Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
In the coming decades the United States confronts not only a revolution in international affairs but urgent calls to adapt its military strategy and forces. Some commentators go so far as to assert that the world is on the threshold of a new era in which military power will no longer be of central importance. Others recognize future challenges but argue that the United States can no longer shoulder the burden of military leadership in a time of enormous budget deficits at home and increasing economic competition abroad. Still others assert that America neither needs nor can afford the range of forces it maintained during the Cold War.
These perspectives, however, are dangerously shortsighted. While the risk of a major conflict with the Soviet Union has certainly ebbed to a 45-year low, Iraq's aggression against Kuwait clearly demonstrates that the international environment remains dangerous and is in many respects growing more complex. U.S. interests around the globe have inextricably entangled this nation in world affairs. If the United States is to protect these interests and ensure its security in the post-Cold War world, it must maintain military forces capable of meeting a full array of contingencies. Over the next decade the United States will continue to require capable, credible conventional forces as the central element of its national military strategy.
In an era of decreasing resources devoted to defense, the critical issue is how to properly shape U.S. conventional forces. Adjustment need not imply a wholesale restructuring of forces or doctrines. As we have seen during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, many elements of military strategy and force design that served the nation so well throughout the Cold War will remain relevant in the era that follows.
Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has sought to find the appropriate proportions of nuclear and conventional forces. U.S. strategic thought in the early years of the nuclear age was dominated by the widespread view that the sole utility of military power lay in its ability to deter conflict. This school of thought was reinforced by the perception that the only significant military threat to the United States lay in the expansionist designs of the Soviet Union. Nuclear weapons were seen as an affordable way to counter the vast numerical superiority of Soviet ground forces-a superiority that the West could not hope to offset with conventional forces alone.
But this view did not long survive. It soon became evident that nuclear weapons were of only marginal value in deterring conflict in areas outside a direct Soviet-U.S. confrontation. This reality was reinforced by U.S. participation in two land wars in Asia and by numerous other crises. To be sure, the American strategic nuclear arsenal was central to the deterrence of a direct Soviet attack on the United States and contributed substantially to deterring Soviet aggression against, or intimidation of, America's NATO allies. It is clear that nuclear weapons were essential in buttressing NATO and in supporting the longest period of unbroken peace on the European continent in ten centuries.
But the deterrent value of nuclear weapons, even in Europe, was intimately tied to the presence and capability of powerful conventional forces. These forces not only demonstrated allied commitment to defend NATO territory. They would also deny the Soviets a fait accompli in the event of a massive short-warning attack, present them with the very real prospect of conventional defeat and provide a credible first step in an escalatory sequence leading to a strategic nuclear exchange. Conventional forces grew even more central to deterrence in Europe throughout the 1980s, with the adoption of a maneuver-oriented combat doctrine that integrated air and land forces, the introduction of more powerful conventional weapons and the unprecedented increase in the quality of the U.S. armed forces.
Nuclear weapons designed primarily to confront the Soviet Union were of little utility in helping the United States resolve crises outside the NATO area. Few believed that the United States would use nuclear weapons in response to non-Soviet aggression, and American actions proved them right. American restraint was not necessarily due to any lack of a military role for these weapons. Rather, it was firmly rooted in the pervasive view that nuclear weapons, in any form, were politically unacceptable, except as an instrument of last resort.
The United States instead relied on conventional forces to deter conflict and defend America's interests beyond its homeland and the confines of NATO. The development of a strategy of "flexible response" constituted explicit recognition of the diminished utility of nuclear weapons in countering conventional aggression and so-called low-intensity conflict, and ushered in a shift in emphasis from nuclear to conventional forces.
The relative importance of strategic nuclear weapons has recently eroded further as a result of the declining Soviet threat and the prospects of real reductions in these forces through arms control. While the much heralded end of the Cold War has also reduced the need for conventional forces to deter a Soviet attack in Europe, it has not mitigated the challenges to U.S. interests from other quarters. It is precisely this growing non-Soviet threat that demands a new emphasis on U.S. conventional forces.
As we reflect on the evolution of American strategic thought, several important lessons of the nuclear age seem apparent. First, strategic nuclear forces have been essential in, but limited to, deterring nuclear attack on the United States and certain vital overseas interests. They have done so through their potential to punish aggression by inflicting unacceptable losses in response. Second, conventional forces have also been crucial to deterring conflict between the superpowers, both by their potential to punish and by their promised ability to deny the enemy the objectives of its aggression. Third, beyond deterrence, conventional forces obviously have had far broader application than nuclear forces and are central to defending and advancing American interests in places where nuclear weapons lack utility.
