Less War Rather Than More Troops
Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, argues that, “The answer to military strain is not more troops but less war.”
Even the most powerful country in the world, measured both in terms of our military might and our economic vitality, must make choices. Our military is second-to-none, and our men and women in uniform are well-trained, extremely qualified, and highly motivated. But they cannot be everywhere, and they cannot do everything. We must be willing to evaluate each mission according to a crucial set of criteria: Is it vital to our national security? Have we exhausted all available alternatives? Does it have a reasonable chance of achieving its stated objective at an acceptable cost?
That’s a classic Realist position and one I’ve supported for years. Unfortunately, it’s an ideal type and not nearly such an easy template to apply as it would seem.
John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson thought Vietnam met those standards. Bill Clinton thought that Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, and other interventions did. George W. Bush and a bipartisan consensus in Congress thought Iraq did. Indeed, I can’t think of a single major use of American military might the decision makers didn’t think passed that test. Indeed, almost by definition, they thought the costs acceptable since, after all, they accepted them. It’s only when things don’t go according to plan that the costs escalate beyond the perceived reward.
The operative public policy question, then, is that since the history of the last fifteen years or so demonstrates that the United States’ political leadership will repeatedly find our national security interests served by sending troops into nasty situations abroad, how do we build a force to accommodate that reality?
via Jim Henley