The United States military is arguably the most formidable fighting force ever assembled in the history of the world. However, since the beginning of the war on terrorism and specifically over the past eight years of this Administration, it has increasingly drifted away from its core mission of defending our nation and more towards nation-building, PR marketing, and experimenting with social engineering.
In conversations with my friends across the services, current and former officers and enlisted folks agree that we are increasingly unprepared to face a conventional force-on-force threat. First, the old adage that we are always fighting the last war holds a bit of truth here. After all, our military has been heavily focused on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency for the past 15 years. As a result, we’ve relied heavily on technology, intelligence, special forces, and surgical strike operations within a permissive air environment.
Our adversary has adopted guerilla tactics because they (mostly) do not have the training or equipment to muster much of anything else. As such, we’ve adapted to counter these threats with moderate success, but at the expense of other types of training centered around combating a conventional military threat.
Secondly, war tends to be long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. As the threat environment has changed and our advantages over the enemy have grown, the down time has increased and the moments of terror less frequent. Because of that, a generation of mid-level NCOs and officers has become more accustomed to sitting behind a desk and computer screen and enjoying more of the creature comforts of home (cable TV, junk food, frequent communication with loved ones) and less time enduring the rigors of prolonged combat. Ironically, by making the battlefield more sanitary like home (making multiple and longer deployments more palatable), we’re actually making our troops softer. Perhaps if war were nastier, we’d be less likely to engage in it.