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Learning Not to Kick with our Achilles Heel: The Case against a Counterinsurgency-Focused Military

Author(s): Lynn, Seth McCormick

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Abstract: Within the defense community, a debate is emerging over the wisdom of “balancing” the military by shifting focus toward irregular warfare. This paper argues that balance would only be prudent if the military is likely to continue primarily facing irregular conflicts, if current counterinsurgency doctrine can lead to success in future contingencies, and if increased focus on counterinsurgency will improve national security. Although the military will likely face future insurgencies, such contingencies threaten national security less than conventional wars, and there is little evidence that the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine will lead to future success. Moreover, balancing the military would degrade its conventional deterrence capabilities, thereby increasing the likelihood of conventional warfare. Therefore, while Iraq and Afghanistan should be the military’s immediate priority, reconstituting degraded conventional capabilities should be its next concern. The paper concludes by suggesting several measures that would improve the military’s irregular warfare capabilities without sacrificing conventional deterrence.
Publication Date: 2010
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Public and International Affairs
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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