Philip Carter weighs in
Philip Carter manages to meld together the theme of my last two posts — troop levels and the crisis in Sudan. On the first question, Carter has a Slate piece criticizing pretty much everyone inside the Beltway for using fuzzy math on the question of optimal troop levels. The highlights: [A]dding more troops for their ...
Philip Carter manages to meld together the theme of my last two posts -- troop levels and the crisis in Sudan. On the first question, Carter has a Slate piece criticizing pretty much everyone inside the Beltway for using fuzzy math on the question of optimal troop levels. The highlights:
Philip Carter manages to meld together the theme of my last two posts — troop levels and the crisis in Sudan. On the first question, Carter has a Slate piece criticizing pretty much everyone inside the Beltway for using fuzzy math on the question of optimal troop levels. The highlights:
[A]dding more troops for their own sake may not be the right answer, despite the current strains on the military from the Iraq and Afghanistan missions. So far, no one is asking the most fundamental question of all: How many troops does the United States really need? Those who want to make the Army bigger assume that adding more troops will magically solve the military’s overstretch problems, but that’s not necessarily the case. Without an honest assessment of U.S. military requirements, we have no way of knowing how many troops to add (and what kind) or whether drastic measures (like a draft) might be necessary. More important, an honest study of U.S. military requirements may tell us that added manpower is not the answer and that other solutions will buy more bang for our taxpayer buck…. The [current DoD] 1-4-2-1 model also provides very little help in predicting a force size because the range of possible post-9/11 missions is so vast—everything from formal major regional conflicts to small special forces and civil affairs deployments (as in the Philippines) to ongoing peacekeeping (as in the Balkans) to special ops works all over the world. The 1-4-2-1 model still sees military requirements through the prism of state-based warfare. But as the post-9/11 deployments show, that prism may be anachronistic. Tomorrow’s major military deployment might not be for combat at all—it might require the deployment of an expeditionary nation-building force to stave off a humanitarian crisis. A new military planning model ought to take these kinds of missions into account, too. In many of these places, firepower might not be the answer, and the 1-4-2-1 model also fails to predict the other kinds of forces which might be necessary for a given situation. If America decides to intervene somewhere like Sudan, it will need a mix of civil affairs troops, military police, engineers, and medical personnel, not just pure combat forces. Furthermore, military forces alone may not be sufficient; we may need to create units with the Treasury Department capable of managing the economic aspects of nation-building, or within the Department of Justice to manage the legal parts of the job. The 1-4-2-1 model also assumes the mission will end when major combat operations end—something which has proved to be wildly off the mark…. It would be very easy to throw more money at the troop-strength problem by hiring more infantrymen. But doing so won’t fix the deeper structural issues which make today’s military inefficient—like the decades-old decisions to concentrate critical support functions like military police and logistics in the reserves. Nor will throwing more troops at the problem take into account the revolutionary changes in warfare that have taken place just in the past 15 years. We may need more ground troops today to win wars and decisively manage the postwar aftermath, but we may not need more support personnel, sailors, and airmen. The only way to find out is through an intellectually honest assessment of America’s military requirements. This is an assignment the next president—whoever he is—should give his Secretary of Defense immediately.
In a follow-up blog post, Carter ties the debate about troop levels into the case of Sudan. Go check it all out.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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