Posts Tagged ‘Intervention’

COIN’s siren song

W. Patrick Lang. Sic Semper Tyrannis, 11 July 2009.

The Irresistible Illusion

Rory Stewart. The London Review of Books, 09 July 2009.

The Pentagon’s Wasting Assets: The Eroding Foundations of American Power

Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., Foreign Affairs, July/August 2009.


Andrew Krepinevich (“The Pentagon’s Wasting Assets,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2009) writes that “the military foundations of the United States’ global dominance are eroding,” compromising the nation’s “unmatched ability to project power worldwide.” He would have us believe that unless reversed, this trend will produce dire consequences.

The problem with Krepinevich’s argument lies in its assumptions that “global dominance” is possible and that global power projection by the United States offers the most effective way of ensuring international peace and stability. Recent events call both assumptions into question.

Krepinevich claims that U.S. dominance, expressed through the projection of hard power, has produced a “long record of military successes.” Yet this contention is difficult to sustain given episodes such as those experienced by the U.S. military in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq (both in 1991 and since 2003) — not to mention the devastation of 9/11. It would be more accurate to say that force — even when wielded by the seemingly strong against the nominally weak — continues to be an exceedingly uncertain instrument. The United States’ penchant for projecting power has created as many problems as it has solved. Genuinely decisive outcomes remain rare, costs often far exceed expectations, and unintended and unwelcome consequences are legion.

A decade ago, some argued that the key to achieving permanent dominance could be found in “transformation,” a radical reconfiguration of the U.S. military meant to exploit the potential of advanced information technology. Krepinevich writes, disapprovingly, that this proposed new American way of war “faced stiff resistance” from dissidents within the military and that “the price for such willful ignorance can be steep.” Actually, it was the price of taking the bogus promises of transformation seriously that proved steep, as the debacle in Iraq amply demonstrated. These days, with transformation retaining about as much credibility as “unregulated markets,” the skeptics have come off looking a lot better than the proponents.

In fact, the pursuit of military dominance is an illusion, the principal effect of which is to distort strategic judgment by persuading policymakers that they have at hand the means to make short work of history’s complexities. Krepinevich argues that there is “a compelling need to develop new ways of creating military advantage.” As much as I respect his general acumen, however, on this point he is fundamentally wrong. The real need is to wean the United States from its infatuation with military power and come to a more modest appreciation of what force can and cannot do.

~ Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and History, Boston University

War Report: documents and articles about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Archives of 14,000 documents and articles on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan compiled by the Project on Defense Alternatives. This site was begun in 2002 and has been archived as of 31 March 2009. Subsequent articles and documents on Afghanistan and Iraq are included in the Defense Strategy Review page.

Afghanistan Index by topic (2002-April 2009) —

Iraq Index by topic (2002-April 2009) —

Oil and U.S. National Security in the Persian Gulf: An “Over-the-Horizon” Strategy

Eugene Gholz and Daryl G. Press. presented at America and the World, a Tobin Project Conference at Airlie, 14-16 November 2008. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.


… an “over-the-horizon” approach would protect vital US oil interests without incurring the serious costs of the current strategy. It would counter the traditional military threats to Gulf oil interests as effectively as the current strategy, and it would do a better job mitigating the more serious future threats in the Gulf: terrorism against oil infrastructure and domestic instability within oil-producing countries. Furthermore, an over-the-horizon approach would bring US policy in line with American values.

A Grand Strategy of Restraint and Renewal

Barry R. Posen. testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, 15 July 2008.


The United States is a powerful country. Nevertheless, it is not as powerful as the foreign policy establishment believes. Political, military, and economic costs are mounting from U.S. actions abroad. At the same time, the U.S. has paid too little attention to problems at home. Over the last decade Americans became accustomed to a
standard of living that could only be financed on borrowed money. U.S. foreign policy elites have become accustomed to an activist grand strategy that they have increasingly funded on borrowed money as well. The days of easy money are over. During these years, the U.S. failed to make critical investments in infrastructure and human capital. The U.S. is destined for a period of belt tightening; it must raise taxes and cut spending. The quantities involved seem so massive that it is difficult to see how DOD can escape being at least one of the bill payers. We should seize this opportunity to re-conceptualize U.S. grand strategy from top to bottom.

The Cost of Empire

Jonathan Taplin. University of Southern California, 20 March 2008.

Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq

Fabius Maximus, 04 March 2008.


Five years after the invasion most Americans do not understand why we are there, which Stratfor clearly saw even before the first airstrikes. We planned to occupy Iraq and build bases from which to project power throughout the Middle East.