Britain and America’s Future Strategies

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the review by the Defense Secretary of America’s military strategy, was released at the Pentagon a few days ago. The highlights of the review are as follows:

* The military should move away from the quarter-century old policy of being prepared for “two major, conventional wars at one time” as a guiding principle for its military. Noting that the country is already engaged in two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new focus should be a broader range of security challenges, including fighting insurgencies, dealing with potentially hostile nations such as Iran, and engaging in cyberwarfare.
* Implement a new joint air-sea battle plan in response to threats such as China’s persistent military buildup and Iran’s possession of advanced weapons. This would combine the strengths of each service to conduct long-range strikes that could utilize a new generation of bombers, a new cruise missile, drones launched from aircraft carriers, and unmanned underwater vehicles.
* Transform Guam into a hub for security activities in the Western Pacific while remaining aligned with Japan’s defense forces. No mention is made of the current Futenma base relocation controversy.
* The military forces are under strain and the US should help foreign militaries build capacity. Also, focus on relations with allies and friendly nations and promote training in foreign languages and foreign cultures for US military personnel.
* Climate change and energy dependence were recognized for the first time. The US could see new opportunities and challenges in the Arctic, and there could be an increase on the demand for U.S. forces in humanitarian disasters.

Meanwhile, courtesy Lexington Green comes this a working paper published at the Royal United Services Institute is far less formal but asks the tough questions about the future of British military policy, and itemizes five options for future

Option 1 – Global Guardian: Continue ground operations for robust stabilization in Afghanistan. This will allow British governments to develop and sustain aspirations of global influence. Naval and air forces would have relatively minor supporting roles. The risk of this option is that it creates a force structure that is not well prepared for other uncertainties, and there is a long-term political aversion to commitments to enduring ground occupation.

Option 2 – Strategic Raiding: This ‘maritime’ option recognizes that there is unlikely to be the political will in government or in the electorate for further embroilment in operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan in the foreseeable future, and instead focuses on short-term operations using agile specialist ground forces and special forces. The UK would make a substantial contribution to
maritime security, which would permit a degree of international leadership in this respect.

Option 3 – Contributory Option: A selection would be made from the present capabilities to specifically “contribute” to the needs identified in an international context, both in the US-UK context and the European context. This option would sacrifice any possibility for national autonomy for intervention operations, because the UK would be dependent on other nations for all the capabilities that it had surrendered.

Option 4 – Gendarmerie Option: This option accepts that aspirations to be a major expeditionary power are unaffordable and instead focuses ground forces on contributing to stabilization. This would be a strategic bargain without the aspiration to retain high-intensity combat capability. This option could also include some constabulary naval capability to contribute to maritime security.

Option 5 – ‘Little Britain’: This option focuses specifically on defense and internal security of the British islands. This option abandons any strategic bargain. There is also the question of the UK’s Dependent Territories around the world to which there is a legal obligation for security — either abandon them or force them to take autonomy.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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5 Responses to Britain and America’s Future Strategies

  1. Chirol says:

    The real question is what types of scenarios are being considered for the US. Is primacy/hegemony still the only and/or best option?

  2. Pingback: The 2010 QDR is Here « Automatic Ballpoint

  3. Master Cook says:

    I like the RUSI paper and we should do something similar.

    For the UK, I would prefer a combination of the “little Britain” and the “strategic raiding” strategy. As an island, having a maritime centered strategy is obviously appropriate.

    People forget that the British went farthest towards the contributory type strategy during World War I, where they deployed a large army in Flanders, eventually instituting conscription for the first time to support this, and taking on the brunt of the Allied offensive role between Verdun and the arrival of the Americans. There are some things that could be said for this, they won in the end, and maybe it was both needed to avoid Wilhelm II dominating the continent and worth the cost. But it was definitely the least successful of Britain’s many coalition wars.

    For the US, we are a continental power with frontiers either on the oceans or bordering weaker, mainly friendly nations. So a “little America” -because America is not so little- is both feasible and probably appropriate. I think World War II was a strategic abberation, and our policy makers seem nostalgic for our role in it and seem to be seeking to recreate the conditions that preceded it.

    At least I’d like someone to explain to me how an American defense review should look different than one for Brazil. I know this seems at first glance like a ridiculous question, but its actually a difficult one than you think about it.

  4. B says:

    It’s good to see some emphasis placed on the Pacific in the first report. I think Kaplan wrote something (somewhere) regarding an apparent lack of focus on the Pacific region in lieu of a concentration on ‘last century’ conflicts in the Middle East.

    I have spent a few years in the P.R.C., and while I don’t quite view them as superpower material quite yet, the PLA (while lacking recent operation experience) is very secretive and (could be argued) quite unpredictable regarding their ambitions, be that their own, or that of the CCP.

  5. Mrs. Davis says:

    Will Britain be able to have a strategy independent of the EU? And if it might, will its procurement policies allow it to into the future.