Low End Theory: DoD should gear for asymmetric threats

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Sgt. 1st Class David McMahon takes aim during an AWG competition in 2009//Army Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bailey

Will the U.S. military fight future foes by not fighting at all?

Counterinsurgency guru John Nagl, in an opinion piece in this week’s Defense News,  knocks the Pentagon for a limp approach to building capacity among its allies, when more robust aid would be an “effective and affordable” option in an era of leaner defense budgets.

Nagl, president of Washington think tank Center for a New American Security, offers a plan that stresses “asymmetry, advisers and UAVs” and suggests the military has not gone far enough to enough to institutionalize its thinking around assymetric threats.

As author of COIN bible “Learning to Eat Soup aith a Knife,” and CNAS’s successor to Michele Flournoy —  now-Pentagon undersecretary for policy — Nagl offers  this as part of a quick road map for whomever replaces Sec Def Robert Gates. (Flournoy herself has been mentioned.) 

While DoD  has responded to  low-end threats like the IED with the procurement of armored vehicles  and the development of UAVs to provide intelligence on and strikes against insurgent cells, these sorts of changes have “not yet become part of the DNA of America’s fighting forces,” Nagl laments.

Meanwhile, Asian-Pacific adversaries pose a different kind of asymmetric threat, with a mix of high-tech, conventional and unconventional capabilities. Nagl suggests Pentagon leaders watch out for China’s development of cheap and accurate munitions and develop drones for land, sea and air, that work in contested spaces.

“Gates faced the huge challenge of turning around a war that was rapidly being lost when he assumed leadership of the Department of Defense,” Nagl writes. “Gates’ successor will also face challenges: institutionalizing progress in irregular warfare and deterring high-end asymmetric challengers, while continuing to whittle down defense expenditures.”

[via Defense News]

 

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