Sunday, January 22, 2006


I was out of pocket for two weeks participating in a military exercise. I had a blast, but now I am back into my normal routine. I received some feedback from Dan at tdaxp (one of my favorite blogs) and I really appreciated it. His comment pointed me in the direction of one of his best post: a very extensive review on Dr. Thomas PM Barnett's Blueprint for Action. Coincidentally, that's one of the books that I am currently reading.

So far, I like Blueprint for Action (BFA) better than Pentagon's New Map (PNM), the first book in the series. Many of the concepts introduced by Dr. Barnett in PNM are developed and fleshed out even further in BFA. I have not finished the book yet (I am currently in the middle of chapter 3), so I am not going to review it (difficult to top Dan at this point). I can tell you that the books has had some resonance among my fellow young military officers and you will start seeing some of the terms described in PNM and BFA (or some variation) by the current generation of service members.

We have seen it. All of us that have spent years overseas have seen the unstoppable train of globalization sweeping through even the most non-integrating of Gap regions. But of course, globalization has a dark side and there is where I tend to concentrate as a military officer. I am a member of the Leviathan service par excellence, the US Air Force and we've had our share of success in "processing politically bankrupt states" since I came in (Milosevic, the Taliban, Saddam), although we can improve our performance in the second half of the game, the so-called peace, or the mostly non-kinetic portion.

Trust me, we in the Air Force do not believe in fair fights, witness the F-22, the B-2 and F-117. These are aircraft that are in a league by themselves, fifth generation fighters and bombers in a world where other countries can't even come up with something to match our "old" aircraft like the F-15, F-16, and my favorites, the A-10 and B-52.

Of course equipment is just a part of why we are so good in the Leviathan role; our training, organization, and doctrine (the human aspects) are just as impressive as our slick fighters and bombers. Oh, and we have an awesome (but often overlooked) SysAdmin component too, exemplified by our airlift forces.

Our Leviathan forces are a product of the two core competencies Dan alludes to: being rich and wanting quick fixes. We have translated these competencies into a force that can win wars quickly. Unfortunately, you can't win the peace quickly.

Case in point, most of our military exercises involve a conventional adversary du jour (it used to be Iraq, now mostly Iran or North Korea) and we deal with this exercise in less than two weeks with overwhelming force. One of the main problems we have in waging peace is that our Leviathan forces are too good at destruction. The peace is all about reconstruction.

We are impatient precisely because we are rich. Rich people are impatient. And they are able and willing to pay extra to get what they want...NOW.

The traditional military-industrial complex is alive and well in America, so don't worry about it. Do we need a new version of this complex to satisfy the needs of the peace? I honestly, don't now. We would certainly be playing to our weaknesses. By the way, the military can absorb long deployments in Gap regions if these operations maintain a low profile. We did it in El Salvador, we are doing it in Colombia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and other parts of the world were we are running low-profile military operations. We were bombing Iraq for years before 2003, sending our pilots into harm's way, and hardly anybody outside of the military ever noticed.

We can do one part really well of the process for politically bankrupt states. We can deposed regimes almost at will. Now, this is not easy. But it plays to our strengths. Just like Michael Jordan made it look like it was easy in the basketball court. There is a lot of work that goes behind making it look easy. As a nation, we are the Michael Jordan, basketball player, of conventional war. But we are the Michael Jordan baseball player, of patiently waging the peace.

The issue of whether we should concentrate on our strengths or weaknesses as a nation is fascinating. Our armed forces certainly have the will and the endurance to do what is asked of them, but the military is a relatively small percentage of the population and the military is controlled by civilians who are influenced by a number of political factors that don't necessarily match with the tactical ground truth.

The media usually reports the "easy" stories, Iraq right now, is an "easy" story to report. Not easy to cover, as evidenced by the many journalists that have been killed or kidnapped in Iraq, but easy to report. There's a difference. Low-profile ops are not easy to cover or report, and they are less polarizing.

It would be interesting to see how we develop our peace-waging capabilities in the next decade. It would be mostly an Army and Marines show with the Air Force and Navy in supporting roles. More to come...

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