The core responsibility of the Department of Defense is to ensure that there is well sustained security and homeland defense in the United States of America. Besides, the department is also charged with the task of overseeing international security issues that may equally pose potential threat to the United States and its citizens (NDS, 2008).
As a result, the unparalleled conventional military wing capability is always prepared to counteract any possible attack on the U.S interests both at home and abroad. This has compelled both perceived and real enemies to restructure and find the right balance in the art and science of warfare in order to be resilient enough against United States’ grand strategy on security plan.
Additionally, the U.S government in collaboration with its military leadership has quite often endeavored to shape the country’s military capabilities to be stable enough in readiness to fight and win attacks launched by the emerging 21st century enemies.
On the other hand, while the U.S. military forces continue to fight insurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, the same insurgents and other rival nations are integrating modern technology with ancient techniques such as mutiny and terrorism aimed at achieving egocentric political goals. It is imperative to note that countering terrorism requires appropriate strategies as well as preparedness for war at any given time.
However, past war events have left trails of defeats and uncertainties due to myriad of factors that should act as lessons in guiding military and political leaders to redirect and reexamine their actions. This essay offers a succinct analysis of some of the prudent lessons that the United States military and political leaders need to learn on past conflicts.
Today, the United States government has put in place myriad of strategies aimed at curbing rising rates of revolts and insurgencies. It makes use of its intelligence wing to gather credible information on the strengths and weaknesses of terrorists alongside other forms of enemies.
According to General Petraues (2006), one of the key elements of effectively tackling insurgencies is obtaining precise and exact intelligence. Accurate, actionable and timely intelligence reports regarding revolts, planned acts of terror as well as other related security threats have been revealed to the U.S key decision makers and military leaders.
Both internal and external capabilities of all threats to security have been identified by intelligence department. They have used intelligence information gathered to establish grand strategies. However, in order to avoid biasness and mishaps that leaders in the past committed, it is crucial for decision makers to come up with sound judgments before engaging in any form of war so that past blunders can be corrected once and for all.
Past conflicts have witnessed U.S. military forces being committed to war with little regard of other important factors. Hence, it is highly recommended that decision makers on homeland and foreign security of U.S interests ought to read, understand and follow the Weinberger Doctrine. This doctrine lays out integral parameters that must be met prior to committing the U.S. military forces to war.
The Weinberger Doctrine parameters clearly points out that before any act of war, a determining factor such as vital interests of the United States or of one or more of its allies being at stake should be established (Handel, 2001). Additionally, sufficient force should be applied to reflect unequivocally the intention of winning.
Moreover, the Weinberger Doctrine highlights the principles of objective and simplicity by emphasizing that political and military goals must be clearly defined and continuously reassessed to keep cause and response in synchronization.
Most importantly, before troops are committed to war, there must be a reasonable assurance of support from the American public. Finally, undertaking of a combat role should be done when there are no alternatives and as last resort (Handel, 2001).
Clear and well defined objectives depend on accurate knowledge of an enemy’s anatomy and physiology. The success of the grand strategy depends on accurateness and timely intelligence information shared by every participating organization. The lessons learned from the Vietnam War clearly emphasized the importance of having sterling intelligence gathering capabilities in order to shape the U.S. grand strategy.
Apparently, the United States decision makers did not have vivid information on the Viet Cong’s strengths and weaknesses. In turn, it led to vague political objectives. The United States Armed Forces employed superior air power attacks against Viet Cong and achieved swift military victory. This decisive military victory did not kill the determination of the Viet Cong to fight with the Americans.
Instead, Viet Cong’s army employed the art and science of guerilla warfare against the U.S. military forces. The U.S. decision makers and military leaders continued in ignorance to deliver fly-by responses to counter the Viet Cong attack. The end result was that the number of U.S. casualties started to pile up.
The aftermath of Vietnam War has been used as a lesson to the United States decision makers and military leaders about the need for balance mechanism before engaging in any war. During conflicts and times of war, the concept of Clausewitz trinity emphasized that it is crucial for the government, military and the general public to exercise proper balance (Handel, 2001).
It is instructive to note that the United States lost the Vietnam War since its government lost the battle back home. If the United States government intends to succeed in fighting wars abroad, it must first win the battle at home (Gray, 2005). Professor Zimmermann (2011) argues that both senior military and political leaders must be adept and flexible enough in forming winning strategies before going to war.
