Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

What if the military refuses the mission?

What would happen if the president of the U.S. could not trust the Army to carry out a mission?

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By H. Richard Clark
Best Defense guest columnist

What would happen if the president of the U.S. could not trust the Army to carry out a mission? Firstly, it would affect his Grand Strategy. A Grand Strategy has two main branches; diplomacy and the military, without one the other is diminished. The two branches form a symbiotic relationship, a nation’s ability to control events are eviscerated without the two forces working together.

 

By H. Richard Clark
Best Defense guest columnist

What would happen if the president of the U.S. could not trust the Army to carry out a mission? Firstly, it would affect his Grand Strategy. A Grand Strategy has two main branches; diplomacy and the military, without one the other is diminished. The two branches form a symbiotic relationship, a nation’s ability to control events are eviscerated without the two forces working together.

Is there an insurgent anywhere who doesn’t believe his cause can overcome the might of the United States Army? The POTUS may believe the same thing. What are his options? Only one — Grand Strategy with only diplomacy to achieve his goals. Is it possible that the treaty with Iran was made under this restraint?

Secondly, of course, are the tactics available for POTUS to use to affect our strategy. The U.S. Army has a poor history dealing with insurgencies; e.g., Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, the Army inflamed insurgencies by their humiliating tactics. And while they may now follow a more updated insurgency theory, the damage has been done.

As a corollary to the problem — and possibly more destructive — is when the President has blind trust in our Armed Forces when not warranted.  Such an eventuality may have happened when we invaded Iraq. I doubt POTUS-43 had a concept of how undisciplined some of the Army’s units would prove to be. The war was over long before the dying was.

Richard Clark served in the Marine Corps from 1956 to 1960.  

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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. Twitter: @tomricks1

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