Living near or visiting the Nation’s capital, you cannot escape the weight of history that surrounds you. From the monuments to the historic buildings, the trails and battlefields, the names on the roads—even the geography itself—force you to consider what happened in the past and what might happen in the future. Even with a political process that at times seems to be stagnant and combative, our nation continues to do what must be done. This is something George Washington knew some 235 years ago when he stopped by Mount Vernon, the home he had not visited for 6 long years of war, as he moved his headquarters toward what would be the most important battle of the Revolutionary War, Yorktown.
By the spring of 1781, based on a long series of less-than-successful engagements with the British, Washington believed the way forward was to attack the British stronghold in what is now New York City. Washington’s French allies, led by Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur (better known as the Count de Rochambeau), had different ideas and gave Washington’s forces, particularly the French Fleet, orders that did not support his plan. After a conference in Connecticut, Washington reluctantly accepted the French proposal and ordered the combined land force to march to Yorktown. He really only had the counsel of his allies to guide him, which he took primarily because his French counterparts had more extensive military experience. He must have been quite worried about the likelihood of success as he passed his home on the banks of the Potomac some 20 miles south of what is now our capital, where he met with his family briefly, before riding off south to his fate on the York River. Indeed, General Washington was an exceptional individual, but he could not have known what lay ahead any more than we do today. Yet he trusted his troops and his allies, who were key to his eventual victory. Particularly crucial to the land battle’s success was the lesser-known Battle of the Virginia Capes, where an outnumbered, outgunned, and out-maneuvered British Fleet had left Charles Cornwallis to fend for himself days before Washington arrived. The French and American armies (with the larger and more experienced number being the former) would go on to defeat the British in a town not far from our largest naval base at Norfolk and just a few hours’ drive from Mount Vernon. From such a gamble, relying on friends without any real confidence in the outcome, perhaps our greatest military commander achieved victory.
Painted by Auguste Couder in 1836, Bataille de Yorktown shows Rochambeau and Washington giving final orders before battle (Palais de Versailles, France)
Our history is full of similar examples where the time was not bright in terms of prospect, but we endured in part due to the help of our friends such as the French. In more recent times this reliance on allies repeated itself as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to support its most powerful member in the moments after attacks on New York City and the Pentagon occurred 15 years ago last month. Moreover, NATO came to the aid of one of its members in an unprecedented out-of-area operation that probably few outside of the military probably know about. NATO actually took the burden of shoring up U.S. domestic air defense in the days and months after 9/11 with its NATO Airborne Early Warning aircraft and crews of international airmen while our forces were engaged overseas. While we are the world’s most essential power, we are never really alone or independent from the rest of the world. One of our authors in this issue helps to reinforce that point while others help us better understand the realities of this very different world we inheritors of Washington’s gamble must live in. We are up against many challenges, but we are not alone in how we might deal with them.
In Forum, John Benedict helps us work out what the future of national and international security will bring, and discusses the trends that will impact where power will be found in the international system of states, what threats will arise, and how military operations could be applied to deal with them. As we look to the future and build on the Third Offset Strategy–related articles in the last issue of JFQ, Brent Sadler offers an interesting and compact look at how humans and machines will interact in the battlespace ahead. Daniel Hughes and Andrew Colarik explore the nature of cyber capabilities, their impact on warfare, and the utility of cyber weapons for a growing number of players internationally. Given the growing number and diversity of the threats to global security, it would be easy to see these weapons in the aggregate as larger than anything we have seen before. Helping us to keep things in perspective, Andrew Stigler suggests we need to avoid “supersizing” these threats and offers a simple threat assessment methodology that could help.
In JPME Today, we have two articles that offer thought-provoking points of view. First, continuing the theme of how to realize the Third Offset Strategy, Paul Norwood and Benjamin Jensen describe how to wargame emerging concepts from this important evolving area of interest and how the war colleges might assist the Department of Defense in finding a way forward. Next, John Kuehn helps us see a simple truth about the power of an advocate for joint professional military education on Capitol Hill.
China continues to be a source of fascination to scholars and pundits alike. In Commentary, experts from National Defense University (NDU) and beyond help to update you on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For some time now, NDU’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, which is a part of the Institute for National Strategic Studies, has focused on the ongoing reforms being made within the PLA. Phillip Saunders, the center’s director, and John Chen discuss these reforms and whether they favor the Chinese ground forces over other PLA capabilities. Michael Chase and Jeffrey Engstrom offer the view that these reforms are aimed at curbing corruption and making the PLA a more joint and integrated force. Roger Cliff sees these reforms as insufficiently dealing with an organizational culture that inhibits PLA effectiveness. One of the opaque parts of China’s military strength is its nuclear force, which David Logan discusses through the lens of these ongoing reforms. And what about Taiwan? Joel Wuthnow offers some valuable insights on how long the PLA might take to become joint and what that means for those who are concerned about Taiwan’s defenses.
Features leads off with my interview of Admiral Cecil B. Haney, USN, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. He provides his perspective from a position with responsibilities that include leading the forces with arguably the most destructive power in the world. His personal story is equally remarkable as few would have thought it likely a young man growing up in the 1960s in a Washington, DC, neighborhood such as his could have achieved such success or been given such awesome responsibilities. We then continue our discussion of global health issues, and catch up on what NATO has been doing in recent years. Spoiler alert—more than you think. Brian Flynn and his co-authors believe the U.S. military has a significant role to play in improving mental health around the world. Sebastian Kevany and Michael Baker make a broader case for global health through a strategy of engagement, which the United States can do so well. NATO has come in for some criticism for a number of perceived as well as actual faults, but G. Alex Crowther provides the facts to show how engaged the Alliance is and why this is important.
Often called the forgotten war, the Korean War was more than just two opposing armies fighting up and down the peninsula. In Recall, Corbin Williamson takes us to the decks of the fighting ships involved in joint operations around the peninsula. In Joint Doctrine, Dale Eikmeier returns to JFQ with his views on the center of gravity and gives us an excellent commentary on a key element of any military planner’s or strategist’s lexicon. We also have three excellent book reviews and, as always, our Joint Doctrine Update for your consideration.
Whether we will find ourselves dealing with budget reductions, confronting epidemics, sweeping up the 1s and 0s after a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” challenging nuclear threats, space attacks, or invasions by little “green men,” or just dealing with our own fears of what the future holds, sometimes taking a look back helps give perspective that our nation still stands because when times are tough, we rely on ourselves, our leaders, and our friends to help us make it through. This is the fundamental insight of Washington as he rode south. We hope these pages provide you with similar insights about how to deal with our world. JFQ