Furthermore, they must be well acquainted with comprehensive knowledge on the art and science of war and how it is supposed to be balanced. Finally, he points out that knowing the enemies’ strategies, societal and cultural weak points as well as their mindset is key to victory (Zimmermann, 2011).
The U.S. decision makers and military leaders must deliver clear and achievable objectives. The leadership must incorporate some exit strategy and well-defined end-states when establishing war plans to avoid mistakes made through fly-by responses.
The Vietnam War planners violated key doctrines related to the 12 Principles of the Joint Operations which includes the principles of objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command or effort, security, surprise, simplicity, restraint, perseverance, and legitimacy (JP 3-0, 2008). As Handel (2001) observes, one of the ways of achieving political goals is through military victory (Handel, 2001).
According to President Bush, military wars are not intended to bring stability or linger for long, but they are meant to be swift with winning purpose (Gordon & Trainor, 2006). Additionally, he wanted the force level to be smaller and faster in contrast to the First Gulf War plan (Gordon & Trainor, 2006). The Operation Enduring Freedom and the Operation Iraqi Freedom was oriented to military strategy.
Again, with all the show and effort, swift military victories were achieved but the wars failed to attain the much needed peace and tranquility. Lack of intelligence-gathering capabilities on the part of United States caught its leadership off-guard. The disgruntled Iraqis joined the al-Qaeda movement and utilized insurgency warfare to kill Americans.
At this point, it is imperative to note that the U.S military forces and her Allies have not been fit enough to fight insurgency warfare largely due to the fact that the US leadership including military leaders have forgotten lessons learned from the Vietnam War. The high-frequency U.S military forces are also not well prepared to fight insurgency.
It is vital to reiterate that the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 restructured the U.S. military forces. As such, the United States Armed Forces is known as the Joint Forces, which should be very able to fight against the 21st century enemies and win with ease. Importantly, the U.S. Army undertook modularization that integrated it right into the principle of the economy of force (Metz, 2007).
As such, the Joint Special Operation Forces (JSOF) has continued to shape its team towards leaner-and-combat ready forces.
The JSOF have become essential capabilities for the U.S. Department of Defense through good communication, speed, precision weapons, and accurate and timely Intelligence report afforded at the Sea, Air, and Land. It is through the aforementioned essential capabilities that SEAL team 6 got the opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden instantaneously.
Today, the Joint Special Forces are currently deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the globe executing a range of military operations such as law enforcement and security to troubled nations.The Joint Special Forces provided the host nation civilian population tight security to be able to live a near-normal life.
Besides, this military wing has embedded with the host nations’ civilian population and as such provides the willing local national’s education and training regarding law enforcement and security protocols to assist them in nation-building operations. It is common knowledge that security is a vital and necessary during stability and reconstruction operation.
Without tight security, stability and reconstruction mission will not be achieved. The Joint Special Forces and related partners are continuing to project military interventions to ensure the United States, her Allies, its coalition partners ,the public and private organization as well as the local nationals who works side-by-side to accomplish the stability and reconstruction operation will succeed.
The embedded Joint Special Forces can transmit via secured line of communication accurate intelligence information regarding the host nation civilian population, the local insurgents, and the transnational extremists’ current activities. Additionally, it can utilize the local nationals as human intelligence, a form of employment to earn money.
Moreover, the Joint Special Forces utilizes network-centric warfare (NCW) to counter possible kinetic attack from insurgents. The NCW characterizes warfare in the information age (Groh, 2006). The link between the sensor and shooter is tailored with the right precision munitions to minimize collateral damage and prevent fratricide.
Additionally, the Joint Forces utilizes NCW to destroy time-sensitive targets (TST). When close air support (CAS) is needed, the ground forces can reach back to the NCW and request for close air support. The CAS should first be used against positively identified targets that may be critical to the success of an operation (Gordon & Trainor, 2006).
Furthermore, CAS must be coordinated with the army systems to suppress enemy air defenses right before the CAS strikes. That requires close coordination between the air liaison officer and the fire support officer (Zimmermann, 2011). The synergistic effect between the ground forces, the network centric-warfare, and the air capabilities are lethal. The system interconnectivity is a force multiplier.
