New Pentagon strategy greets growing ‘global disorder’ with a shrug

Special to

by Dr. Jack Caravelli, Geostrategy-Direct

The July 5 release of the Department of Defense’s “National Military Strategy of the United States” emphasizes what Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey describes as a global security environment that is the “most unpredictable in 40 years of service.”

The last strategy document was published in 2011; Dempsey’s introductory note to the revised strategy acknowledges that “global disorder has significantly increased.”
This is in part the result, he claims, of the growing and evolving security problems triggered by “violent extremist organizations” (like the White House, the Pentagon can’t bring itself to use the term jihadist extremists) across the Middle East.

ISIL mortar attack in Hasakeh on June 28.  The Pentagon's new National Military Strategy notes that such non-traditional threats are on the rise. / Delil Souleiman / AFP
ISIL mortar attack in Hasakeh on June 28. The Pentagon’s new National Military Strategy notes that such non-traditional threats are on the rise. / Delil Souleiman / AFP

Perhaps the most candid part of the Pentagon’s global strategy document is the portrayal of the other major security challenge described in the report, “traditional state actors” such as Russia “which does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors.”

In this environment the U.S. must “pay greater attention to challenges posed by state actors.” That assessment extends to China, portrayed as making claims to “nearly the entire South China Sea which are inconsistent with international law.”

Underpinning these developments, according to the Pentagon, are technological developments that enhance the capabilities of U.S. adversaries and reduce the U.S. qualitative edge in such areas as early warning and global strike.

Technological change is not the only new dimension facing Pentagon planners. The new defense strategy also addresses the implications of what is termed “hybrid conflict which blends conventional and irregular forces to create ambiguity, seize the initiative and paralyze the adversary.”

Citing Russia’s use of such tactics in its annexation of Crimea and efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon sees hybrid conflict as a permanent trend in future conflict.

The U.S. military’s assessment of current and emerging security challenges also has some highly questionable parts. For example, its discussion of the resources needed to develop and maintain the capabilities to manage those threats is hardly convincing. One of those resources is the continuing set of extensive alliances the U.S. maintains around the globe.

Long a major part of U.S. defense strategy, U.S. military ties to friends and allies, including Japan, the UK and Israel, have frayed under the Obama administration’s often cavalier attitude toward them.

Even more disturbing is that while important friends are being shunted aside the Obama administration’s current strategy for defeating ISIL is to carry out limited air strikes while relying on Middle East militaries to take on a central role in that conflict.

As described by the Pentagon, defeating terrorism is best achieved by “sustained pressure using local forces augmented by specialized U.S. and coalition military strengths…”

That strategy may play well domestically; President Obama has shunned any effort to rally public opinion in support of any potentially decisive U.S. military engagement, even if limited to an expanded role for U.S. air power in the Middle East.

In so doing it overturns long-held combat lessons, beginning with the principle that U.S. interests are best served by its own military.

Are we entering an era where the still largely unspoken but growing body of evidence suggests the overriding U.S. military goal of protecting the nation’s interests in at least some critical areas is being subcontracted out to others?

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