Last week, I argued that if the Navy wanted to play a major role in Afghanistan, it must prioritize soft power skills and the USN staff corp:
All the carrier strike groups in the world will not find victory in the mountains of Afghanistan. To win over the hearts and minds, McChrystal’s strategy requires a surge of a new sort: of nurses, doctors, dentists, engineers, and civil-affairs units, the domain of the staff corp officer.
Needless to say, this argument stirred up a hornets’ nest from line officers and USNI readers. Exactly zero commenters agreed with me. In a 350 word reply, Admiral John. C. Harvey of U.S. Fleet Forces Command claimed the “post appears to be an argument in search of the facts to support it“.
First, a big thanks to everyone that replied. It was great to see USNI readers at their best, challenging an argument with intelligent critiques and counters. I enjoy them immensely. Second, I am unpersuaded by the counterarguments. In the coming weeks I will publish a follow-up response. I meant to write a reply sooner, but Obama’s Afghanistan speech rightly took my and everyone’s attention. Third, Cdr. James Kraska of the Naval War College has a new article in Orbis magazine taking exact opposite position from my own:
An entire generation of [its] mid-career commissioned and noncommissioned officers tried to learn counterinsurgency land warfare in the desert and mountains of central Asia while their counterparts in China conducted fleet exercises to learn how to destroy them.
I am still searching for a full copy of the article online, but Tom Ricks has some good comments.
Without having read the article, I cannot say much. But, I will say that the “China threat” is an overused justification for ignoring current conflicts. The global economy has integrated Chinese and United States markets to such a degree that full scale war is not in the interest of either countries for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the amount of US debt owned by China has only solidified the countries mutual dependence. Any major conflict would threaten both Chinese markets and revenue from US debt repayments. For better or worse, we need each other. There are threats in the world, but a Chinese Pearl Harbor is not one of them.
Update: Thanks to a few USNI readers for getting me a copy of the article.