Air tankers form part of force multiplier. Aerial refueling capabilities have been used by the US forces to enhance rapid transport of critical capabilities to the Combatant Commander. The materials transported include fresh ground forces, ammunitions, crucial spare parts, medical personnel and medical supplies.
The rapid medical air-evacuation of the severely burned and critically wounded warriors from the battlefield to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany or to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas saved thousands of lives.
Local nationals that need further medical interventions have been flown to Germany or to the United States. This is one way of winning the heart and minds of the host nation civilian population, the most challenging terrain to win (Petraues, 2006).
Petraues (2006) pointed out that the host nation civilian population is the decisive terrain. To win the hearts and minds of the host nation civilian population as well as the enemies, the United States and her partners must know what the local population needed most (AFDD 2-3, 2007). The Joint Special Forces and the Human Intelligence are the Combatant Commander’s priceless assets.
These capabilities provide real situational awareness of the host nation’s current health status. Understanding the critical infrastructures that are mostly needed are crucial. Addiionally, understanding the host nation’s cultures, beliefs, religions, society, economic, ideology, and politics are critical elements that the U.S. political and military leadership leaders should know.
Their grand strategy must fit into the host nation’s chronic problem in order to provide a long term solutions. The Joint Forces can train and educate the willing civilian population and work side by side building critical infrastructures such as the water system, schools, road and bridges, the economy, electrical grid, and medical facilities. This action promotes the feeling of ownership and boosts self-esteem (Natsios, 2005)
Moreover, the U.S leadership must train, educate, organize and equip each warrior prior to deployment so that they can be knowledgeable and become experts in various areas. The expert warriors can decisively employ the art and science of capturing and winning the hearts and minds of the host nation’s population as well as reshaping the behavior of the captured enemies and enemies on the loose (Petraues, 2006).
The AFDD 2-3 states that in a protracted war, winning entails depriving the enemy of the support of people reducing the influence of an enemy and overlooking the legitimacy of a competing ideology (AFDD, 2007).
Conclusion and recommendations
The successful counterinsurgency operation in El Salvador proved that military activities were subordinate to economic, political, and psychological activities. African Nations that continue to suffer from drought, famine, and diseases will continue to challenge the United States security at home and interests abroad.
Additionally, the available natural resources should be explored and marketed and proceeds used to set up reliable water systems, food supplies, well-equipped medical facilities and schools.
Moreover, the Joint Special Forces or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should recruit, train, educate and equip the local people on matters of security and law enforcement.
The new local recruits should know the cultures, languages, beliefs, and geography of places in order to effectively secure jobs such as security officers and law enforcement officers. The Joint Special Forces or NATO can also strengthen the nation’s Army through education, training and equipping them with current military technologies.
The Unites States leadership must also expand the number of Special Forces and the Human Intelligence network. The warriors should continue to learn how to speak, read and write foreign languages in order to be effective in the battle field.
The instruments of power such as diplomacy, information, military, economic, law enforcement, sharing of Intelligence reports, security, education and training ought to be integrated with the nine principles of reconstruction which include ownership, capacity building, sustainability, selectivity, assessment, results, partnership, flexibility and accountability in order to succeed in the stability and reconstruction operation.
Finally, in order to defend the United States security at home as well as interests abroad, the U.S. military capabilities must be flexible and strong enough to fight and win wars against the surging 21st century enemies.
Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-3. Irregular Warfare, 1 August 2007.
Groh, Jeffrey, “Network-Centric Warfare: Just About Technology?” 2006.
Gordon, Michael, and Bernard Trainor. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006
Handel, Michael. “Strategy: Past Theories, Modern Practice.” In Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought, 1-16. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2001.
Metz, Steven. Learning from Iraq: Counterinsurgency in American Strategy. Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, 2007.
Natsios, Andrew. “The Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development.” Parameters, 35, no. 3 (Autumn 2005): 4-20.
Petraues, David. “Learning Counterinsurgency: Observations from Soldiering in Iraq.” Military Review (January-February 2006): 2-12.
U.S. Department of Defense, The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, June 2008.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint Publication 3-0: Joint Operations. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 17 September 2006 [13 February 2008].
Zimmermann, Ralph Email Feedback 12 August 2011.
Zimmermann, Ralph Week 4 Feedback, 7 July 2011.