General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and principal military adviser to President Obama, has written an article for Foreign Policy magazine, stating his view of the military’s role in America’s foreign affairs.
Written in a slick, corporate-sounding, richly euphemistic style, the average reader may be left wondering just what, precisely, the point of the article is. Who could disagree with such comments as "a new century [has] brought new dangers," or, "In each region of the world, we face serious—but very different—security challenges"?
A Free Beacon translation of General Dempsey’s bureaucratic Newspeak reveals the plain meaning of some of the General’s more circuitous statements.
For example, America’s senior military officer is not very bullish on the prospect of actually using America’s military:
Just like after 1945, we now confront a situation in which the U.S. military is shrinking as calls for our leadership around the globe are expanding. With the opportunity cost of each of our actions increasing, we must be judicious in the application of military force and seize innovative ways to use it to best effect.
Translation: Despite the fact that many believe that the U.S. military drawdown after 1945 was a strategic disaster, leading to—among other negative consequences—the near-loss of South Korea in 1950, I’m totally okay with reaping a peace dividend in a world without peace! And by being "judicious" and "innovative" in our use of military force, I mean that we shouldn’t use the military much, especially where fighting might be involved.
In the Middle East and North Africa, centuries-old religious, ethnic, and tribal tensions challenge state authority and fuel violence. As the region wobbles along a fault line extending from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad, there are no easy solutions for steadying it. In this environment, the traditional use of military power rarely yields expected results.
Translation: I do not think the U.S. military should be deployed anywhere between Morocco and Iran, inclusive. At least not "traditionally"—with guns and bombs and stuff.
In Europe, threats from Russia on the eastern flank and extremist groups on the southern flank are growing as countries trend toward parochialism at home. Russia's activities in Ukraine are giving the world a disturbing image of the hybrid nature of military aggression in the 21st century. Europe is approaching an inflection point at which decisions to favor narrow interests or greater unity will transform the region.
Translation: Things in Europe are terrible. We should probably not get involved in that coming "inflection point," whatever that may mean. I don’t even know what that means!
There's certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. But there are some common best practices that we should follow. First, wherever possible, we should view problems through a regional lens -- not one country, one group, and one crisis at a time. Second, we should carefully integrate all our instruments of power, making sure that our policies leverage each instrument to its best use.
Translation: The military is an "instrument" that has not been used well recently. Therefore America should probably not use it as much as we have been.
To deal with our most pressing security challenges, the U.S. military will not be the only tool we use, nor should it be the principal one in most circumstances. Often the military is best used in a supporting role -- especially if we want to achieve meaningful and enduring results. And we should "go it alone" only in the rarest of circumstances.
Translation: Seriously, don’t use the military. And if you do, definitely don’t put it in charge of anything. Those folks at the IRS seem pretty ruthless—maybe it’s time for them to get more play?
Our force will be smaller, so it must be more agile, more lethal, and postured to project power wherever needed. Of course, agility has its limits. The size of the military matters. Our nation's elected leaders must ensure the armed forces have the resources they need to protect and promote the nation's security interests.
Translation: Rather than aggressively insist on the need for a larger defense budget, I am happy to negotiate with myself in public in the hopes of currying favor with those who hope to take all my money away.
The emerging security environment also demands that we update our approach to building partner capacity. Armored divisions and bomber wings can blunt our enemies, but they cannot single-handedly preserve the peace. To do that, we need to construct stronger security partnerships with like-minded nations, so that all can contribute to the collective defense.
Translation: Rather than fight, we should be training, say, small African nations to defend themselves. The military can do some stuff—just so long as it doesn’t involve actually fighting, which as we all know doesn’t work. Give partnership a chance!
While the general gets no credit for plain speaking, he, like his commander in chief, excels at the creation and destruction of rhetorical straw men.
Some suggest that grand strategy is too difficult -- that the grand strategies of the past were only discernible in hindsight, not the result of careful forethought and planning. Despite cynics' arguments that grand strategy is a thing of the past, it is critical today -- when calls for U.S. leadership and military power shift from crisis to crisis.
Needless to say, everyone debating American foreign policy who believes we should not have a coherent strategy for dealing with the world must be feeling the sting of these remarks.
General Dempsey’s insistence that military force cannot be considered in isolation from economic and diplomatic suasion suggests that there are those in the non-lunatic community who believe that it can be so isolated. This repeated emphasis is reminiscent of President Obama’s complaint in April that there are people in Washington who think that "each and every time a country violates one of those norms [of proper international behavior] the United States should go to war." This is a belief held by approximately zero serious people.
President Obama and Chairman Dempsey are well suited for each other. Neither man has faith in the U.S. military.