Military Culture Must Change to Fight 'Long War'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that the generation of servicemembers entering the military today must focus on how the United States will deal with extremist networks that threaten America and its allies.
Odierno said the situation is analogous to the situation confronting servicemembers who fought the Cold War. The Cold War was a generational conflict that started after World War II and only ended with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
"This generation of servicemembers will be in what we're calling the Long War," the general said. "Our estimate is that for at least the next 20 years, part of our focus will be on how do we deal with the extremist networks that will continue to threaten the United States and its allies."
While conventional forces must remain robust and their capabilities must remain second to none, the military's focus will broaden to include a greater emphasis on special operations. "We have to be able to respond conventionally if necessary, but we must provide more focus on irregular warfare missions," Odierno said.
Even after the defeat of al Qaeda, extremists groups will remain a problem, Odierno said. This will be complicated because terrorist networks are "non-state actors" that may be operating in friendly nations. The mission will not be to confront armies, navies or air forces, but shadowy groups.
The Long War will require different military capabilities and require U.S. leaders to develop a holistic concept of how to defeat these networks. Odierno said this entails being able to coordinate the military aspect of the fight with the efforts of diplomats, financial experts, police officials and others. It also will entail countering propaganda and misinformation extremists release.
Another piece of the Long War for servicemembers is cultural awareness, Odierno said. Young leaders must understand what drives extremists. "We have to try to understand why they do the things they do, because you have to understand your enemy," he said.
Troops will also have to understand countries U.S. forces will operate in. "You have to understand what their cultures are, what's important to them," Odierno said. "We have learned a lot in the last three or four years, but we have a long way to go."
As part of the Long War mindset, the military is moving more toward an expeditionary force. "With ground forces we are moving back to the United States, so we are able to react around the world quickly and rotate forces quickly," he said.
All ground forces are going to have to work more closely with special operations forces and must enhance their capabilities to work in irregular environments. Special operations forces must also develop new capabilities, and the United States must develop more special operations personnel, Odierno said.
While the changes affect ground forces most, the Air Force and Navy are not spared. The Air Force global strike capability will be crucial in shaping the battlefield. The Navy, while maintaining its skills in the open ocean, known as "blue-water capabilities," will move more into littoral, or coastal, warfare.
"Even after we win in Iraq, even after we win in Afghanistan, there will be extremist groups that will threaten us," Odierno said. "Military personnel must be ready for whatever confronts them in this Long War."
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