Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pentagon Weighs Traditional Two-War Strategy

The Pentagon's most senior planners are challenging the long-standing strategy that requires the armed forces to be prepared to fight two major wars at a time. Instead, they are weighing whether to shape the military to mount one conventional campaign while devoting more resources to domestic security and antiterrorism efforts. Consideration of these profound changes is at the center of a top-to-bottom review of Pentagon strategy, ordered by Congress every four years, and will determine the size of the military and the fate of hundreds of billions of dollars in new weapons. The intense debate reflects a growing recognition that the burden of maintaining forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other demands of the global campaign against terrorism, may force a change in the assumptions that have been the foundation of all military planning. The concern that the concentration of troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan was limiting the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts was underscored by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a classified risk assessment to Congress this spring. But the review underway now is the first by the Pentagon in decades to seriously question the wisdom of the two-war strategy. An official designation of a counterterrorism role and a shift to a strategy that focuses on domestic security would have a huge impact on the size and composition of the military.
Strategies that the military be prepared for two wars argue for more high-technology weapons. An emphasis on one war and counterterrorism would require lighter, more agile forces -- perhaps fewer troops, but more Special Operations -- and a range of other needs, such as intelligence and language specialists. In effect, the unusual mission in Iraq, which could last for years, has not just taken the slot for one of the two wars; it has upended the central two-war model. It is neither major conventional combat nor a mere peacekeeping operation.