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“An Army at Dusk”? – The Potential Specter of a Post-Conflict “Hollow” Force - by Captain Douglas Livermore —

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Other nations were not so quick to dismiss Mitchell’s theories.  The Five-Power Treaty, otherwise known as the Washington Naval Treaty, was signed by the Japanese in 1922 despite the general consensus that the treaty was disadvantageous to the Japanese as it limited the ability to produce battleships.  However, realizing the destructive potential of aviation, the Japanese chose to place considerable emphasis on this particular area of naval power.  As a result of the Washington Naval Treaty, two incomplete battlecruisers were converted into aircraft carriers, one of which was the Akagi.  The Akagi served as the flagship for the five aircraft carrier task force from which the Japanese later launched the wildly successful attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.  Likewise, Germany under Adolf Hitler seized onto the development of military airpower, designing and mass-producing aircraft far superior to the majority of those of the U.S. at the start of World War II.  After 1933, the Germans invested large percentages of their military budgets into the development of airpower.  German aircraft continued to set world speed, endurance, and altitude records and these design advancements were rapidly integrated into the manufacture of military aircraft.  International military observers studying the Spanish Civil War were amazed by the quality of equipment and the skills of the pilots that the Germans fielded in the “Condor Legions” that supported Francisco Franco.  The Germans produced incredibly fast and maneuverable fighters and medium bombers armed with advanced aerial munitions, such as cannons.  Alternately, the U.S. entered into World War II with aircraft that were generally slower, less maneuverable, and considerably under-armed.  Losses during the initial year of the war were extremely high as a result.

The failure of the War Department to retain the best and brightest officers during the interwar period discouraged innovation and impeded the development of equipment, doctrine, and training during the interwar period.  The overwhelming focus on careerism and orthodoxy drove many extremely talented and unconventional leaders from the ranks.  In addition to the immediate loss of intellectual capital suffered, these traumatic experiences, such as in the court martial of Mitchell, undoubtedly prevented other less bold souls within the military community from advocating for change.  As a result, modernization of the U.S. military lagged far behind that of the other world powers, creating the conditions leading to the terrible losses of 1942 and 1943.  Fortunately for the U.S. and Allied Powers, these losses proved recoverable, and the U.S. Army gradually improved in performance and capability while also enjoying the advantages of superior logistics and manpower reserves to ultimately defeat the Axis Powers in 1945.  However, future battlefields will prove far less forgiving, as likely opponents pursue asymmetric capabilities with potentially catastrophic capabilities.  Nuclear, biological, chemical, network-centric attack and other as-of-yet unimagined methods of warfare will make the initial days, if not hours, of any future war significantly more definitive than in past conflicts.  Unlike at the beginning of World War II, it is very likely that there will be no opportunity to recover from initial setbacks as the U.S. was forced to do following the monumental defeats at the beginning of World War II.  In its report on the inability of the U.S. government to thwart the al-Qaeda attack in September of 2001, the Congressional Commission found that, "the most important failure [concerning the 9/11 attacks] was one of imagination."  It is possible that the post-war period we are experiencing today could see the loss of those very leaders with the imagination and foresight to prevent the “next 9-11”.  The U.S. military must do everything in its power to ensure that it retains the best and the brightest leaders, while fostering a climate in which intelligent and innovative leaders feel encouraged to propose controversial and unconventional ideas. 

What more can the US military do that it's not already doing?

work better at retention! 

Wow. You'd think they would work harder at keeping the best!

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