ANALYS: US Military Doctrine since the Cold War

The American military at the end of the Cold War was a formidable force, large in size, very well equipped, and quite capable of meeting any conceivable Soviet warfare challenge, nuclear or conventional. Its recovery from Vietnam was total. The Reagan Build-up, a major infusion of funds and technology that occurred in the 1980s, had allowed the military to modernize its weapons, doctrine, and training. It had learned to recruit and motivate effectively an all-volunteer force, a no small feat for a military long used to the cheap labor of conscription. Thoughts of honing its fast fading counter-insurgency skills or of a search to discover how best to participate in peace-keeping and nation-building ventures were far from its doctrinal priorities. Instead, the American military rejoiced in its smashingly fast and near cost-free defeat of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and planned to implement further improvements in its conventional war-fighting capabilities.

These improvements, often referred to as the Precision Revolution, were based on advances in sensor, radar masking, robotic, and targeting technologies and were intended to allow American forces to detect, classify, and destroy targets precisely with low risk and at expanding distances. The high casualty rate of Vietnam is unsustainable with an all volunteer force. And absent a serious threat to its own security, the American public’s tolerance for civilian casualties inflicted by American forces-collateral damage-is very limited. The rapid and seemingly decisive victories in the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq featured such advances, the product of a decade long effort by the military to implement the operational lessons of the Gulf War while trimming force structure to adjust to the Soviet Union’s demise.

But the Afghanistan and Iraq victories were anything but decisive. American forces soon become entangled in difficult counter-insurgency operations in both countries. Plans for a quick transition to local rule and a minimal American presence slid into persistent combat and a troop rotational pattern that strained American forces. American commanders seemed confused and unprepared, at a loss to control the violence that included inter-communal attacks and to initiate the reconstruction of vital infrastructure that both countries needed. The resulting “hard slog”, as the now discredited Donald Rumsfeld once described the counter-insurgencies, is blamed on many factors, but mostly on a supposed blind spot in the US Army’s doctrinal vision. The Army, it is said, is culturally resistant to creating effective doctrine for counter-insurgencies, preferring always to focus on large scale conventional operations.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates chides the entire US military for being absorbed in “Nextwaritis” even as it fights the current difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army he notes has designed its Future Combat System. a network of manned and unmanned vehicles, to defeat up-dated versions of Soviet motorized rifle regiments while the Air Force keeps promoting additional purchases of its expensive F-22 which is optimized for air-to-air combat, a non-existent set these days. The next war in the US military’s planning concepts may look like the last, but certainly not like the current ones. But America’s future, the critics and the Secretary say, is more of the same culturally sensitive, all-agency, coalition-partnered interventions that require the coordinated management of complex security and development operations.

There are two defenses that the military could offer to this critique if it were allowed to do so.  First, this is new guidance for military preparedness. In the years between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks, political direction was minimal and certainly not united on counter-insurgency. When President George H. W. Bush said in the wake of the Gulf War that America’s Vietnam Syndrome was vanquished he meant that it was now possible again for the US to use military force in a big way, and not that the US was free once again to become engaged in counter-insurgency.  In fact, he passed by the opportunity to invade Iraq to replace Saddam in large part because of the possibility that it would require a long effort to suppress regime supporters or other elements of Iraq’s fractured society.

Each of the interventions of the 1990s-Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo-had significant opposition within and outside of government. Although all were low casualty events, the public was fearful of the risks. The military saw them as diverting from a mission to be ready to meet a rising China or a resurgent Russia, both conveniently masked behind the proxies of North Korea and Iran or Iraq. Big militaries require big opponents and Haiti and Serbia just did not match up.  The Democrats largely left the military planners alone, and the Republicans reflexively defended anything they did. It was largely a self-guided military during the 1990s, aware that there was strong domestic opposition to interventions in on-going ethnic conflicts, and intrigued by the technological advantages that the Precision Revolution seemed to offer to the US in conventional operations. It was time to plan the post-Cold War military and to make large investments in new equipment. What better way than to make the US military the lean, mean wireless machine that many observers said was just over the horizon.