This preeminence of conventional forces has been most recently and persuasively demonstrated in the Gulf War. Despite Iraq's chemical weapons, its nascent nuclear potential and the threat its aggression posed to U.S. interests, it was America's conventional forces, not its nuclear arsenal, that defined President Bush's response to the crisis and ultimately decided its outcome. Operation Desert Storm is likely not an aberration. Changes in the international and domestic environment should create an even more pronounced role for conventional forces in the future.
The international security environment is undergoing significant and, in some areas, revolutionary change. Military power nonetheless remains a dominant feature of relations between states. It is instructive to remember that Saddam Hussein imposed his will on Kuwait and threatened to alter the international economic order with Iraqi divisions, not dollars. And it was with military power that the international community ultimately redressed Iraq's aggression in Operation Desert Storm. It should be apparent from this experience alone that it is premature for the United States to abandon strong military forces.
The design of U.S. forces, however, requires a clear assessment of the military challenges the nation will face. Perhaps the most difficult challenge to frame is that which will emerge from the Soviet Union. Despite better relations with the United States and unprecedented U.S.-Soviet cooperation during the early stages of the crisis in the gulf, future Soviet policy remains uncertain. The enduring strength of the Soviet military must remain an important factor in determining the size and shape of U.S. forces.
The Soviet Union will retain far into the future the ability to threaten the American homeland. Although strategic arms reduction agreements may help establish lower levels of nuclear forces on both sides, the United States will still need to maintain a credible nuclear retaliatory capability-a requirement that demands modernization. Washington cannot, however, expect its nuclear forces to be of wider use in the future than they have been in the past. Beyond deterring a nuclear attack on the United States and on certain vital interests overseas, the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal will not be central to defending or advancing American interests elsewhere in the world.
Moreover, even if all promised unilateral reductions and arms control agreements are fully implemented, Moscow will retain the world's most potent land forces. Although a direct confrontation with the Soviet Union today seems improbable, it remains the most daunting challenge U.S. forces might face. A dramatic resurgence of an authoritarian Soviet regime, determined to stem the dissolution of the union, could create a more hostile and aggressive Kremlin. Evidence now suggests that such a development lies well within the realm of possibility. It would be foolish in any event to disregard actual and potential Soviet military power as the United States contemplates its future forces.
The historic changes now underway in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe could lead to instability and conflict. There certainly are reasons to hope that relaxation of East-West tensions will usher in a new era of peace and general prosperity in Europe. But recent events in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe demonstrate the potential for violence as the collapsing Soviet empire struggles with cataclysmic change. Unrest may stem from unfulfilled expectations and nationalist animosities, heretofore held in check by communism and the East-West rivalry. Such unrest could ignite armed conflict within and among European nations and directly jeopardize U.S. or allied interests, or invite Soviet intervention.
The threat posed by instability in Europe defies empirical evaluation. There are no quantitative indices-numbers of tanks or aircraft-against which one can measure U.S. requirements. Genuine dangers may nonetheless emerge from a Europe adrift in change. Accordingly, Washington must build its post-containment commitment to Europe with an eye to history and with the conviction that the United States can make a lasting contribution to stabilizing the continent.
Challenges in the developing world are serious as well. The military power wielded by developing nations is no longer insignificant, as the Iraqi arsenal forcefully demonstrated. Rivalries among nations, religious and ideological hatreds, and ambitions for economic and political power remain. These sources of instability are made more dangerous by the proliferation of sophisticated weapons-from modern armor to ballistic missiles-that can produce violence of unprecedented magnitude.
Tank battles in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, for example, resulted in levels of destruction rivaling those projected for a superpower conflict on the plains of Europe. These were hardly isolated cases; the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s was characterized by tank engagements, intense artillery duels, ballistic missile exchanges and chemical attacks, and the toll in human life numbered more than one million. Allied forces in Saudi Arabia confronted an Iraq armed with hundreds of Scud missiles and more than 5,000 tanks, a formidable conventional force by any standard. Indeed, the final defeat of the Republican Guard required the coalition to amass and employ the largest tank formations since World War II.
