Constraints on U.S. Strategy in Third World Conflict

by Stephen T. Hosmer


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This report assesses the military and political constraints imposed on U.S. strategy and combat operations in past Third World conflicts and crises. It also explores the implications of such constraints for the design of strategies to meet future communist challenges and identifies the requirements that particular constraints may pose for Air Force missions. The motivations that lead decisionmakers to constrain U.S. military responses stem primarily from the concern to control the risks of military conflict with the USSR, limit civilian and U.S. military casualties, seek negotiated solutions to conflicts, and accommodate the policies of other nations. Likely constraints must be taken into account in future U.S. intervention decisions and contingency planning. The United States must pursue strategies that will force early war termination and allow it to enforce the subsequent peace. The Air Force must anticipate being called upon to generate the military leverage to force war termination and to provide tactical air support to indigenous forces.

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