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Old 09-16-2006   #1
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Default "What If?" -- A Most Impertinent Question Indeed

September Strategic Studies Institute Monthly Newsletter editorial - "What If?" -- A Most Impertinent Question Indeed by LTC Nathan P. Freier, US Army.

We are in an era of persistent, purposeful, and increasingly complex resistance to American primacy. Unfortunately, the strategic discourse necessary to guide us through our current predicament has yet to coalesce around an appropriate logic. Despite 5 years of irregular conflict, military purists in and out of uniform continue their search for clean boundaries between war and peace—boundaries that will again allow them to focus on the most traditional conceptions of “warfighting” at the expense of those concepts and capabilities necessary to our success against the likeliest and most strategically consequential future challenges.

Truthfully answering some very impertinent questions might prove the only route to necessary change in the defense community’s view of and approach to a dangerous and complex strategic environment. The principal question? Are recent changes in the environment’s dynamics additive—new challenges added to old or instead qualitative—new challenges replacing old? Specifically, has there been a real revolution in the character of competition and strategic hazard in the international system? Are endemic insecurity and under-governance, in fact, the most significant threats to American primacy over the long-term?

Our perceived vulnerabilities, evidenced by the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks and our difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggest to even our traditional competitors the value of persistent irregular and potentially catastrophic resistance. Therefore, will serial “small wars” of necessity be the future norm? And, thus, will irregular and increasingly catastrophic resistance and their associated costs stake more of a claim to strategic significance than all possible traditional challenges? Most significantly, perhaps, will our continued fixation on the tools and concepts of traditional conflict result in fatal under-preparedness for the irregular and catastrophic resistance likeliest to stalk American great power?

Getting the right answers to these important questions will require a more thoughtful and nuanced appreciation of the strategic environment than we have corporately demonstrated the capacity to either undertake or consume....
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