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Nuestra finalidad es promover el conocimiento y el debate de temas vinculados con el arte y la ciencia militar. La elección de los artículos busca reflejar todas las opiniones. Al margen de su atribución ideológica. A los efectos de promover el pensamiento crítico de los lectores.

Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

viernes, 7 de diciembre de 2012

El dilema estratégico de los EE.UU.

Las fuerzas militares de los EE.UU., de hecho una de las más avanzadas del mundo, enfrentan un dilema. Volver al viejo molde de una nueva Guerra Fría, esta vez contra China o mantener y mejorar sus capacidades para enfrentar amenazas asimétricas. La primera opción es cara, poco probable de ser usada y cómoda. La segunda, es incómoda, no tan cara y mucho más probable de ser usada.

Strategic Horizons: U.S. Military Must Transcend Warfighting Mindset

By Steven Metz, on 05 Dec 2012, Column

After the Vietnam War, the U.S. military was convinced that a renewed focus on warfighting was vital for its revival. The military's leaders knew they might be ordered to do other things such as peacekeeping and counterinsurgency, but concluded that skilled warfighters could naturally handle these other jobs. There was little need for specialized organizations or technology for operations other than war. Large-scale warfighting became the coin of the realm, defining the U.S. military's spending, training and promotion priorities.

However appealing, this idea was always on shaky ground, since it assumed that ineffectiveness in military activities other than large-scale war was acceptable. When the chances of engaging in conventional warfighting were significant, the United States could reasonably tolerate shortcomings in stability operations, including peacekeeping and counterinsurgency. As the likelihood of a large-scale conventional war declined, however, this made less and less sense. Subsequent peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that people and organizations optimized for conventional combat could eventually adapt to stabilization activities, but also that it took time. This had strategic costs, most visibly in Iraq, where the “golden moment” when a major effort might have prevented the spread of insurgency slipped away while the U.S. military reorganized and adjusted.

The peculiar thing is that the United States understood this. A 2005 Department of Defense directive (.pdf), for instance, stated that, "It is Department of Defense policy that stability operations are a core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be prepared to conduct and support. They shall be given priority comparable to combat operations and be explicitly addressed and integrated across all Department of Defense activities including doctrine, organizations, training, education, exercises, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and planning."

At the peak of the U.S. military’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense began following its own guidance, at least to a degree. But as large-scale involvement in those conflicts winds down, the military seems determined to turn back the clock and revive the warfighting mindset. This despite the fact that, today, even the most creative minds in the Department of Defense are hard-pressed to concoct a realistic scenario where the United States military would have to repel a large-scale conventional attack on a friendly state. To justify the warfighting mindset when the likelihood of conventional war is so low requires creativity verging on mental gymnastics.

Part of this renewed emphasis on warfighting is due to the assumption that, in the future, the United States will simply resist becoming involved in stabilization operations. This is akin to efforts to address America's drug problem by urging people to "just say no." It is a nice slogan, but one that ignores the ripple effects of internal conflicts in an interconnected global economy. Protracted violence is the equivalent of a tax on everyone, generating terrorism, destabilizing refugee flows, criminal networks and economic problems that constrain recovery and growth.

Advocates of the warfighting mindset also make their case by concentrating on one narrow aspect of it, what the military calls anti-access/area denial, as hostile states and nonstate enemies develop new, sophisticated capabilities to keep American forces from reaching conflict zones. The Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, the organization responsible for analyzing emerging security problems and the nature of future conflict, has been pushing the threat represented by anti-access/area denial strategies since the 1990s. Last year the Department of Defense signaled its concern with the release of a new Joint Operational Access Concept (.pdf) designed to counter them.

The anti-access/area denial challenge is real and important, but giving it top priority for military spending and concept development is misguided. It means focusing more on gaining access to the theater of operations than on what will happen once the military gets there. Stability operations, which are precisely what the military is most likely to do once gaining access to the most likely future conflict zones, are now treading water when it comes to institutional priorities. Little effort or money is being devoted to transformative concepts, organizations or technologies useful for stabilization. The assumption seems to be that the military will again figure it out on the fly, or else that other government agencies, partner nations and nongovernmental organizations will make up for any capability shortfalls.

There is no basis for such an assumption. Today the United States is no closer to having a robust civilian capability for complex stabilization operations than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks. And the ability of other nations to do this is declining precipitously. Major American allies like the NATO states are unlikely to be able to muster even an Afghanistan-level capability in the future. This means that the United States is sub-optimized for the most likely type of security threat that it will face, and the U.S. military is focusing its resources on an enabling capability -- overcoming anti-access/area denial systems -- rather than on what it will take to be successful once it gains access to the conflict zone.

If this continues, the United States will have only two options. One is to simply hope that there will be no future Somalias in important parts of the global economy, and that conflicts like Libya and Syria will eventually burn out with limited damage. The other is to adapt or innovate on the fly when forced into complex stabilization operations, accepting the costs in blood and treasure that come from a lack of preparation, while hoping that things turn out better than they did in Afghanistan.

Both options are potentially disastrous. A wiser approach would be for the U.S. military to resist this latest revival of the warfighter mindset and focus on developing the capabilities it will need in the 21st-century security environment. The U.S. military will in all likelihood intensely oppose efforts to prod it loose of the warfighter mindset that served it so well in the Cold War. But the longer the transition is postponed, the more difficult and dangerous it will be.

Steven Metz is a defense analyst and the author of "Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy." His weekly WPR column, Strategic Horizons, appears every Wednesday. 

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