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Vox Pops on Gates Doctrine


Sometimes policymakers face no better test of their ideas than simply exposing them to the public, especially when that public is well informed. I combed through the comments posted to our Gates doctrine story and found two main threads. First come those who believe Gates simply doesn't understand the strategic challenges faced by the US and wants to create an Army ill-suited to future threats. "Gates once again demonstrates [he is] blinded to reality. War is not a game. You do NOT fight not to lose, you fight to WIN! An army capable of executing high-intensity warfare is perfectly capable of executing low-intensity warfare (with a proper change in tactics) but an army built for executing low-intensity warfare is at a SEVERE disadvantage in high-intensity warfare. And the consequences of losing (or doing poorly) in high-intensity warfare are more severe than not doing exceptionally well in low-intensity warfare, said long-time poster PFCEM. This led to the second thread, those who believe Gates is fundamentally right.  PFCEM's view did not sit well with another reader.etReal, who said PFCEM's rationale was what has led to "the problems in both Vietnam and in Iraq. Army leadership thought if they were masters of high intensity conflict, then low intensity would be easy. And it was not the Army who led the charge to properly change tactics so the troops would have better MRAP protection, it was Gates who forced the program forward." Reader Rick thinks Gate is about "right, the next war will primarily be a Naval and Air more, more like 80% US Navy/Marine Corp, 10% Air Force and 10% US Army. The Air Force won't be much of a player except for US land based bombers that can be flown in simply because what few Air Force bases there are in the eastern Pacific won't last very long in a shooting war. The Army won't be a player until later on in the conflict when they are able to ship in enough of their heavies into theater so support the Marines (in the retaking of Taiwan)." Another reader went back to the 1930s, wondering if Gates is reliving the path isolationists took before World Warr II. He also pointed to what he believes are stark contradictions between Gates' prescriptions and his actions as defense secretary. "The isolationist movement felt that hemispheric defense using air power was all that was needed to protect the US and our interests.While obviously the US needs to continue to invest in Special Forces/expeditionary capabilities, other parts of Mr. Gates speech contradict some of his actions as Sec. Defense. How can one support the use of air power over large ground force capability while gutting much of our fighter force and canceling production of the F-22," wondered the poster Cocidius? "I can only imagine how it must feel to graduate from such a famous military college and then be told by the most senior person at the Pentagon that essentially large ground forces are a thing of the past, which of course conveniently ignores critical parts of military history."Viewing the world with blinders on in an effort to justify building his “legacy” of cutting wasteful spending remains a consistent pattern with Mr. Gates and this latest speech is no exception."


A poster I believe is still serving in the Army went easier on Gates, saying the Army has much more heavy capability than it needs. "We can probably afford to convert some of our tank companies to infantry companies. Unless we're going to try to plow through Russian or Chinese tank divisions, we have way more tank units than we can use. My heavy brigade replaced an infantry brigade last summer in Afghanistan and the personnel difference is a couple hundred pairs of boots," noted TMP.

As becomes pretty clear, one of the major differences in the conclusions one draws about Gates' idea of avoiding major land wars in Asia and the Middle East rests with your analysis of the strategic threat posed by China. And given how little we really know about Chinese intentions and capabilities (how about that J-20!) these arguments are sure to rumble on for years.

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