Nor do the nations of the Middle East and Persian Gulf have a monopoly on strong military forces. A growing number of countries now have the ability to engage in sustained, mechanized land combat. The armies of Vietnam and North Korea, for example, are among the largest in the world. A dozen nations in the developing world have more than 1,000 tanks in their land forces. Ballistic and cruise missiles are spreading to many parts of the world. Chemical weapons are also entering the inventories of a growing list of nations, and the proliferation of nuclear capabilities continues to present an ominous threat.
To be sure, aggregate numbers of weapons in the developing world do not in themselves reflect the degree of threat these nations pose. The danger in the proliferation of weapons lies not in the numbers themselves, but in the capabilities those weapons give regimes with whom the United States and its allies and friends have conflicting interests. A number of such regimes exist, and as much as some might wish to ignore these trends in the developing world, they command the attention of the United States.
There is, finally, the ongoing problem of low-intensity conflict in the developing world, manifest in insurgencies, international terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. Low-intensity conflicts generally cannot be resolved through the application of military power alone; they require the integrated application of political, economic and military measures to address the causes as well as the manifestations of unrest. The importance of properly trained, structured and equipped armed forces is nevertheless a critical element of a comprehensive strategy to address these types of conflicts. Low-intensity conflict will remain in the coming years a significant challenge for the U.S. military.
The United States clearly need not, and indeed should not, insert itself in every regional squabble. But it does not have the luxury of treating warfare in the developing world with indifference. The archaic concept of "fortress America" simply retains no strategic relevance for the United States in the 1990s. Military strategists and political leaders must anticipate that U.S. forces will be called on to advance and protect American interests in regional conflicts ranging from insurgencies to full-scale conventional wars against powerful land armies. U.S. forces must be capable of meeting those challenges.
Conventional forces provide the United States with unique capabilities across an expanding range of military requirements-from peacetime engagement, through deterrence, to the conduct of major war.
In peacetime, conventional forces are the bedrock of America's military-to-military contacts with the forces of over 130 other nations. The United States provides military training, in one form or another, to 75 percent of the world's armed forces. This training is crucial to the successful assimilation of new weapons and tactics by friendly forces. More important, U.S. military training is a unique medium for encouraging the adoption of the values of professionalism, respect for human rights and support for democratic institutions. U.S. conventional forces provide an indispensable avenue of influence and a source of positive change in many nations where political and social traditions accord the military a prominent role in the government. Conventional forces, particularly the U.S. Army, actively support nation-building in countries throughout the world, assisting in the development of infrastructure that, in turn, helps alleviate some of the root causes of instability and violence.
Conventional forces also make an important contribution to the national counternarcotics strategy. As one element of a comprehensive approach, military units are helping law enforcement agencies detect and defeat drug trafficking. Mobile U.S. training teams advise the security forces of drug producing countries, and conventional forces provide equipment, maintenance support and training to U.S. government agencies that fight trafficking, both in the United States and abroad.
Conventional forces are also among the most effective tools for enhancing political stability in the international order. U.S. ground forces in Korea and elsewhere in East Asia have provided security, and thus encouraged ancient enemies-for example, Japan, Korea and China-to manage their differences without resorting to force. Without American willingness to sustain peacekeeping forces in the Sinai, the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt might never have materialized.
Perhaps nowhere is the stabilizing role of U.S. conventional forces more evident than in Europe. NATO, the most successful and enduring alliance in recent memory, created and sustained an environment of military and political cooperation among nations whose histories gave them every reason to be as suspicious of one another as they were of the Soviets. The United States contributed to the unparalleled success of the alliance by providing leadership unencumbered by the historical baggage of regional animosities or territorial ambitions.
Closely related to their role in enhancing political stability, conventional forces are equally crucial to deterring aggression in places where the United States has a sizable military presence and in other regions where it has no forward-deployed forces. Each element of conventional forces contributes substantially to deterrence. Naval forces, including Marine Corps elements, can quickly project military power in order to demonstrate U.S. concern; air power, particularly when surged into a crisis area, can rapidly bolster the credibility of U.S. involvement and increase the ability to punish aggression. Historically there has been no stronger statement of national resolve than the deployment of the American soldier. The presence of U.S. Army units on the ground-combat elements that cannot sail or fly away overnight-leaves little doubt that the full power and prestige of the United States are committed.
