January 6th, 2012
10:06 AM ET

O'Hanlon: Why a one-war posture for the U.S. military will work

By Michael O'Hanlon

For six decades the United States has planned for the capacity to conduct two nearly simultaneous major ground-combat operations. During the Cold War, one of those campaigns was assumed to be an all-out struggle against the Warsaw Pact in Europe, the other a conflict in Asia. Since the Cold War, defense secretaries Dick Cheney, Les Aspin, William Perry, William Cohen, Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates have adopted some variant of this framework as well. It is time for a change.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s new strategic guidance, unveiled Thursday, moves in this direction, stating that the future U.S. military “will be capable of defeating a major act of aggression in one theater while denying the objectives of — or imposing unacceptable costs on — an opportunistic aggressor in a second theater.” Panetta and President Obama are right to reduce the requirements for a second possible war, which in this era would probably not be a ground war in any case.

The case for scaling back is strong. Let’s consider the major concerns: Saddam Hussein is gone, and whatever threat Iraqis may one day pose to themselves and the region, they are unlikely to invade anyone. Farther from home, North Korea has acquired nuclear capabilities, but its conventional forces have weakened, and South Korea’s army is greatly strengthened. Russia remains problematic on multiple issues but not because of its military menace to NATO territory. Threats from Iran or China, at least in the short term, are much more likely to involve U.S. naval, air and special forces (which should retain a capacity for handling more than one major operation at a time). The uncertainty and instability from Syria to Yemen to South Asia, however potentially worrisome for American interests, are unlikely to again require large-scale U.S.-led action.

Read on here.

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Topics: Military • United States

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. ASYEB AHEL AL HAQ ARE CRIMINAL IRANINAS SHIIA KILLING IRAQIS

    THE RECENT ATTACK IN IRAQ CAME AFTER MOQTADA AL QATHER AND HIS MAHDI MILITIA THUGS WORN ANOTHER SHIIA THUGS CALLED ASYEB AHEL AL HAQ , THOSE ASYEB ARE GROUP OF THUGS BACKED BY IRAN SEPERATED FROM MOQTADA AL QATHER, NOW THE 2 FRACTION ARE SCORING AND KILLING EACH OTHER AND ATTACKING CIVILIANS AND BLAMING THE SUNNIS , IT WILL KNOWN IN IRAQ THAT THOSE 2 GROUPS KILLED MANY CIVILIANS THAN USA DID.....THEY ARE EVIL SHIIA THUGS TRYING TO CONTROL IRAQ, AL SADDER GROUP ARE IN SADDER CITY AND NASREYA WHERE THE ATTACK TOOK PLACE FEW DAYS AFTER SADDER WORN AL KHAZALY AND ASYEB AL HAQ SO THEY DID THIS TO SHOW HM THEY MEAN WAR. USA MUST STOP IRAN , MUST GET RED OF NORI AL MALEKI IF THEY WANT TO SEE PEACE IN IRAQ.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      What they need to do Asyeb, is to divide Iraq into three different states by giving the north to the Kurds, the south to the Shiites and the west to the Sunnis. This is the only way there can once again be peace in Iraq. Why can't other people see that? Besides, this will also limit Iranian influence over there.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  2. George Patton

    What about a no-war posture for the U.S. military. I guess that the right-wing thugs in Washington never heard of that one!!!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt Russia could pose problems to the U.S. on multiple issues. Russia is a major energy supplier and has vast natural resources. There have been many ocassions that it reminded the world of its powerful past and it has the economic resources to rearm itself. True, the anti-missile system in Eastern Europe doesn't pose much of a threat to the U.S., nor the row with Georgia. It's Russia's role in Iran's nuclear program and its reluctance to impose U.N. sanctions on Iran that irritate the West. Not long ago, Medvedev warned the U.S. against an anti-missile shield, which is intended to provide protection from the potential missile threat posed by countries like Iran.

    January 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      correction – nor did the aggression towards Georgia in 2008 preoccupy Washington.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  4. WHERE IS USA? THE KILLING IN SYRIA IS MORE THAN 7000

    GOVERNMENT ALREADY KILLED 7200 SUNNI AND KURD AND PUT 132000 IN PRISON AND TORTURED 13000 M RAP,.....ED MORE THAN 4000 SUNNI WOMEN THOSE MILITIA THUGS ARE WORSE THAN SERBIAN ARMY , WHERE IS USA WHEN WE NEED THEM!!!///

    January 7, 2012 at 10:30 am | Reply
  5. the shiia and iran doing the killing in iraq it was proven

    جيفري فيلتمان نائب وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية يؤكد اَن قادة العراق السياسيين قادرون على تدارك الازمة الراهنة في البلاد من دون اية مساعدة خارجية
    نبيل العربي يحذر من القضاء على فرص تحقيق مصالحة حقيقية في العراق ويندد بتفجيرات الخميس الدامية
    رئيس اقليم كردستان العراق يشدد على ان الاكراد لن يشاركوا في اي حكومة قائمة على اساس تهميش المكونات العراقية الاخرى
    البارزاني يحذر من انه في حال إستمرت المشاكل السياسية ولم يجد الائتلاف الحاكم برئاسة المالكي حلولا سريعة فإن الاكراد سيقيّمون كل الاحتمالات

    وكلاء المرجع الديني محمد صادق الصدر في النجف يحذرون من مغبة دخول عصائب أهل الحق في العملية السياسية ويتهموها بممارسة القتل حتى اليوم

    وكلاء المرجع الديني محمد صادق الصدر في النجف يحذرون من مغبة دخول عصائب أهل الحق في العملية السياسية ويتهموها بممارسة القتل حتى اليوم
    دبي-الشرقية 7 يناير: حذر عددٌ من وكلاءِ المَرجع الديني مُحمد محمد صادق الصدر في النجف من مغبةِ دخول ِ عصائب أهل الحق في العمليةِ السياسيةمشيرين إلى أن العصائبَ ارتكبت جرائمَ ومازالت تقتل وتُشرد وتُساوم وتَبتز.وقال عددٌ من وكلاء وطلبةِ السيد محمد الصدر في بيان ان الحديثَ عن المقاومة ومواجهةِ القوات المحتلة بعيدٌ كلَ البعد عن عصائبِ أهل الحق وأفعالِها وان العراقيين لن يَنسوْا ما فعلته العصائب من جرائمَ ومازالت تفعل من قتل ٍ وتشريدٍ ومساومة ووصفوهم بأنهم حية ٌ مَلمسُها ناعمٌ وسُمُها قاتل.. واتهم البيان العصائبَ بقتل ِ عددٍ من منتسبي الأجهزة الأمنية في النجف والديوانية بحجةِ حُرمةِ الانتماء فضلا على تنفيذِ 5337 عملية ً استهدفوا فيها الأبرياءَ بضمنِها اغتيالُ النائب عن الكتلة الصدرية صالح العكيلي.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:39 am | Reply

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