Friday, February 25, 2011

China low on Gates' worry list

Robert Gates' speech at West Point today was mainly focused on reforming the army's training and promotion practices to foster initiative, versatility, continuing education and skills, e.g. language acquisition, to support interaction with far-flung populations.  He stressed versatility as part and parcel of insisting that it is always impossible to predict where the next war will be, or of what kind.  While warning himself and others against "next-war-itis," however, he also listed possibilities in a way that made his own expectations somewhat clear:
We can’t know with absolute certainty what the future of warfare will hold, but we do know it will be exceedingly complex, unpredictable, and – as they say in the staff colleges – “unstructured.”  Just think about the range of security challenges we face right now beyond Iraq and Afghanistan: terrorism and terrorists in search of weapons of mass destruction, Iran, North Korea, military modernization programs in Russia and China, failed and failing states, revolution in the Middle East, cyber, piracy, proliferation, natural and man-made disasters, and more.

"Russia and China" are pretty far down that list, no?  And in case anyone missed the sequencing, here it is once more:
What we can expect in the future is that potential adversaries – be they terrorists, insurgents, militia groups, rogue states, or emerging powers – will seek to frustrate America’s traditional advantages, in particular our ability to shoot, move and communicate with speed and precision. 
And notwithstanding a warning that "when it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect...We have never once gotten it right", Gates did venture one major big-picture directive-cum-forecast t (hat tip to Mark Thompson at Swampland):
But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put i. 

Perhaps that goes for Gates' immediate predecessor as well, who on 9/12/01 was already sniffing out a more target-rich environment than Afghanistan.

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