Finally, conventional forces have the responsibility to fight and win wars. They have the combat power necessary to determine the outcome of battle and to preserve American interests, should deterrence fail. The key to the successful employment of conventional combat power in war is to fight jointly-a lesson that stood in stark relief in Desert Storm. In only the rarest of circumstances can either sea, land or air power be effective by itself. Joint operations do not require that each element of conventional forces commit equal numbers of troops or equipment; there is no scientific formula for the proportions needed from each service. Rather, in joint operations each service contributes its unique capabilities to the mission at hand. That is the way U.S. forces fought in Iraq and Kuwait, and that is how they must fight in the future. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to assert that U.S. conventional forces will fight jointly, or they will not fight at all.
Despite the many purposes that America's conventional forces have successfully fulfilled in the past, there are substantial changes that can and should be made in force structure. These changes must take into account the emerging international environment and the concomitant requirements for force training, readiness and quality. In the future, U.S. forces will have fewer divisions, fewer aircraft carriers and fewer air wings, and thus they must be shaped with care and deliberation. The hollow rhetoric of the "roles and missions" debate should be cast aside, and the genuine contributions of each element of the conventional forces examined.
As the size of U.S. conventional forces is reduced, the nation assumes greater risk in its ability to achieve its objectives, particularly if the international environment remains unstable and violent. The force structure now taking shape will be the smallest in nearly half a century. By 1995, for example, the army will have 535,000 soldiers in its active force-the smallest number since 1939. Historical comparisons illustrate the magnitude of these reductions. In 1950, after the precipitous drawdown following World War II, the army still had nearly 600,000 active-duty soldiers. In the wake of Vietnam, the active army was reduced to 800,000, and at the beginning of fiscal year 1991, only 764,000 soldiers and 18 divisions were active.
Given the burgeoning military capabilities in the developing world and the uncertain future of the Soviet Union, reductions in conventional forces beyond those already contemplated may well deny the United States the ability to defend its interests against unexpected and simultaneous challenges. At the onset of Desert Storm, the army had deployed to Saudi Arabia 17 of its active armored brigades, leaving only four such brigades in the strategic reserve for other contingencies. A smaller force structure may render decisive action in a future contingency highly problematic. Should U.S. forces be required to fight, a smaller structure will increase the time required to reconstitute the forces in preparation for a later crisis. There will simply be no rapidly available reservoir of forces and equipment from which to draw.
Yet another consequence of a much smaller force structure will be increased pressure for urgent decision-making. If the United States were to attempt to undertake an operation like Desert Storm with the forces contemplated for the mid-1990s, the president might have to declare partial mobilization immediately and activate reserve components on a far greater scale. The rapidly mobilized reserves would not only be required to train, deploy and fight, but they would also have to maintain the capability to satisfy other contingencies that might arise around the world. The reserve components would have to be mobilized early and on a massive scale in order to assume the strategic functions that the smaller active force could no longer cover. Such a massive call-up of reserve forces takes time, which arguably may not be available in a future crisis.
Since the early 1960s, America's national security community has debated the relative merits of a "two-and-a-half" or "one-and-a-half" war strategy to determine force structure. But the direction in which the United States is now heading, if not carefully managed, may leave it with only a "half" war capability-a one-shot military, capable of a single, medium-sized operation before extensive time-consuming reconstitution. The risks inherent in such circumstances must be clearly understood and appreciated as America shapes its conventional forces for the 1990s and beyond.
Although U.S. conventional forces will be substantially smaller in the years ahead, they must retain four qualities essential to national security. These qualities are versatility, deployability, lethality and expansibility.
Conventional forces must be able to meet a wide array of challenges while drawing from a smaller reservoir of forces. Fewer forces and a broad range of challenges mean that each individual unit must be prepared to face a wider spectrum of missions.
Recent experience has illustrated the need for versatility. In a period of 18 months, American conventional forces met challenges spanning the entire range of military operations short of nuclear war. Conventional forces fought successfully in Panama in an operation that employed predominantly light infantry and special-operations forces, supported by a small number of armored and maritime units as well as a massive airlift. They supported disaster relief efforts in California after a devastating earthquake, and performed similar tasks in the Caribbean and the southeastern United States after Hurricane Hugo. They evacuated Americans from Liberia and Somalia and provided support to the Aquino government in the Philippines during an attempted coup. Moreover, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines continued to serve at the cutting edge of America's commitments in East Asia and Europe. They also fought forest fires in the American west and supported counternarcotics operations along the U.S. southern border and in Latin America. Finally, the armed forces undertook a no-notice deployment to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, where they conducted a highly successful military campaign of a scale unmatched since World War II.
