During a late-July address to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., United States Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley spoke on the future identity of American wars. As reported by the Army Times, General Milley described the realities of future armed conflicts by dispelling five key myths or public misconceptions about the nature of modern wars.
Milley’s first point centered on the common belief that wars are inherently short affairs. He stressed that brief “dust-ups” should not be anticipated, taking great care to convey that wars are often self-propelling entities, all-encompassing events that do not always reflect the expectations, or adhere to the promises, of policymakers.
The second myth requiring debunking was the notion that you can win wars from a distance. In recent years, American defense policy has been increasingly reliant on the use of airpower and guided munitions as a means to defeat enemies operating abroad. However, Milley cautions that to realize victory in the field, ultimately troops on the ground must engage and destroy the enemy.
Milley also shot down the idea that special operations forces should be tasked with bringing about a victory on their own. To be sure, special operations forces are invaluable assets that provide a broad range of strategic services, but those services are operationally complementary, not stand alone in nature. Milley advocated that decisive military victory requires the contributions of both special operations and conventional forces alike.
With the unique demands of a globally operating superpower in mind, Milley also warned that constructing an army is a process that is neither easy nor rapid. Milley argued that in today’s technology-driven battle environment, effective fighting forces cannot be built in a matter of weeks or months, that logistical and staffing pre-planning is essential if the United States military is to not only meet its security obligations but stand ready for unforeseen eventualities.
Finally, Milley drives home the point that soldiers don’t fight wars alone. He states that a successful effort in the field requires ample support from back home, the resolve of a united nation, both in spirit and in vision.
Around the time when the general was delivering his remarks, the Washington Post reported that the president and military leadership figures were debating the policy that would guide military operations in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. Days later in an MSNBC interview with Hugh Hewitt, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster alluded to the fact that war was an option in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat. As such, the dissemination of Milley’s advice comes at a particularly significant time, when the United States is formulating a strategy that seeks to confront threats on multiple continents.
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