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How About an Assistant SecDef for Irregular Warfare ?

Real change requires budgets, bureaucratic platforms and visionary leaders who can be both champion and evangelist. Having successfully lobbied for the retention of Secretary Gates, the small wars/COIN/military reform/strategic security community should capitalize on the logical political momentum and not be afraid to ask for the moon. This and many other things.

The United States and the world are at the kind of crystallizing flux point – where paradigm shifts have been recognized but the policy responses have not been decided – that comes once in a half century or more. Many things are fluid right now in different domains that were once regarded as certainties. Time to push while doors and minds are open.

People, like Secretary Gates, who “get it” need to be put in critical positions ASAP. Broadly speaking, what gets decided in the next 6 months may impact all of us for the next 60 years.

3 Responses to “How About an Assistant SecDef for Irregular Warfare ?”

  1. Matt Armstrong Says:

    An ASD for Irregular Warfare? I thought we already have that: the ASD for SO/LIC&IC (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities). Interestingly, SOCOM & SO/LIC share a dilemma with public diplomacy: few have a good grasp on what they do and the value they bring. Both operate by, with, and through indigenous populations to create message & force multipliers (PD does message and SOCOM et al does both) while USG / Big Army etc has little to zero insight into what they do and how they do it. The result is improper tasking, failed opportunities to leverage skillsets, and underfunding. Both need to build constituencies at home. 

  2. Seerov Says:

    I don’t think we want a Asst Sec-Def for irregular warfare becuase we shouldn’t get into the habit of separating IW (Irregular Warfare) from HIC (High Intensity Conflict) too much.  Think about it, we call Iraq "IW" or an "insurgency."  But what was the second battle of Fallujah?  The 2nd battle for Fallujah was probably the most intense operation/battle since Vietnam?  It was about as "high intensity" as it gets. 
    We need the opposite.  We need a system and leaders capable of transitioning from HIC to IW, and than back again.  We need blending, not separation.  The only way I can see separate positions for HIC vs IW is if we create a "sysadmin" force and a "Department of Everything Else."
    However, I do think the national security apparatus would be foolish not to find a place for Nagl.  He’s a top notch thinker, and while I do see think tanks as useful, he should be closer to the "action" (so to speak).  One thing that frightens me is the possibility of the Obama administration bringing back all the Clinton era generals to fill the DOD/national security community.  For that matter, many of Bush’s people weren’t exactly thinking outside the box either.   
    We can’t afford to have politicians running our national security.  We need thinkers who understand, and who are very passionate about modern conflict.  Less Wesley Clark, and more John Robb.  In fact, if I was President John Robb would be my Secretary of Homeland Security.  And my economic stimulus/public works project would be to build resilient communities across the country. 
    Resilient communities are so critical in this age of globalization, that I would create a cabinet seat for it.  Instead of HS, John Robb would be Secretary of Resilient Communities.  We’d need to start by educating the public on what RCs are all about, and eventually develop experts on all aspects of RCs (energy, security, food).  After the world sees the need for RCs, America would become the world leader in the export of RC services.  And before I start sounding too much like a politician, I believe that RCs have the potential of truly bringing us together.  Environmentalists, the business community, immigration skeptics, national security personnel, and even gay "rights" activists all have potential reasons for supporting a more localized, self sufficient, small scale national configuration.  Allowing local people to find answers to local problems, appeals to everyone. 
    If we’re going to make a "diverse" America work, than we need to allow people to build communities with like minded people.   RCs will allow people to build spaces that can withstand black-swans, while concurrently allowing like minded people to live the lifestyle that they see fit.  So the Evangelical in Alabama will stand up for a homosexual’s right to gay marriage in San Francisco, becuase the homosexual will support the Evangelicals right to send his kids to schools that pray during homeroom. 
    This is true diversity.  This is true security.  This is true freedom. 

  3. zen Says:

    hi Matt
    Yeah, except that’s not what I’m really trying to get at here. "the ASD for SO/LIC&IC (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities" in Washingtonese is a lot like being the "Drug Czar". I’m looking for a heavy-hitter post of broad authority to develop new programs and binding policy, hence the simpler title.
    Hi Seerov,
    Without an internal advocate of real bureaucratic weight, the DoD will continue doing business as usual. I agree with you that our military and civilian defense leaders should seamlessly shift back and forth and in the field, commanders need to be prepared to handle the full spectrum of tactics. I think having more of  a high profile institutional framework for irregular warfare will make that transition quicker and more likely.

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