... a deterrent is always better than a response
E LaMont Gregory
Although the 45th president of US and his top military and security advisers posited a new military doctrine, which they termed 'principled realism', in fact, the current military doctrine of the US is as it has been for the past six decades, that is, the military doctrine of - Graduated Deterrence and Flexible Response.
In fact, since its articulation by JFK and McNamara, and a brief foray into developing a new military doctrine by GHW Bush, The New World Order, and by Clinton to embed diplomacy into all military activities (Smart Diplomacy), Graduated Deterrence and Flexible Response has been the basis of US military thinking and doctrine for more than six decades.
All military doctrines have their strengths and shortcomings.
Kennedy came to understand that the military doctrine MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, was not much of a deterrent,since the use of thermonuclear weapons was simply unthinkable, that is, since their first, second and only use in World War II.
MAD could serve as a deterrent, since every nation understood the unthinkable nature of their deployment.
Kennedy thought that what was needed was a doctrine to counter every conceivable iteration of the battlefield with a corresponding one. Such that, if you have insurgencies, you respond with counter-insurgencies; conventional war, with conventional war; urban guerrilla war, with counter guerrilla forces and espionage with counter-espionage measures, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.
In the mid-1990's, Prime Minister Tony Blair afforded this author an opportunity, over an Easter holiday break, to put on his fax machine at 10 Downing Street, a plan to end the hostilities in The Sudan. That plan called for the partition of The Sudan into a north and a south. It would be nearly 14 years, and untold suffering later before the partition plan would be implemented. But here was an opportunity, without the use of military force of any kind to end a war, and the suffering of millions of civilians.
The principle applied here is that there was no workable coalition that could be assembled to govern the country as a whole, and since the demarcation line already existed in cultural terms, that is, de facto, the recognition of that reality in geopolitical terms, de jure, was warranted.
The Sudan partition plan called upon the United States and the UK to immediately recognize the two new nations and sign protection accords with each, to the effect that the United States and the UK would be committed to defend either country should they be attacked. A 50 kilometer demilitarized zone between the North and South Sudan would be established, monitored by a combination of American and British forces on both sides of the zone (principled deterrence).
It is often stated that we, the US, cannot be the world's police force. While that contention is subject to argument, what we have become and should not be is the world's conventional army, who counters rather simplistically the force metered out against us by local insurgents.
What we cannot do is to continue to arm insurgents and other spontaneous uprisings to remove brutal dictators. What we cannot do is to spread conflicts in order to end them.
A world community without a credible police force is a very very dangerous place.
Some 100,000 civilians have been killed since 2006 when the US and Mexican governments began collaborating in the drug wars in Mexico. This violence has spread to the United States. In fact, there have been more people killed in the United States in the decades-old war on drugs than died in the Civil War, making the drug war the most costly in US history.
Principled Deterrence calls for sweeps and not surges. If we had the will, and could see that it was in our national interest to end the slaughter in Mexico, we could, if properly staged, interdict every drug cartel leader in Mexico in one hour and most of the principal drug gang heads and their enforcers in a day or two.
American law enforcement is highly skilled in conducting sweeps and this technique has been used quite effectively in temporarily reducing drug related crime waves in a host of American communities. Literally hundreds of people are arrested simultaneously and charged in the course of a sweep.
The recent five city sweep to interdict human traffickers across the US is just one example of the effectiveness of this technique, and the ability to coordinate simultaneous arrests over great distances.
All the warlords on the entire continent of Africa could be apprehended in a day saving the lives of thousands of civilians, and hundreds of millions in humanitarian assistance which should more properly be applied to medium and long range strategies to ameliorate the dire conditions that exist in many conflict torn areas on that continent.
The Milosevic principle, that is, we go after the heads of armies or any other organisation that systematically attacks civilians, should be the core principle. We do not put a conventional force on the ground to conduct conventional battles; we go after the heads of the army or group.
In Libya our goal was to take out Gaddafi. It was a mistake to arm a rebel group, and many of the arms used in Libya are now being used to topple other governments in North Africa. Thus spreading the conflict, rather than containing it, which was ostensibly our primary goal.
In addition, the Obama administration's decision not to use superior military assets in Libya, such as, the A10 air-to-ground warplane that our NATO allies lacked, prolonged what could have been a few weeks war into a campaign of more than six months and increased casualties from a few thousand to tens of thousands. The A10 was the missing asset cum deterrent on the Libyan battlefield.
The goal in Syria is to end the Assad reign of terror and to counter the advance of the Islamic State, and those should be our singularly unique goals.
We should not arm another group of rebels whose use of the weapons we supply after Assad is no longer in power (or unable to continue to attack his own people) is unknown and highly unpredictable.
Not too long ago, ‘we’ found the person responsible for planning the Beirut Barracks bombing and blew him up in this car in downtown Damascus. These are the types of surgical interdictions that principled deterrence affords as a military doctrine. Oppose world peace and we will come after you, not your people and with the least possible amount of collateral damage, however we will remove the threat to stability.
The US is the only credible deterrent to aggression, and we must have a military policy, a doctrine, that reflects that reality. We must be willing to do what is necessary to achieve and maintain stability. Flexible response is an inadequate response to terrorism. Just as counter insurgency is a poor response to guerrilla warfare, especially urban guerrilla warfare.
The argument by previous administrations that we should downsize the US military was at best misguided, as is the contention by the current administration that we should increase military expenditure before developing a fitting military doctrine is not only misguided, but also inherently and dangerously inappropriate. And, while much of the cost of maintaining our military bases abroad are being borne by the host nations, there is no need to signal those who oppose us that we are moving into a retrench position.
The new welding tank IED's that have shown up on the battlefield (and which intelligence suggests may appear in urban terrorism attacks) many of which can be launched and are reasonably accurate over a distance of about one-half mile. These missiles are manufactured, that is, parts ordered and assembled and then delivered to the battlefield. Stopping this activity is not a military activity, but a straightforward policing operation. And when our current military establishment realizes what is the proper role of the police as distinguished from the proper role of the military, we will be able deploy the two forces into the mix as the realities on the ground demand.
It is the premise of this argument that a new military doctrine is needed to reflect 21st Century military requirements. And, that the continued reliance on the doctrine of graduated deterrence/flexible response does not serve our current modern military needs.
In reality, the flexible response doctrine, with its logic of only opposing the amount of force that we encounter on the battlefield, has propelled us into long and costly conflicts, and will continue to do so.
It should be understood that the Principled Deterrence doctrine calls for the use of more powerful weapons, as a part of strategic preparedness in practical terms. A policy of Principled Deterrence is advanced as a means of addressing the modern battlefield, which increasingly reflects the use of non-conventional aggressive strategies; in fact, Marshall McLuhan suggests that World War III will be a non-conventional global information war with no clear divisions between civilian and military participation.
The ideal deterrent by definition would provide a means that guaranteed with certainty that anyone who upset the peace would be interdicted so that peace and stability could be preserved. Principled deterrence offers just such a system.
It is becoming generally recognized that two things will have to happen. First, a realistic approach to our economic woes must be devised and implemented; and second, some rather decisive corrections in our military and foreign relations doctrines will have to be advanced.