July 3, 2003 | Executive Summary on Iraq
After Iraq: Learning the War's Lessons
the wake of the Iraq war, the Bush Administration and Congress are
trying to learn what lessons this victory holds for preparing for
future conflicts. There is an expectation that in short order they
can digest the war's complex operations and determine sound policy
that is not likely to happen. Rather, in the near term, they would
do well to focus on a few key strategic issuesrefining
national military strategy, restructuring U.S. alliances,
reordering defense research and development priorities, rebalancing
aviation acquisition programs, improving post-conflict planning,
and enhancing the role of the U.S. Department of Defense in
analysis of the war and its impact on how the United States can
best meet these core strategic challenges suggests that the
following actions should be high on the list of Administration and
congressional priorities in the months ahead.
- The Pentagon should publish a military
strategy that establishes isolating potential enemies as a first
principle. Keeping enemies in a small box--undercutting their
alliances, sources of support, and the means to obtain and use
weapons of mass destruction or advanced technologies--ought to be
- As the purpose and utility of America's
alliances is changing, the U.S. military force structure needs to
keep pace. The Administration must align military forward presence
and engagement to meet new strategic requirements. Getting the
realignment of forces in Europe right should be a high priority.
Congress should give strong and unqualified support to these
- The only way to bring about a further
dramatic increase in the mobility and flexibility of U.S. forces is
to develop the breakthrough technologies and new manufacturing
methods that will significantly reduce the weight of the force
while retaining its lethality and survivability. Congress should
increase annual funding for the basic science and technology effort
that might provide the leap-ahead capabilities needed for military
transformation by about 10 percent.
- The United States military is on the cusp
of a wave of acquisition that by mid-decade could account for a
quarter or more of defense spending. The lion's share of this
procurement will be in modernizing the air fleet. This is an
enormous investment that the Pentagon can ill-afford to get wrong.
The Administration and Congress should fundamentally rethink
short-range aircraft procurement. A less ambitious program would
still allow the United States to maintain its competitive edge
while turning its attention to other critical defense needs,
particularly bomber modernization and transformation programs.
- Although it is too soon to judge the
effectiveness of the occupation of Iraq, it does seem that
preparations for the post-conflict period were inadequate. The U.S.
needs to do better. The Department of Defense should assign the
Army the mission of post-conflict operations (not peacekeeping or
nation-building) as a core competency and build a supporting joint
and interagency structure that is prepared to execute these
missions rather than one that is created ad hoc.
- The United States is not adequately
prepared to deal with catastrophic terrorist attacks that might
occur while U.S. forces are engaged overseas. The Pentagon must
rethink the organization, tasks, and forces assigned to the U.S.
Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to ensure that they are adequate to
support homeland security against the threat of catastrophic
terrorist attacks, particularly during periods when U.S. forces are
engaged in overseas conflicts.
Refining the national military strategy,
restructuring U.S. alliances, reprioritizing defense research and
development efforts, rebalancing aviation acquisition programs,
improving post-conflict planning, and providing additional support
to NORTHCOM are obvious and pressing problems that can be addressed
right now--helping to ensure that the nation maintains its
competitive advantages, brings overseas military campaigns to
successful conclusions, and protects the homeland.
James Jay Carafano,
Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and
Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute
for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.