Most of the nations hostile to U.S. interests rely on ground forces as the principal instrument of their military power. Special attention must therefore be paid to the ability of U.S. armed forces to conduct decisive campaigns on land. For the United States to have a credible ability to defeat tank-heavy forces in the developing world, as well as to respond to an unanticipated deterioration of Soviet behavior, it must have a force mix that includes substantial armored, light and special-operations forces, supported by close air support and an adequate airlift and sealift.
Versatility also demands that the United States have the capacity to concentrate power rapidly in critical areas. This requires it to retain a forward presence in Europe, Asia and other areas vital to U.S. interests. Although oriented toward threats in their particular theater, forward-deployed army forces must also be available to reinforce operations in other areas-as did about half of the forces in Europe for Desert Storm. With a smaller force structure, the United States can no longer afford to field forces whose utility is limited to Europe alone, or to any other single theater of operations, because of their design, equipment, training or political constraints.
With a diminished presence in Europe and East Asia, the centerpiece of the U.S. post-Cold War strategy will be conventional forces based in the United States-powerful forces available for power projection in contingencies worldwide. These forces must be of sufficient number so that they can contend with an adversary of substantial capabilities. They must also reflect a mix of naval, air and land forces, including armored, light and special-operations units able to be tailored into a force package appropriate to the threat. Most important, these contingency forces must be fully trained and ready to deploy and fight with virtually no warning time.
Arms control agreements and a general lessening of East-West tensions have significantly increased warning time in Europe, but challenges requiring U.S. military actions in the developing world may continue to materialize with virtually no warning, as happened in the Iraqi attack on Kuwait. The absence of warning time, coupled with the mounting capabilities of the armies of developing countries, means that there may be no comfortable buffer during which soldiers, units and leaders can be trained for combat.
Consequently, the idea of a "tiered" readiness system for active forces, in which some units are kept fully capable while others are maintained at lower levels of preparedness, does not stand up to future requirements the nation may well face. Under a tiered system, it is doubtful that fully trained forces would be available in sufficient number to deter or defeat an aggressor like Iraq. This would leave the president with two equally unattractive options: committing forces not adequately prepared for combat or delaying deployment until sufficient forces could be brought up to combat readiness while the crisis intensified or even passed the nation by.
Beyond the ability to act immediately in a crisis, the United States must also have the unquestioned capability to reinforce forward-deployed units or contingency forces with other units from active and reserve components. Reinforcements provide the indispensable capacity to maintain forces in a crisis area, either for protracted deterrence or for sustained combat. Given the smaller size of the overall force, it is clear that reinforcing units, too, must be ready for rapid deployment with minimal additional training.
Implicit in the requirement for versatility is an appropriate proportion of active to reserve forces-a proportion determined by national military strategy, demands of the international environment and the missions for which each component is best suited. As U.S. forces are reduced and reshaped, the proper mix of active and reserve forces will assume mounting significance, particularly in the army, with its heavy reliance on reserves.
As the prospects for a major war with the Soviet Union diminish, and as arms control agreements are implemented, an appropriate number of active and reserve units will be deactivated. The total force will be restructured to provide the combat and support units needed to meet anticipated worldwide contingencies. Upgrading the readiness of reserve combat units will also be a priority, while recognizing that there are inherent limitations on how ready these units can be due to training time. With a smaller total force and compressed warning times for contingencies outside the bounds of NATO, active and reserve units will have to be as versatile and ready as possible.
As operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm demonstrated, reserve units with missions compatible to civilian occupations-such as supply and transportation-are of great and immediate value simply because, upon mobilization, their administrative and training requirements are relatively modest. Reserve land combat units-infantry, armor and field artillery-require substantially more training and preparations before they can be committed to combat. Combat units must perform complex tasks in synchronization with each other and with elements of air and maritime units. There are no equivalent civilian tasks that could reduce the need for actual training in order to meet rigorous battlefield requirements. This was very clear during the training of the reserve combat brigades activated for Operation Desert Storm, and this experience should be kept in mind as forces are reshaped. We should not accord capabilities or expectations to reserves that they, by their very nature, cannot achieve. At the same time, we cannot afford an active force structure with all the diverse capabilities needed to meet the range of contingencies the United States may confront. The U.S. force structure must be built on a realistic assessment of the strengths and limitations of each component so that each can make the most effective contribution to the total force.
