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What Does America Need to Win the Long War?
A Winning Strategy for the Military, Diplomats, and the American Public
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 20, 2010
While the “Long War,” a term coined in 2006, has come to represent the United States’ continuing fight against twenty-first century security challenges, the authors of Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields (AEI Press, 2010) define it as an effort to create a “new–and, by American standards better–political order across the Greater Middle East.” But how? Through what means? In this series of incisive essays, renowned defense scholars Thomas Donnelly and Frederick W. Kagan, together with a group of leading U.S. military officials and national security experts, identify the tools necessary to succeed on the uncharted battlefields of the Long War. By analyzing the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the authors outline a strategy for success in the Long War–not only for the military, but also for diplomats, elected officials, and the American public.
Among the important insights offered in Lessons for a Long War:
Brigadier General H. R. McMaster, director for concept development and experimentation at the Army Capabilities Integration Center–who is also known for his valuable role in the Gulf War and the Iraq surge–demonstrates why the decentralization of command is the key to success in counterinsurgency operations. The high-tech dreams of the 1990s, in which technology would give a centralized command complete knowledge of an ever-changing battlefield, have not been realized. McMaster explains that “higher-level commanders must be comfortable with relinquishing control and authority to junior commanders while setting conditions for effective decentralized operations consistent with the U.S. Army’s concept of mission command.”
Airpower is the unsung hero of counterinsurgency operations, according to Major General Charles Dunlap, Jr., deputy judge advocate general at Headquarters U.S. Air Force. Dunlap reveals that airpower has been crucial to the success of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan not only because of its precision in targeting individual insurgent leaders, but also because it “inflicts on insurgents a sense of helplessness that is psychologically debilitating.”
Colonel Robert Killebrew, a retired Army Special Forces officer, notes that although battlefields have changed significantly over the last fifty years, America’s long-held counterinsurgency strategy–to foster political support at home, employ diplomacy overseas, and extend military assistance to allies–remains effective.
Peter Feaver, a professor of political science at Duke University and a former National Security Council staff member, finds that domestic politics and public opinion can influence key military decisions. “The Bush administration’s decision to throw out existing war plans may have been driven by fear that if al Qaeda struck a second time before the United States retaliated, all hope of restraining American public response would be lost,” he writes. Feaver warns that partisan conflict and accusations in Washington can undermine soldiers’ performance in the field.
Mackubin Thomas Owens, who teaches strategy and force planning at the U.S. Naval War College, argues that the military should minimize its role in domestic affairs. Owens finds that high-ranking military leaders who publicly criticize their civilian bosses do serious damage to civil-military relations. He adds that increased military involvement in domestic crises–including natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina–has “the perverse effect of diverting focus and resources from the military’s central mission of combat training and fighting.”
The Long War will not soon be over. But, as Killebrew writes, the United States already has “the tools it needs in order to prevail in the wars of the twenty-first century.” Lessons for a Long War explains how America can use those tools to chart a successful long-term strategy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.
Thomas Donnelly is a resident fellow in defense and security policy studies and the director of the Center for Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He previously served as policy group director and professional staff member for the House Committee on Armed Services.
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project. He previously taught military history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Contributors: Thomas Donnelly, Major General Charles Dunlap, Peter Feaver, Frederick W. Kagan, Colonel Robert Killebrew, Brigadier General H. R. McMaster, Mackubin Thomas Owens
Thomas Donnelly and Brigadier General H.R. McMaster will discuss Lessons for a Long War on Thursday, May 27, 2010 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at AEI (1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., 12th floor Wohlstetter Conference Center, Washington, DC). More information can be found here: http://www.aei.org/event/100249.
To request a complimentary media copy of Lessons for a Long War, please contact Hampton Foushee at [email protected] (202.862.5806).
Thomas Donnelly and Frederick W. Kagan are available for interviews; to reach them, please contact Philipp Tomio at [email protected] (202.862.7184). For all other media inquiries, please contact Hampton Foushee at [email protected] (202.862.5806).
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