Military Readiness Canard

Thomas Barnett calls BS (Literally. Twice.) on the notion that the U.S. Army is “overstretched” and could not effectively respond to major conflicts involving North Korea or Iran if called upon to do so.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    What Steven Den Beste wrote a couple of years ago is still true: we could fight eight wars simultaneously. At least five of them would be nuclear.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Heh. True that, if it came to it.

    Still, Barnett is right: We can handle blowing things up rather nicely. It’s the SysAdmin function (essentially, counterinsurgency and stabilization ops) that give us trouble and suck up a lot of resources.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Where I disagree with Barnett is in his government-centric view of America. Regardless of his blueprints we don’t have and never will have the SysAdmin force he envisions built alongside or on top of our existing military force. It’s politically, bureaucratically, and fiscally impossible.

    But government isn’t the only game in town and isn’t even the most important game in the SysAdmin functions. The private sector is quite able to satisfy the requirements especially if the SysAdmin Force is really a SysAdmin force and neither a police force nor a military unit that never fires its weapons. For that last there’s always the French.

  4. spencer says:

    Hasn’t learned anything, has he.

  5. bob in fl says:

    Thomas Barnett is the one full of BS. Sure the Air Force & Navy are good at blowing things up. There is no shortage of flyboys & squids.

    But it is the grunts who have finish the job. The repeated redeployments & lack of equipment problems right now prove we do not have enough of them.

    He suggests turning over to the private sector all duties not related to actual fighting. Good grief! Hasn’t Halliburton robbed out treasury enough already? And would you enlist if you knew in advance the only skill you would be trained to do is shoot straight & duck?

  6. Tlaloc says:

    We can fight any number of wars at once, so long as we’re willing to lose all of them. On the off chance we’d like to win a war at some point we might need to see about getting an army that isn’t exhausted, maimed, and full of sub par recruits to meet quota levels.

  7. just me says:

    Honestly, there are a lot of men out there of an age and physically capable of serving.

    If push came to shove, and we needed to fight a major war with several countries, we could do so, some people may be even more inconvienienced than currently, but if the will is there, we can find a way.

    Also, we could be blowing up a lot more stuff in Iraq than we have and are, we could be blowing a lot more stuff up in Afghanistan. I do agree though, that while we can blow stuff up, the ground troops are neccessary to really defeat the enemy.

  8. JohnG says:

    We could win any number of wars simultaneously as long as we don’t care about who dies and in what numbers. However, practically speaking, if we find ourselves in another major war then we’ll probably have to bomb the other side’s major army to prevent them from winning, and live in a stalemate until sufficent numbers of drafted troops are trained to occupy the other country. There is no way that the United States will lose a war in the current situation for military reasons, despite alarmism by the Army. We might not be able to control the enemy land, but at the same time we won’t be losing any land either.

  9. Andy says:

    Boy howdy, lookie here! We done got us a military fetishist using funny words that he don’t understand.

    His “SysAdmin” has got to be one of the most ridiculous misappropriations of computer (or any, really) terminology that I have ever heard of.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Boy howdy, lookie here! We done got us a military fetishist using funny words that he don’t understand.

    I’m by no means sold on the SysAdmin-Leviathan divide for a whole host of reasons, but Barnett is one of the smartest force structure guys out there. He developed the concepts in question while a professor at the Naval War College and turned a PowerPoint brief into a national bestselling book after it became in ridiculously high demand at the Pentagon and elsewhere.