NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: Many new threats, but few new weapons to meet them. That’s what the cash-strapped future holds for the entire Army, but especially for the service’s most expensive branch, the helicopter corps.

So the challenge is to teach old birds new tricks. As budgets tighten, the service’s strategy to keep up with the threat relies not on buying new helicopters but on upgrading the existing ones — and on flying them with new tactics in concert with unmanned drones. Keep reading →

Libya has become the Obama administration’s Iraq.

Enthusiasm for intervention without clarity of strategy after intervention is common to both the Bush and Obama administrations. What is different is that George W. Bush took ownership of the Iraq crisis; Barack Obama has not. Keep reading →

QUANTICO, Va: Even though the administration’s strategic guidance swears off “large-scale, prolonged stability operations” while emphasizing air and naval forces, the lessons that ground troops learned in Afghanistan and Iraq will remain vitally relevant, both because we will still do stability operations in the future and because those skills apply to other kinds of conflicts as well, declared a senior advisor to the Marine Corps Commandant.

“We’re going to do more of this in the future, not necessarily less,” said Brig. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, the Marines’ operations director. After 10 years of war, he said, “we’ve changed what we consider to be our core competencies.” Alongside the traditional Marine skills in attack, defense, and amphibious operations, “we’ve included now, as [has] the Army, stability operations.” Keep reading →

Call it Somalia on steroids. Call it Syria next week. Either way it’s a scenario the US military needs to prepare for: an intervention into a failing state where rival factions have looted a sophisticated arsenal, from tanks to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to weapons of mass destruction.

There’s no political will in Washington to intervene (directly) in the Syrian conflict as it now stands. The military cost of breaking down Syria’s defenses outweighs the political benefit of stopping the killings. But if the Assad regime imploded — and it’s under greater pressure ever day — that equation would change: The Syrian defenses would become less coordinated and formidable, though still dangerous, while the pressure on the US to act, if only to secure the regime’s chemical weapons, would rise sharply. Keep reading →

With news of Muammar Gaddhafi’s death, the U.S., NATO, and the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) deserve a moment to relish in the successes of the democratic movement in Libya. Yet it’s important to understand that despite this success, the story of Libyan democracy is in its infancy. Now begins the difficult part.

Can the NTC establish rule of law, democratic institutions, security, a stable economy, and a functioning government for the whole of Libya? This is traditionally the most difficult part of any revolution.

At this point, it’s wise to step back for a moment and reflect upon some of the lessons learned, and how those lessons can help guide future U.S. or NATO involvement in future scenarios of intervention. Keep reading →