Second, although the current administration and secretary may want the focus to remain on counter-insurgent operations, the US military likely calculates that this is a politically unsustainable policy.  A modern, professional military, one dependent on volunteers, has a great deal of difficulty providing the 18-20 brigades of ground combat troops that the counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan required.  Many soldiers are now contemplating their fourth or fifth combat rotation with up to 18 months separation from their families. Conscription, which would share these burdens more evenly in the population, is politically impossible to reinstate. Hunting down al Qaeda is still popular. Making the world safe for democracy or saving the Somalians, Sudanese or South Congolese from local war lords is only in the nice idea category, especially when such missions are likely to be done with few partners and amidst much brutal fighting. And after Iraq and Afghanistan it would take an insane American politician, one likely to be carted away to an institution, to make an invasion of Iran or North Korea anything but an empty threat.

It is relatively easy for the American military to defeat conventional forces arrayed against it for they are basically targets that can be identified and destroyed at safe ranges. Coping with insurgents is a much more difficult task because the insurgents hide among civilians and attack from great advantage. Only when the stakes are very high will the American public tolerate the harsh, often brutal, measures and significant sacrifices that need to be sustained over years to suppress insurgencies. New manuals that repeat old truths about providing security, vital infrastructure, good government, and economic opportunity to local populations in order to isolate and defeat the stealthy enemy do not eliminate this test of wills.  The American military knows that for marginal interests that “will” will not be there long. Each generation of American politicians apparently learns this anew. The American military’s doctrine is to avoid fighting counter-insurgencies.

Ref: e-IR

Harvey M. Sapolsky is Professor Of Public Policy and Organization Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Massachusetts and for nearly 20 years he was the Director of the MIT Security Studies Program.  His most recent books are US Defense Politics, written with Eugene Gholz and Caitlin Talmadge, and US Military Innovation since the Cold War, edited with Benjamin Friedman and Brendan R. Green.

MURDERED: Asesinan a Walter Trochez

viernes 4 de diciembre de 2009
“Ha sido duro, sabemos que hay mucha lucha por delante, pero… somos Mujeres en Resistencia”
Por Rosa C. Báez
“Ha sido duro, sabemos que hay mucha lucha por delante, pero… somos Mujeres en Resistencia”
Amazonas en Resistencia

“A todas mis hermanas en resistencia; hijas y madres inquebrantables de Honduras. Con los pechos duros de rabia, herencia de Harmonía, y las caderas en equilibrio guerrero, van las amazonas hondureñas en marcha por la voz de luz. Salpicadas de odio ajeno y sangre iluminada, con brillo de leona navegando en sus ojos, marchan las Amazonas.

Viven por el día, por el aire, por el agua. Sus gritos elevan dagas hasta el cielo. Están en pie de guerra. Luchan por una tierra justa y libre. Van con las aves en vuelo silencioso conquistando el aire que respirarán sus hijos. Llueve en sus mejillas la rabia. Defienden las Amazonas.

La fuerza incólume de sus brazos, golpea firme la injusticia, la impunidad. Destruyen la farsa con su lanza de fuego. Con látigo temerario echan abajo la hipocresía. Melenas majestuosas, al viento enarboladas, protegen sus ideas. Castigan las Amazonas.

Banderas de esperanza y castigo flamean en sus vientres. Territorio abierto al amor y a la justicia. Arcos y flechas vibran en sus manos, destinados a eclipsar a los traidores de la patria. Defensoras de lo suyo, del pueblo, del sudor. Aman las Amazonas.

Marchan las Amazonas con paso constante, invariable. Aplastarán hasta el último parásito en su ruta a la libertad. Redimirán al pueblo, devolverán la vida. Más que la paz, reconstruirán la esperanza. El pueblo saluda su paso de ángeles. Ellas, impacientes, marchan por Honduras”.

