Increase Troop Strength After the War?
We thought this was an amazing announcement recently from the Sri Lankan government after its recent victory over the Tamil Tigers in a decades long Civil War. The headline says it all “Sri Lanka plans to recruit 100,000 more soldiers to prevent a Tamil Tiger comeback“:
Sri Lanka’s military said it plans to enlist at least 100,000 more soldiers to head off any resurgence of the separatist Tamil Tigers, who were routed by government forces last week to end a quarter century of civil war…
“There may be people abroad trying to promote a new leader and stage a comeback ,” Fonseka told state-run Independent Television Network. “Our strength is 200,000 and it will become 300,000 soon. It will not be easy for them to build up a terror group as they did before.”
This novel but sensible approach to warfare is one whose day has arrived. Imagine instead of declaring the “end of major combat operations” in Iraq after the very successful take-down of Saddam Hussein’s rogue regime in 2003, an early Surge of troops would have taken place instead. Think of all the death and destruction which might have been adverted, with a huge constabulary force to nip any renewed violence in the bud early.
In a sense, this is the strategy as proposed by military strategist Thomas PM Barnett, in an excellent series of books, notably The Pentagon’s New Map. The author actually describes modern war as not actually finished after the enemies military has been destroyed. A new force of System Administrators (SysAdmin) would follow up the battlefield victory to win the peace, as Barnett describes on his website:
The “second half” blended force that wages the peace after the Leviathan force has successfully waged war. Therefore, it is a force optimized for such categories of operations as “stability and support operations” (SASO), post conflict stabilization and reconstruction operations, “humanitarian assistance/disaster relief” (HA/DR), and any and all operations associated with low-intensity conflict (LIC), counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and small-scale crisis response. Beyond such military-intensive activities, the SysAdmin force likewise provides civil security with its police component, as well as civilian personnel with expertise in rebuilding networks, infrastructure, and social and political institutions…
Normally, war-weary nations, even the victorious ones, are too relieved after a great struggle to contemplate further military adventures. The mantra as in Western countries is a “return to normalcy” with defense spending slashed and the troops returned home as fast as possible.
Often overlooked is the chaos and turmoil the ravages of war leaves behind. The rebuilding, the winning of the peace is too often more arduous and time consuming than major combat.
After every war America experiences a period of downsizing its arsenal, with manpower so sorely trained to survive and win on the battlefield after much trial and error. Such hard won lessons are quickly forgotten and forced to be relearned all over again in the next war, with much loss of time and life. With the troops then returned to farm and factory, our enemies often take advantage of our distractions by rearming and rebuilding their own forces for the next conflict.
Communist Russia used the respite after World War 2 to affirm its iron grip on Eastern Europe. After Vietnam, while America endured a lengthy self-examination and forged new tactics, the rise of Fundamentalism in Iran and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan went on unimpeded. With the Fall of the Iron Curtain, a supposed more peaceful world saw US forces on a Cold War tempo or greater, in such diverse locales as Haiti, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and of course Iraq. And while the US Army that defeated Saddam Hussein for a second and final time in 2003 performed well enough against the dictators weakened conventional forces, it was unprepared for a war of attrition against an elusive and wildly dispersed insurgency.
Some might balk at the price of keeping sizable numbers of troops in service for extended periods. It seems instead that the cost of war in the destruction of life and property is far greater, as seen by own ongoing Middle East wars. The day of the foot soldier has returned. For this current century he is the aircraft carrier or strategic bomber, the fire brigade to stamp out brush-fire conflicts before they get out of hand, or to fight and win them if they do.