Small Wars Journal

Landpower: The Future and Our All Volunteer Army

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 4:53pm

Landpower: The Future and Our All Volunteer Army

As we look to the future we can wonder:

  • What will become of our all-volunteer Army?
  • Is our shrinking Army losing power in the world?
  • How much military power will be available t future Presidents?
  • How do we gain stability in traditionally unstable regions of the world?

From Black Boots to Desert Boots: The All-Volunteer Army Experiment Continues by Dr. Lenny Wong

This essay surveys the evolution of the All-Volunteer Army during five distinct time periods:   1973-1980, 1980-1991, 1991-2001, 2001-2014, and 2014-future.  This is an excellent review of the key events and issues that have shaped the development of today’s Army and looks to the future as our Army is once again facing an uncertain future environment.

How the Iraq War Crippled U.S. Military Power by Nate Freier

Welcome to the future. The United States is now reaping by the bushel what it painfully sowed in Iraq. Further, the kind of war Iraq became — a grinding and costly counterinsurgency, or COIN — not only resulted in rejection of future U.S. involvement in wars like it, but also in near-rejection of the necessity for robust ground forces in general. Air and sea forces weren’t immune to harm either.

Just Enough’ Military Could Limit Future Presidents’ Options by Dr. Steven Metz

Decisions being made today, then, are driving toward a U.S. military adept at short operations and standoff strikes but little else. The assumption seems to be that future presidents will only use the American armed forces that way. History suggests otherwise. The next decade’s presidents will have fewer strategic options than their forebears. The challenge will be convincing them to downgrade their strategic ambitions to reflect military limitations.

From War to Deterrence? Israel-Hezbollah Conflict Since 2006 by Dr. Jean-Loup Samaan

Over the last 7 years, the border between Israel and Lebanon has remained quiet. Against all odds, in a Middle East experiencing tremendous challenges, Israel and Hezbollah did not trigger a new conflict. To understand this paradox, the monograph explores the mechanisms of deterrence in the competition between both actors. Based on original materials, the author underlines the recent doctrinal innovations on both sides that engendered strategic stability in the area and ventures thoughts on potential evolutions in the near future.

We hope you will enjoy these insightful and thoughtful works and we always look forward to your feedback through comments to this blog, Landpower, or to me.



Bill C.

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 2:31pm

In reply to by SteveR


As Iraq and Afghanistan have shown us, we certainly have the capability -- with relative ease -- to "overthrow" or to "change" a hostile regime.

But that, by far, is not the issue.

Rather what is the staring-us-in-the-face issue are the requirements and responsibilities that follow regime change/overthrow.

And here your examples of Japan and Germany are most instructive.


a. Given the, potentially, open-ended and massively expensive (in time, money, blood, political capital and other treasure) responsibilities and requirements which follow regime change/overthrow, one must, for intelligent reasons,

b. Resort to such action only in the most necessary, compelling and/or favorable conditions.

So: What was is it that caused the United States, re: Iraq and Afghanistan (and, indeed, Syria, Libya, Egypt, etc.) to believe that a "new era" had dawned; one in which the United States might (a) facilitate regime change but (b) avoid the follow-on dangers, costs and responsibilities associated with same?

This was the post-Cold War idea that everyone in the world wanted to be like us and that, accordingly, one need only (1) liberate the population from the oppressive regime in order to see the population (2) achieve -- quickly, easily and mostly on their own -- (3) a transition to a western way of life and a western way of governance.

As Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Egypt have shown us, however, this was -- and is -- total BS. Everyone, it appears, does not want to be like us.

Learning from these mistakes, we have reverted to our old way of thinking, which tells us that intervention to achieve regime change/overthrow is to be avoided at all cost, as such actions are as likely -- or more likely -- to produce adverse results, such as:

a. The division or disintegration of the subject state and its societies.

b. The state and its society allying themselves with our opponents (example: with Iran).

c. The state and society remaining cohesive; but only by adopting ways of life and ways of governance that are even more detrimental to US interests (example: by adopting an Islamist orientation).

Thus, regime change/overthrow -- as in days past -- has returned to being understood as the option of last resort; one which should be considered only in the most compelling circumstances. (No such compelling circumstances presenting themselves to us today.)

To sum up: Post-the Cold War, a "new era" had not, as we originally thought, dawned. Accordingly, we understand now that we must consider regime change/overthrow as we did in the past, to wit: within the context of -- not liberation and positive change -- but, instead, adverse results, exorbitant/unsustainable costs and grave mistake/error.

Our foreign policy and our armed forces?

To be configured somewhat more along our old Cold War lines; which accepted the idea that not everyone wanted to be like us.

One can only imagine an Army Staff officer advising General Marshall in December 1941 that the US Armed Forces did not require the capability to "overthrow" 1) the Japanese Empire that had just attacked Pearl Harbor and our bases in the Philippines or 2) the Third Reich that had just declared war on the United States. Is this the new "politically correct" view of strategic requirements - to plan to always compel or coerce or work some accommodation with America's enemies? Sometimes the United States must change a hostile regime to produce a positive outcome, as we did rather successfully with both Germany and Japan.

Consider Dr. Steven Metz's "Just Enough Military Could Limit Future President's Options" and the following quote from the excerpt provided above:

"The next decade’s presidents will have fewer strategic options than their forebears."

Might we look at this in a somewhat different way. For example:

The next decade's presidents will have LESS NEED for a wide range of strategic options.

Why is this?

Because what the United States/the western world has now learned -- via such recent conflicts as those of Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Libya -- is that attempts to achieve our political objective (the transformation of outlying states and societies along modern western lines), via regime change, are as likely, or more likely, to result in states and societies that show the clear potential to:

a. Disintegrate, dissolve, divide or otherwise descend into chaos. And/or

b. Remain cohesive, but do so by adopting ways of life and ways of governance which are even more detrimental to US interests (for example: by adopting an Islamist orientation).

Thus, for intelligent reasons (regime change is likely to do more harm than good) we have determined that this option should be taken almost entirely off the table; to be considered only in the most dire circumstances.

Q: So: In what strategic context do we view "short-term operations" and "standoff strikes?"

A: As efforts made to convince, coerce and/or compel EXISTING rulers and/or regimes. (Not overthrow them.)