Melissa Merlo
Con el rostro serio y en la mirada todo el dolor acumulado por el recuerdo de los numerosos casos de mujeres violadas y atropelladas que ha debido recoger en estos cruentos días vividos (“La denuncia y el seguimiento son armas de sobrevivencia”, postulan estas luchadoras), la escritora y feminista independiente hondureña Jessica Sánchez, llegada a la Habana para participar en el I Taller Regional sobre Género y Comunicación “Cambiar la Mirada”, comparte con nosotros estas vivencias…

“Estábamos allí, en el aeropuerto, mientras el avión de Mel sobrevolaba la multitud que lo esperaba: de pronto, se sucedieron disparos, no sabíamos de donde provenían, qué sucedía… unos corrieron, otros quedamos a la espera, pero todos seguros de que no nos moveríamos de allí… luego supimos la horrible noticia de que la primera vida era cobrada: el joven Isis Obed Murillo había caído bajo las balas asesinas y aún hoy día su padre guarda injusta prisión”.

“Hemos estado reportando detenciones, hemos entrevistado a mujeres, de todas las edades y etnias, que han sido violadas y nos dicen: ‘yo iba a acudir a la policía… pero ¿a qué policía si fueron ellos quienes me violaron, quienes usaron sus palos de goma para violarme, mientras yo les rogaba que no me hicieran daño, que tenía hijos pequeños’. ¿Quién puede admitir la legitimización de un régimen que no sólo toma el poder por la fuerza, secuestrando al legítimo Presidente de un país, si no que suelta sus ‘perros de caza’ contra la población inocente, que asesina a sus propios hermanos, mientras muestra una cara de credibilidad e inocencia?

“Las mujeres hondureñas hemos estado desde el primer día en la calle: fuimos las primeras en difundir el mensaje sobre el Golpe de Estado, sumándonos después al Frente Nacional de Resistencia contra el Golpe, apoyando en las asambleas casi diarias, en las reuniones, en las marchas. Luego debimos documentar las represiones, los abusos sexuales contra mujeres, los abusos físicos, las detenciones, trabajamos junto al Comité de Familiares y Desaparecidos de Honduras (COFADEH) para hacer guardias en los hospitales para evitar las detenciones o denunciarlas. Hemos sufrido el dolor de ver a familiares golpeados, hemos perdido, masacrados a machetazos, a amigos de toda la vida… pero nada nos ha detenido: somos más del 70% de la resistencia tanto en acciones como en marchas, ayudando en las cocinas, haciendo mantas, camisetas, haciendo pintas, difundiendo consignas…

“En la actualidad estamos, con medio casi artesanales, difundiendo la boletina Feministas en Resistencia –somos más de doscientas- en el que denunciamos la detención de compañeras, de compañeros, de líderes de nuestros grupos de resistencia pacífica y a través de la cual nos pronunciamos contra las elecciones bajo el lema “Ni violencia contra las mujeres, ni elecciones fraudulentas”.

“No sólo luchamos por Mel, por el Golpe de Estado: luchamos porque la voz de la mujer hondureña no pueda nunca más ser acallada, luchamos por no ser relegadas a la casa, por que nos hemos ganado este sitio y vamos a seguir luchando, porque, como dije una vez “La rabia no se me cansa, tal vez por eso todavía sigo escribiendo y protestando”

Apenas hicieron falta las preguntas: como un río de fuerza descomunal, desbordado ante el crimen, ante el dolor de su pueblo, esta mujer que hoy representa ante nosotras a todas las mujeres hondureñas, termina este encuentro con estas palabras:

“Lucharemos por la restitución del verdadero orden constitucional, seguiremos enfrentándonos a esta represión que desdichadamente continuará, porque estos hechos son un mensaje de la derecha, renovada y aupada por los grupos más conservadores de Estados Unidos y América. Y estamos seguras que venceremos, que seguirán las Jessica, las Suyapa, las Mariana, las Regina, las Dianas, luchando para que la memoria de Wendy, de Isis Obed, de las mujeres violadas, de las madres y las hijas e hijos que esperan con temor en nuestras casas no caiga en el olvido… porque cuando la gente se pregunte “¿y éstas quiénes son? les diremos ¡¡ SOMOS FEMINISTAS EN REVOLUCION!!!”*
*Lema de las Feministas en Resistencia
REF: Publicado por Feministas en Resistencia CR