'Each man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world'
-- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

'Artists are tricky fellows sir, forever shaping the world according to some design of their own'
-- Jonathan Strange, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Goodbye to All That: The Defense Strategic Guidance, Jan 2012

Defense Strategic Guidance (eight pages)

History is now ready to judge upon the decade after 9.11. At this juncture, in January 2012, the Defense Strategic Guidance, which is at best a piece of philosophy, sees this juncture as 'an inflection point'. History may see it very differently, from a lesser scale, looking at it from many years hence, the decade after 9.11 may be the inflection point itself. After all, the pacific rim and Asia have been rapidly developing their economies, market relations, reach and security. 9.11 made the 2000's the decade of the non-state actor but the nation state, with their ability to leverage, concurrently, economy, manpower, ideology framed by nationalism will once again be decisive in American foreign policy in the '10's.

Counterbalances will abound. In the guidance:

"China's emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our  security in a variety of ways. Our two countries have a strong stake in peace and stability in East Asia and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship. However, the growth of China's  military  power  must  be  accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region."

There will be some great games played out - most particularly in Africa where China has a massive advantage, and has prosecuted its soft power in the continent relentlessly for the past decade, exchanging access to mineral wealth for funding of national infrastructure and other projects. There have been backlashes against Chinese involvement at the local level, but not enough to impede the process.

Counterinsurgency gets a mention, which I would have bet against:

"Conduct Stability and Counterinsurgency Operations.   In the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States will emphasize non-military means and military-to-military cooperation to address instability and reduce the demand for  significant U.S. force commitments to stability operations.  U.S. forces will nevertheless be ready to conduct limited counterinsurgency and other stability operations if required, operating alongside coalition forces wherever possible.  Accordingly, U.S. forces will  retain and continue to refine the lessons learned, expertise, and specialized capabilities that have been developed over the past ten years of counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.   However, U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations."

Modestly, too, after the past decade, the Guidance states:

"we have sought to differentiate between those investments that should be made today and those that can be deferred.  This includes an accounting of our ability to make a course change that could be driven by many factors, including shocks or evolutions in the strategic, operational, economic, and technological spheres.   Accordingly, the concept of "reversibility": including the vectors on which we place our industrial base, our people, our active-reserve component balance, our posture, and our partnership emphasis is a key part of our decision calculus."  

Expect to hear more from the recently created Africom in this decade. Security (Somalia) and economics (mineral and energy) will dictate the United States' renewed interest. Asia will get the headlines from the guidance but Africa is where the counterinsurgency knowledge will next be orientated.

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