June 19, 2017 — One of the most important questions we ask students of national and international security is “What is war?” Many will provide a solid response citing one of the great war “thinkers” like Thucydides or Carl von Clausewitz. An equally important set of questions flows from these responses. When should a country like the United States become involved? Why should the United States risk our “blood and treasure” in this war? What instruments of national power should be used and to what measure? What will the end of the war look like? How will we know our side is winning? Who will fight with us? How are we to fight and when should we expect to be done? Issues of strategy, operational art, tactics, and forces of the military instrument of national power come into view along with the diplomatic, informational, and economic instruments. The civilian-military relationship that is at the heart of our national security structure ultimately shapes the outcome in victory, stalemate, or defeat.
Airman listens as cadres critique results of humanitarian training mission, November 10, 2010, at Camp Bullis, Texas (U.S. Air Force/Jonathan Snyder)
But what are we to think of war in the 21st century? While we have learned that history does not repeat, it often rhymes, but in ways we cannot fully predict or anticipate. The Italian airpower theorist Giulio Douhet, an Italian artillery officer, is quoted as stating, “Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the change in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.” So, in 2017, how is that working out for the joint force and our coalition partners around the world? Are we anticipating the changes in the character of war, or are we just trying to get back to where we knew we were successful? Is military power sufficient? No, but having the best military is certainly useful in a crisis as is having capable and reliable partners. What can we learn from the conflicts of the past, especially those of the past 15 years? What do you think we should do to complete the business at hand while preparing for war in the future? The future will be here before you think it will. Both your troops and your leadership want to know what you think war will look like and how to deal with it. When you have a lock on that view, write it down and send it to us here at your Joint Force Quarterly.
JFQ last featured the U.S. Southern Command over a decade ago. Much has changed in that region and the world since then as you will learn from my interview, in Forum, with USSOUTHCOM Commander Admiral Kurt W. Tidd. What I was most impressed about his candid answers is how all the combatant commanders are united in their view of the requirement to share assets as they view their security concerns as globally connected vice an older paradigm of each making a regional case. The threats today are global in connectivity and so should be our joint force. In an accompanying article, one of a series we anticipate from that region over the next few issues, Admiral Tidd and Tyler W. Morton discuss how the command is adapting to better integrate with the other combatant commands while addressing regional and global issues. Strategic competition is at the heart of many challenges for the United States and our partners as Daniel Burkhart and Alison Woody offer their perspective of working in the space between peace and war. One of the enduring aspects of strategic competition vexing many countries today, as Scott Englund contends, is how to contain individuals and groups engaging in jihad of one kind or another. In another important contribution on assessing war and strategy, returning author Lukas Milevski helps us understand the concept of strategic agency.
Our JPME Today section features three important articles related to leading at the top levels of the military. One of the long-debated but seemingly intractable problems of staffing our staff and war colleges with military instructors of the highest caliber (read promotion to general/flag rank is still very possible) is addressed by Douglas Orsi in a way that would meet the former Chairman’s intent for these critical positions. Next, from the Army War College faculty and one of our JFQ alumni authors, Charles D. Allen discusses how senior officers in the military should relate to civilian leadership, a subject that seems obvious but is not always. Mark Schmidt and Ryan Slaughter offer an interesting take on how to change the culture of an organization while in the leadership chair.
Commentary features three topics that tackle big issues from defense planning and retirement reform in the Defense Department to global health engagement. Many will remember the significant change to how DOD does its war planning as instituted by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over 15 years ago. Anthony Dunkin thinks that the In-Progress Reviews that became standard for the Secretary to gauge planning efforts are still worth the effort. Laura J. Junor, Samantha Clark, and Mark Ramsay provides an insider’s view of recent efforts to reform military retirement, one of the largest portions of DOD’s bill that must be paid. Extending our conversation on how we can get to a better prewar environment in troubled areas of the world, Kyle N. Remick and Eric A. Elster suggest sharing methods of performing trauma care will enable more successful health support, which in turn lessens strife around the world. Finding ways to slow the growth of the U.S. defense budget in the future has long been an elusive quarry for our government.
Marines with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division provide security during CH-53 day-battle drill in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course 2-17 at Fire Base Burt, California, April 8, 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps/Clare J. Shaffer)
A great set of unfinished problems appears in Features. Brian K. Hall asks us to understand the complexity behind autonomous weapons as they become an increasing part of our tactical means to carry out missions in support of strategy. It is not just a fire-and-forget world anymore, it seems. As General Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff, discussed in my interview with him in our last issue, command and control is evolving rapidly. Andrew Hill and Heath Niemi have identified important concerns in execution of mission command principles while maintaining effective command and control. Preventing war or working to restore security in a conflict zone have placed capacity-building center stage, but Stephen E. Webber and Donald E. Vandergriff have identified a gap in these efforts that they believe must be closed to achieve success.
We return to the Cold War in Recall this issue with an interesting article by Kevin D. Stringer that discusses how Switzerland prepared to resist a Soviet attack. After three excellent book reviews, our Joint Doctrine section has two interesting pieces to consider. Gregory E. Browder and Marcus J. Lewis offer us a look at “adaptive doctrine” as a concept to adjust for the ever-changing character of war. Rick Rowlett then brings us his summary of the recently revised Joint Publication 3-0, Joint Operations. And, of course, we leave you with important publication information in our Joint Doctrine Update.
We hope these articles have given you some good ideas both to think and to write about, especially concerning war in the 21st century and how the joint force will respond. The best ideas for how that will be done have a home here at Joint Force Quarterly. A global audience is waiting to hear from you. JFQ
William T. Eliason
Editor in Chief