important issues in public opinion, freedom of information in conflict and the complexities of the internet in attempts to control information.

The video shows a US apache gunship engaging an indiscriminate group of potential combatants through the lens of its targeting system almost a kilometre away. As they circle they call in their command and are given permission to engage. The "hostiles" are quickly dispatched with several bursts from its cannon. As one man survives and crawls away the crew urge him to pick up a weapon to allow them to open fire. A van stops and several other unidentified individuals try to carry him away. The gun operator clamours to stop them before they get away as they wait for permission. He is given the all clear they and they duly dispatch them.

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A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans see the U.S. as the world's top military power now but doubt whether this will be true in 20 years. Only about a third of Americans believe the U.S. will still be ranked first militarily in 2029.

Americans are intuitively smart, and they have taken note of a disturbing trend occurring outside the headlines: investment in military modernization is declining during a time of rapid military build-ups abroad. They are right to be concerned.

In recent months, Heritage has drawn attention to several areas where the U.S. Armed Forces are at risk of losing vital capabilities the nation has enjoyed for the last half-century. Continued cuts in future defence investments proposed in President Obama's 2010 and now 2011 budgets are putting long-held U.S. military advantages in jeopardy. These cuts are coming at a time when the U.S. military is already experiencing shrinking margins of technological superiority relative to the rest of the world.

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James Wood Forsyth Jr. and B. Chance Saltzman

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dominate security discourse. With thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars spent, few issues merit more attention. Yet it is worthwhile to remember that these wars, like all wars, will end. And when they do, policy makers will come to terms with a harsh, albeit forgotten, reality: The ruling of distant peoples, as George Kennan so aptly put it, is not "our dish." TheUnited States should steer clear of "an acceptance of any sort of paternalistic responsibility to anyone be it in the form of military occupation, if we can possibly avoid it, or for any period longer than is absolutely necessary." Simply put, intervention might have been our fate, but it should not be our policy.

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by Mackenzie Eaglen

In order to identify the required capabilities for the Army, classic elements of force planning first demand that leaders determine model assumptions including objectives; identify where the U.S. is committed by treaty or interest; evaluate likelihood, intensity, and length of contingencies including surge capabilities; understand potential enemy capabilities; update force constraints including mobilization rates and readiness levels; and know allied capabilities for friend and foe. From there, leaders may then characterize near- and long-term risk by phase of operations and the type of mission.

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by Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.

I've been asked to start off the discussion by commenting on what kinds of current and future threats our nation faces and to discuss how our understanding of them can best inform your task of transforming the United States Army. There are many things the Army will need to do to:

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By DavidHoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Recently, the New York Times, concurrently with its International Herald Tribune arm, has been running a series of articles offering an insight into the increasing front-line presence of women in the US Army. Here at the UK Defence Forum, we'vealso taken an avid interest in helping to promote the valuablecontribution made by women on today's battlefields, from the dust and heat ofAfghanistan andIraq to the important job of keeping up the pressure to excelin the corridors of power . Then there's the forthcomingMOD review into the role of women inBritain's armed forces, prompted partly by the demands of EU equality policy. Is it fair to assume that the times may finally be a'changin'? Perhaps so.

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by Mackenzie Eaglen

In today's rapidly evolving threat environment, America's ability to secure its vital national security interests will continue to rely upon a superior military. This includes the U.S. Air Force's ability to sustain a world-class fighter fleet--in both quality and quantity--characterized by unrivaled firepower and unmatched global mobility. The Air Force has served as a joint enabler in current operations and provided the underpinning of American national defense since the end of World War II. In addition to delivering immense payloads, the United States Air Force is the fastest transporter and facilitator of military power in the world. In addition to its ability to move military hardware and people around the globe and secure access to space and cyberspace, the Air Force maintains a unique capacity for joint warfighting.

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Since 2001, Congress has provided the Department of Defense (DOD) with about $808 billion in supplemental and annual appropriations, as of September 2008, primarily for military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). DOD's reported annual obligations for GWOT have shown a steady increase from about $0.2 billion in fiscal year 2001 to about $162.4 billion in fiscal year 2008. The United States' commitments to GWOT will likely involve the continued investment of significant resources, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces an increasing fiscal challenge. The magnitude of future costs will depend on several direct and indirect cost variables and, in some cases, decisions that have not yet been made. DOD's future costs will likely be affected by the pace and duration of operations, the types of facilities needed to support troops overseas, redeployment plans, and the amount of equipment to be repaired or replaced

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By George Friedman

Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn't taken place.

It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means.

But while the military's top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America's global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable.

A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals. He must calculate not only whether victory is possible but also the value of the victory relative to the cost. Given the nature of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus first the U.S. Central Command chief and now the top commander in Afghanistan had to view it differently. This is unavoidable. This is natural. And only one of the two is ultimately in charge.

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