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November 28, 2002

Time for another branch of the armed forces?

In this new, post-cold war, post-guerilla war world, do we need to consider a more fundamental "transformation" of our armed forces than even Paul Wolfowitz in the throes of an acid flashback could conceive?  Here's what I have in mind:

Establishing a new branch of the service that would be "tasked" (to use some of that cool military-speak) with operating on the cusp between war and peace.  This force would be trained and equipped to perform the following missions:

  • Peacekeeping

  • Point defense (e.g. protecting embassies, nuclear power facilities, key infrastructure)

  • Military government (as in an occupied Iraq, or in Kosovo immediately after NATO forces assumed control)

  • Disaster and humanitarian aid

  • "Nation building" (as in contemporary Afghanistan)

Currently, these tasks are assigned to either the Marine Corps (which is responsible for R&D on non-lethal weapons and is the service best suited to "expeditionary" deployment) or the Army (which has more resources, but is slower, heavier, and requires more support elements to perform a specific mission), or special forces units (which have the talent and the skills to cope in difficult environments and react as the situation requires, however, they are expensive, scarce, and more urgently needed for military missions that they are uniquely equipped to handle).  However, both the Army and USMC are primarily oriented towards accomplishing their war-fighting mission.  Training or developing tactics and equipment for non-warfare missions is a very low priority.  Few officers earn general's stars by excelling in peacekeeping or "force protection".

Establishing a separate command with no other mission than less-than-warfare operations would facilitate developing forces specially trained and equipped for these missions.  Specialized units could be created with expertise in South Asia, East Asia, African and Latin American languages, cultures and environmental conditions.  Tactics and doctrine for performing these less than glamorous tasks could also be refined, taking advantage of modern technology and communications resources.

In a way, they would be the equivalent of a gendarmerie, or an amalgam between a military and a police force.  Like a police organization, the emphasis would be upon preventing violence and strictly limiting the use of force. 

From a recruiting perspective, these non-war-fighting units might appeal to young people that are less interested in the traditional armed forces.  Kind of a hard-core version of the Peace Corps.

Just a thought...

November 28, 2002 at 06:16 PM | Permalink

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