Versatility is thus fundamental to U.S. forces for this decade and beyond. In a shrinking force structure, individual units as well as the entire conventional forces must assume expanding responsibilities. These competing pressures can be reconciled only if all units and leaders are prepared to function effectively across a wide spectrum of conflict throughout the world.
The second major characteristic U.S. conventional forces must retain is the ability to project appropriate combat power rapidly wherever U.S. interests are threatened. Depending on the threat, the United States may need to deploy only a small force, such as a carrier battlegroup or an AWACS detachment. Alternatively the threat may require the United States to mount a major joint operation-built around a contingency force of armored divisions-to contend with an adversary who possesses a significant and powerful arsenal of tanks.
Deployability contributes to both deterrence and defense, and assumes greater significance as U.S. armed forces are reduced in size and forward-deployed forces are scaled back. This is particularly true in the context of the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement, in which both alliance and Soviet force levels will be decreased and the warning time for an attack increased. The ability to return forces quickly to Europe will buttress the CFE agreement by providing a demonstrated capacity to respond effectively to treaty violations or a resurgent Soviet threat. Moreover, knowledge that the United States can project combat power quickly into a threatened area will figure prominently in the strategic calculus of any potential adversary-in Europe or elsewhere-and will help discourage aggression.
Although the deployment to the Arabian peninsula was largely successful, it exceeded American sealift capacity. The United States was forced to rely on a significant number of foreign ships. The ability to project substantial land forces remains inadequate to meet the needs of the entire range of contingencies the United States may face in coming years. The United States simply does not have enough airlift or sealift to carry the forces that may be required. But the solution does not lie in "lightening" U.S. forces by stripping their combat power to meet available lift assets; it would be folly to commit American units to battle without giving them the wherewithal to fight successfully.
Deployability must instead be addressed in a comprehensive manner that looks at imaginative and affordable solutions to projecting large forces rapidly throughout the world. Deployability is not simply an issue of ships and airplanes. The United States must not only expand strategic lift, it must also pursue initiatives to enhance its ability to act as necessary in a particular crisis. Conventional forces must be designed so that they can be put together in packages tailored for rapid movement. Military access agreements should be examined to allow the United States to project forces in pre-crisis situations. Equipment design must stress mobility without sacrificing combat power. Finally the United States must consider ways to pre-position supplies and equipment and to enhance support infrastructure in high-risk regions.
The final point is particularly important. Desert Storm demonstrated that the ability to project significant combat power was greatly enhanced by a decade of work done to pre-position supplies and develop air bases and seaports in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region. In few areas around the world would the United States find this fortuitous combination to facilitate rapid deployment. In enhancing deployability the objective should be to have the capacity to project the major elements of a multidivision corps, with the capability for forcible entry, substantial armored forces and sufficient sustainment, anywhere in the world in one month.
Decision-makers must never lose sight of the principal mission of the armed forces: to fight and to win the wars of the nation. It is therefore not enough to simply project power; that power must be capable of prevailing when deployed. Lethality bolsters deterrence, ensures defense and undergirds the ability to defeat any adversary.
In order to be lethal, U.S. forces must first have an effective joint war-fighting doctrine that focuses its combat power and strengths on the battlefield. Second, America's weapons must continue to exploit their technological strengths and help compensate for the fact that smaller numbers of forces may require them to fight outnumbered. Better technology alone will never win a battle, but it does provide soldiers with an indispensable edge over potential adversaries. Third, tough, realistic training must be used to hone the war-fighting skills of soldiers, units and leaders to prepare them for the rigors of combat. Training must remain the top priority of each service. Fourth, America must continue to develop leaders of skill and imagination-leaders who understand how to fight and who inspire in their subordinates the confidence that they can win. Finally, lethality demands that U.S. ranks be filled with young Americans of spirit and ambition, with the character and abilities that will allow them to undertake and succeed in tasks both disparate and dangerous.
Lethality is, of course, a relative term: what is lethal in one set of circumstances may be largely irrelevant in another. In many operations, light infantry, marines, air or naval forces wield sufficient power to achieve national objectives. In other contingencies, such forces may not possess enough firepower or appropriate capabilities to deter or defeat aggression. With this in mind, forces must be tailored into packages to respond to the particular challenge at hand, ensuring that the force has sufficient lethality to achieve its objectives.
