Developing a next generation strategy for dealing with China will require the United States to sculpt a balanced and flexible approach that protects U.S. interest in East Asia while at the same time fosters cooperation with China on issues of common concern.
While the renewed interest in crisis response forces by the military services is welcome in these times of uncertainty, forces that are permanently assigned to a geographic combatant command and based in a region continue to offer distinct benefits. RAND research has shown that an overseas presence enhances contingency responsiveness in most cases.
Converting the Army into a force suited only for homeland defense or humanitarian missions abroad, without the ability to fight sophisticated foes as part of a joint force, would result in an unprepared Army.
The Air Force's latest budget plan proposes to cut 25,000 airmen. The recommendations made by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force (NCSAF) offer an alternative — and less risky — way forward.
Despite the smaller number of U.S. troops in Europe, the military balance there is far more favorable to NATO today than it was when nearly 10 times as many American soldiers, sailors and airmen were stationed on the continent.
A total drawdown of American forces — the “zero option” — is a real possibility. Recently, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the United States would begin planning for this contingency because of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's failure to sign a bilateral security agreement.
It is relatively easy to criticize what's going wrong in Afghanistan. It is much harder to propose a realistic way forward. Seth Jones and Keith Crane in a new report, “Afghanistan After the Drawdown,” suggest a calibrated political and military approach that protects U.S. interests at a realistic level of manpower and investment.
As important as a bilateral security agreement is to formalize America's long-term presence in Afghanistan. The current draft doesn't spell out the details of a U.S. military presence after 2014, including the size, composition, and strategy of U.S. forces. Those details are what matter most.