An alternative to COIN: It’s time to adapt our security strategy to leverage America’s conventional strengths

Bernard I. Finel. Armed Froces Journal International, February 2010.
http://www.afji.com/2010/02/4387134

Excerpt:

A fundamental challenge in devising a strategy for the use of American military power is that the world has literally never seen anything like it. The U.S. today has military capabilities at least equal to the rest of the world combined. There is virtually no spot on the globe that could not be targeted by American forces, and at most a small handful of countries that could thwart a determined U.S. effort at regime change — and some of those only by virtue of their possession of nuclear weapons.

American military capabilities are not a potential form of power, subject to use only following a lengthy mobilizing and requiring a long campaign to achieve significant goals. Instead, the U.S. can destroy fixed locations in a matter of hours or at most days, and implement regime change in a matter of weeks or a few months.

Because this capability is so novel — dating only to the end of the Cold War — American strategists lack a clear framework to guide the utilization of this force. They have sought to match capabilities to conceptions of the use of force from a different era, one in which the Cold War made regime change unpalatable due to the risk of escalation and that tended to make localized setbacks appear as loses in a perceived zero-sum competition with the Soviets.

The reason, in other words, that the U.S. didn’t simply remove Fidel Castro from power was that after 1962, the international consequences seemed too high and the goal too risky. The reason American leaders felt compelled to engage in a lengthy counterinsurgency in Vietnam was the concern that a communist victory would have been a setback in the broader struggle. But imagine a world in which there were few or no international consequences to removing Castro from power, and imagine a world in which the commitment to Vietnam was strictly commensurate to the threat that the Vietnamese communists could pose to the U.S. That is the change in context that has occurred over the past 20 years, and the U.S. has not yet adapted.

Editor’s Comment:

And so many in the U.S. choose to ignore how this dominant military power motivates other nations to seek nuclear weaponry or hold tightly to those they have acquired already!

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