Best Defense

Is ‘military effectiveness’ the only reason we have a military? And if we do have an effective force, why aren’t we winning?

When I read the first assertion, about the reason for having a military, made in the July issue of ARMY magazine, I paused and wondered.

(FORT BENNING) Yellow smoke fills the air at the Digital Multi-Purpose Range Complex May 14-15, 2015 during a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise. The smoke is a signal to follow on forces that the line is clear. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)
(FORT BENNING) Yellow smoke fills the air at the Digital Multi-Purpose Range Complex May 14-15, 2015 during a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise. The smoke is a signal to follow on forces that the line is clear. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright/U.S. Army)

When I read the first assertion, about the reason for having a military, made in the July issue of ARMY magazine, I paused and wondered.

The trust of the American people, writes retired Army Col. Don Snider, “must be constantly re-earned. This is done primarily by the profession’s demonstrated military effectiveness, the sole reason for its existence in the first place.” (My emphasis)

Effectiveness might be the leading, most important reason we have a military, but I doubt it is the sole reason. But I am hard put to list the others….

As for the second assertion: Gen. McChrystal argues in his new book Team of Teams that a military is only as effective as its ability to influence its environment. By that measure, I don’t think we are getting a lot of effectiveness for the buck.

U.S. Department of Defense

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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