Finally, conventional forces must be able to grow rapidly in response to a massive outbreak of hostilities or a resurgence of Soviet military ambitions. The training base must be designed to absorb large numbers of new recruits and to prepare them for combat on short notice. More important, the United States must continue to train and develop leaders-officers and noncommissioned officers-who are prepared to assume expanded responsibilities at higher levels of command, almost overnight.
Expansibility has particular relevance for the army-a force that in World War II was more than eight million strong will by 1997 have less than seven percent of that number. While no one anticipates a global conflict in the near future, the army's structure must be designed both to accomplish a range of time-urgent missions without mobilization and to grow rapidly, with mobilization, to a size appropriate to any challenge.
The structural key to expansibility-or force generation-lies in the design of forces earmarked for immediate contingencies, early reinforcement, follow-on reinforcement and total mobilization. In the army of tomorrow, a contingency force will be maintained in the United States that consists of active component divisions-armored, air assault, airborne and light infantry-trained and ready to deploy anywhere in the world with no prior warning or additional preparation. Should the requirement extend beyond 60 days, these contingency forces will be supported by units that are designated for early reinforcement. These are the army's "round-out" divisions-units that have two active brigades and one from the National Guard or the Army Reserve.
Follow-on reinforcing units will generate additional forces. These will be National Guard divisions activated, trained and deployed for protracted commitments. For requirements beyond the follow-on reinforcements, the army is examining the utility of "cadre" divisions-units that would have leaders assigned but would be fully manned only under conditions of national emergency. Finally, the army will be prepared to develop scores of additional divisions under conditions of full mobilization and general war.
While aggregate force levels will be reduced throughout the decade partly in response to budgetary pressures, this build-down must be carefully managed to ensure that the characteristics essential to national security are not sacrificed. For the army, the result will be a force of 535,000 soldiers in the active force and 550,000 in the reserves. The combat structure will be a 20-division total force, with a mix of armored, mechanized, light, airborne and air assault forces. It will be an army that, while maintaining a significant presence abroad, is principally based in the United States and oriented toward power projection throughout the world. It will be a lean army, heavily dependent on reserves and mobilization in order to execute large, protracted or simultaneous contingencies. And it will be an army of quality soldiers that has invested heavily in training, readiness and technology, prepared to fulfill the expectations of the nation.
Perhaps the most persuasive demonstration of the importance of conventional forces is the American reaction to Iraq's seizure of Kuwait. Without attempting to reconstruct a comprehensive history of the crisis, it is apparent that the versatility, deployability, lethality and expansibility of American conventional forces were the keys to the U.S. response to Saddam Hussein's aggression.
President Bush outlined on August 8, 1990, four basic U.S. objectives in the crisis: unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait; restoration of the legitimate Kuwaiti government; safety for all American citizens; and stability throughout the region. To achieve these objectives the administration crafted a multidimensional military strategy with conventional forces as its foundation.
The president initially faced three challenges in executing this strategy. First, he had to rapidly project a capable defensive force that would deter and, if necessary, defeat an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia. Second, he had to rally the international community to support economic and political sanctions against Iraq, and then make the sanctions work. And third, he had to maintain and increase the pressure on Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait.
With an Iraqi army flush from its victory in Kuwait, and poised to strike into the eastern province of Saudi Arabia in early August, the immediate requirement was to demonstrate that the United States was serious about its stand and committed to the defense of Saudi Arabia. To accomplish this, the United States dispatched strong naval forces to the region, began to move air power to the peninsula and, most important, deployed the 82nd Airborne Division to Saudi Arabia, with the first units arriving less than 30 hours after the initial alert. The president understood that rhetoric alone was insufficient to show the depth of the American commitment; he had to draw a line in the sand, and he did so with the bayonet of the American paratrooper.
At the same time, the president had to build a credible defensive capability to deny Iraq the ability to seize and hold Saudi territory. Air and naval power and lightly armed airborne forces were insufficient for this purpose. Over the course of the next three months, the United States thus built a substantial armored force, using marine units and army divisions from around the world. With the arrival of the first heavy American tanks in the third week of August, it was increasingly clear that Iraq could not succeed in an attack against Saudi Arabia. As the U.S. force continued to build, Saddam Hussein began to replace his offensively oriented tank divisions in Kuwait with infantry units best suited for defense.
