PROCEEDINGS • November 2005 www.navalinstitute.org
hanks in large measure to the experiences of Afghani-stan and Iraq, there is less talk in Washington thesedays about revolutions in military affairs (RMA) ordefense transformations based solely on technology. Ourfascination with RMAs and transformation has been al-tered once again by history’s enduring lesson about thepredominant role of the human dimension in warfare. Ourinfatuation with technology was a reflection of our ownmirror imaging and an unrealistic desire to dictate the con-duct of war on our own terms.Recent conflicts highlight the need to always remem-ber that the enemy is a human being with the capacity toreason creatively. In effect, he has a vote in the competi-tive process we know as war, and does not have to playby our rules. Certainly there are both revolutionary andevolutionary changes in the conduct of war. Social, politi-cal, and technological forces can impact the character of conflict. But they do not—they cannot—alter its funda-mental nature.This is an important distinction as the Pentagon com-pletes the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Relevanceis more important than yesterday’s dominance. The rea-sons that some claim dominance in their particular areaof expertise or their domain of warfare is that no one iscontesting us in that domain. If you want to start arguingabout strategic priorities in the QDR, we argue that youlook at where our enemies are gathering to fight us. Thatis relevance. If you want to determine where investmentsare needed to eliminate risk and have the greatest returnin terms of defeating our enemies and saving the lives of Americans, look at combat in the “contested zones” of urban and other complex terrain. We need to create thesame sort of dominance we currently hold in the GlobalCommons to our ground forces in these contested zones.As you are probably aware, the new National DefenseStrategy (NDS) and the Quadrennial Defense Review pro-cess are broadening our planning framework. This is a veryimportant step forward. The NDS lays out four emergingchallengers or threats; the traditional, the irregular, thecatastrophic, and the disruptive.Defense planning scenarios and force planning havefocused on the traditional or conventional challenger inthe past. While state-based conventional threats have notdisappeared, it is clear that the United States will domi-nate conventional adversaries for the foreseeable future.Yet interstate war has not disappeared. It is possible thatsome state may miscalculate our resolve or commitmentor some irresponsible state actor could take actions thatmight require a U.S. intervention of significant scale. Thus,we need to maintain our traditional combat capabilitiesfor major war. This includes a forcible entry capabilityby an integrated combined arms team. These skills setsare still the foundation or baseline of our capability forother forms of war.
U . S . M a r i n e C o r p S ( S g t . J o S e e . g U i l l e n
Lieutenant General James N. Mattis, U.S. Marine Corps andLieutenant Colonel Frank G. Hoffman U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)
RememberGeneral Krulak’s Three Block War? Are you ready for theFour Block War? You better be, says GeneralJames Mattis (above)