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Second Fronts: Factors in Success and Failure and Implications for the Future

Lack of restraint in Washington's Middle East ventures has exacted a high price in life and treasure that might have been mitigated by appeal to the experience of the long-standing practice of opening second fronts. Examples show the potential for surprising powerful enemies and reveal the causes of success and failure. Careful study could guide future U.S. thrusts in an age that continues the post-World War II trend toward limited-objective conflicts and is characterized by public risk and casualty aversion. A lot of the same dynamics occur in second front operations, and to the degree the United States continues a policy of shaping the rest of the world, it should use the restraint and wisdom demonstrated in historic examples.

Phillip S. Meilinger
Admirals Run Amok: The Danger of Inter-Service Rivalry

Inter-Service competition replaced the "unification” that was envisioned with the formation of a Department of Defense composed of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Truman pulled hard for unification, giving the repeated justification that it spelled efficiency and budget savings. A statement was issued in Key West in March 1948 differentiating between "primary” and "collateral” functions of each service, but strife resulted over that and other issues culminating in the "Revolt of the Admirals.” Competition helped make America great but it becomes perilous when the Services intentionally oppose each other. Inter-Service rivalry is usually at a peak in times of fiscal austerity, and we are in times now that are called the worst since the Great Depression. Yet the needs remain. Harm will accrue to national and international security if civilian and military leaders slip back into the recriminations and skulduggery of 1949.

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