Conventional forces were equally important in assuring the efficacy of the sanctions. Indeed, the principal difference between the porous sanctions that had proved ineffective in past crises and the virtually airtight sanctions against Iraq was the enforcement by coalition naval power and the cooperation of nations sharing land borders with Iraq. Carrier battle-groups and surface ships of many nations took up positions in the region and provided a genuine capability to ensure that the sanctions were not violated. This, in turn, encouraged nations throughout the world to adhere to the mandate of the U.N. Security Council and to support Iraq's economic isolation.
Finally, conventional forces were the instrument of choice once the United States and its coalition partners made the decision to eject an intransigent Iraq from Kuwait. In early November, the president ordered the deployment of an additional army corps of three armored divisions, three more carrier battlegroups, another marine expeditionary force and more land-based air power to the region. When added to the Saudi and coalition units already on the peninsula, and to the further commitments of land combat power from the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Syria and a number of other countries, this force gave the coalition the genuine capability to drive Iraq from Kuwait-a capability employed with great effect beginning January 16. Together, the coalition was able to mount a coordinated air-land-sea campaign to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Desert Storm began with operations designed to neutralize the most dangerous Iraqi offensive and defensive capabilities, to diminish Iraq's ability to sustain its forces occupying Kuwait and to directly attack the combat capabilities of Iraq's land forces. Once these objectives were achieved, the final phase began. The last phase had two basic objectives: to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait and to deny to Saddam Hussein the ability to reinforce the theater or to pose a threat to Kuwait in the future. This second objective required the defeat of the Republican Guard divisions based in southern Iraq-divisions that were indeed Saddam Hussein's strategic center of gravity and the source of his regional power.
The successful conduct of the final phase of Operation Desert Storm was a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of conventional forces operating jointly to achieve objectives attainable in no other way. The plan envisioned a deliberate attack into Kuwait, to fix Iraqi forces in place, while two U.S. Army corps swept around to the west of Iraqi defenses in an audacious turning movement designed to envelop and destroy the Republican Guard. Air support was a fundamental dimension of this plan, which pitted allied maneuverability against static Iraqi defenses, to terminate the war with as few U.S. and coalition casualties as possible. Seldom in organized warfare has a plan been so flawlessly executed.
On February 23, the day the land offensive began, the allied coalition faced more than 43 Iraqi divisions, thousands of tanks and several hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers in the Kuwaiti theater. This was Saddam Hussein's anchor in Kuwait, which remained fast even after 12 U.N. Security Council resolutions, six months of intense diplomacy, almost airtight economic sanctions and six weeks of continuous precision bombing. But one hundred hours after the coalition opened the land phase, the Iraqi army lay shattered and burning, organized resistance had ceased, and Kuwait was once again an independent nation.
At the most basic level, the coalition prevented Iraq from executing its style of war. It isolated Iraqi forces from their support base, weakened them by continuous bombardment, successfully disguised the time and place of the thrust of the coalition's attack and defeated the Republican Guard. Although much more remains to be done to translate military success into political stability, the United States and the international coalition clearly won a victory of almost unprecedented dimensions. And, in the final analysis, it was a victory that rested on the capability of U.S. conventional forces.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the international counter-offensive that ultimately defeated that aggression thus underscore the future role of conventional forces. Saddam Hussein persuasively demonstrated that smaller nations in the developing world can indeed affect the international community in a profound way. He showed that such states have the capacity to conduct high-intensity conflict and to attack with little or no warning. Moreover, he demonstrated a troubling feature of international relations today: many regimes still operate from a frame of reference in which the force of arms remains a legitimate-and too often preferred-form of international discourse. If nothing else is learned from Desert Storm, it is that the sun has not set on violence and warfare, and that the conventional forces of this nation remain an indispensable element in the quiver of American power.
As the United States confronts a truly revolutionary era, the nation must have the courage to see the world as it really is: a world abundant with opportunities, but also one beset by challenges; a world in which conflict remains a way of life for many nations; and a world in which the interests of the United States remain very much at risk. In this world, military strategy must be built on the continued primacy of conventional forces-supported by a sufficient nuclear arsenal-essential to the preservation of peace and to the shaping of a future in which freedom and democracy are allowed to prosper. The nation must shape its forces to meet the challenges of a new era. The American people and the world expect, and deserve, nothing less.