How many ground troops are needed?

I found this at the Armchair Generalist blog:

I think they fail to go the last steps in their conclusions.

a) The allies. (Yeah, there are allies with expectations, not just an auxiliary troops pools.)
I've already heard that Norway doesn't really count on U.S. troops for its defence because none would be available in time*. Eastern European allies wonder about whether the U.S. really lives as ally up to their wild dreams.
At this time the U.S. ground forces are in the COIN/occupation business. Conventional war readiness and thinking have suffered. Many troops are fixed in quite remote places, far away from allies.

So maybe the degree of displeasure among some allies should be mentioned.

b) Needed ground war strength.
The obvious conclusion of this affair is for many commentators that more grunts are needed.

I've got (surprise!) a different view on offer:
The whole affair shows that much less ground force strength is necessary to meet national security needs.

The basic assumption (not entirely unfounded, of course) is that the ongoing wars aren't really about national security. Iraq was a completely useless and needless mess.
Afghanistan was post-2002 needless as well - it was a nation building project, not a national or alliance defence project.

So we've had two wars going on with heavy involvement of most alliance members, almost 200,000 troops fixed in those remote places pretty unrelated to alliance defence or other activities than these two quite voluntary major missions.

Nothing happened. Seriously, nothing happened in the meantime. OK, there was the South Ossetian War. Yet, that one was over after a few days. Not even in Shinseki's wildest dreams would it have been possible to deploy ground forces for intervention and to make a difference with them in time.

So what we had was effectively a look at a parallel universe or parallel time-line in which NATO had 200,000 troops less and about 800,000 in a reduced state of readiness - and nothing terrible happened. North Korea did not overrun Seoul. China did not whatever. Chavez did not invade Miami. Total, utter boredom.

We've got the evidence that we didn't need as much military strength as we had - if we would have been smarter and stayed out of Iraq plus limited our involvement in Afghanistan to chasing the Taliban away in 2001/2002 and subsidizing anti-Taliban forces afterward.
That's as good an evidence as we could hope for without Star Trek physics.

So what does this mean about the post-COIN-mess force strength requirements?
I certainly don't see a requirement for ten thousands more pairs of boots. Instead, I see an opportunity to advance in quality (people and ideas, and a bit technology) while rather reducing the force size in order to save national resources needed to fix domestic troubles.


edit *: This is among the things that are not the official line, of course. You learn about stuff like this through unofficial contacts. There won't be a press release "Norway doesn't expect NATO allies to help it in case of conflict with Russia" ever.

1 comment:

  1. "We've got the evidence that we didn't need as much military strength as we had - if we would have been smarter"

    Yep. That is the real bottom line, although we (the larger community) just keep fixating on the number that you need to "win" Afghanistan. Better to just pull out and tell Karzai "good luck there buddy." Hell, he can probably buy off the drug lords and keep the Taliban at bay as long as he's friendly with the Pakistani ISI.