Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 19

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 17
aggressors.This deterrent is more lasting than just the impact
of long-range fires because it threatens regime survival or
the loss of something the adversary holds dear. As U.S. naval
leaders have recently noted:
…the historical evidence of strategic advantage
that accrues to maritime powers with amphibious
capabilities is significant across the full range of military
operations. Moreover, the strategic/political costs
of allowing adversaries to prevent access or to be
perceived as having created ‘no go’ areas for U.S. forces
are high and unacceptable.[x]
Power projection is certainly getting harder. However, in a
world with many destabilizing areas and with increasingly
urbanized littoral regions, we have not seen the end of the
need to deter aggressors,preserve stability or respond rapidly
to crises.
Negates adversary anti-access strategy
.To the degree that a
robust forcible entry capability can avoid defensive systems or
slice through or over littoral regions, it contributes to negating
an adversary’s anti-access strategy. Since anti-access
strategies and capabilities appear to be on the rise, this
advantage is increasing in value in today’s strategic calculus.
If we ignore the need for overcoming anti-access strategies
and techniques or assume away access challenges, future
operations could become “the Omaha beaches of the 21st
century” in the words of Dr.Andrew Krepinevich.
Generates a cost imposing strategy
. At the strategic level,
a forcible entry capability can be part of a cost imposing
strategy. Our investment in power projection forces and
littoral dominance requires an adversary to invest in a host
of surveillance and defensive systems. Conversely, if we did
not pose the potential for decisive forcible entry operations,
future aggressors could invest more intensely in a narrower
sphere perhaps focusing on theater missile or anti-air
defenses exclusively and successfully. For example, if an
adversary was not concerned about preserving his territorial
integrity or preventing the introduction of U.S. ground forces,
he could invest heavily in surface-to-air systems to counter
our air superiority and impose heavy costs on U.S. air assets.
Thus, the presentation of our forcible entry capability serves
to extend an adversary’s investment portfolio, and dilutes his
overall effectiveness relative to U.S. full spectrum capabilities.
Assures access
.In the simplest terms,a forcibleentry capability
assures access. We can hope that foreign governments will
provide over-flight rights or port and airfield access.We might
be able to negotiate and purchase intermediate or theater
basing, and they may even be robust or mature enough to
support major U.S. operations. But ultimately, U.S. interests
should not be held hostage to hope or the whims of third
party states that may not share our interests. At the end of
the day, the United States should possess the capability to
project decisive combat forces into an area where its national
interests are at stake. As we have seen in recent operations
in Afghanistan and against Iraq, there are political dynamics
at work that will constrain or completely eliminate access to
countries and facilities when the United States is conducting
military interventions.
Likewise, the former U.S. Joint Force Command produced
a highly-regarded description of the future titled the
Operating Environment
. That forecast concluded that, “the
United States may not have uncontested access to bases
in the immediate area from which it can project military
power…. The battle for access may prove not only the most
important, but the most difficult.”[xi]
Poses investment dynamics and dilemmas
. Forcible
entry operations also generate a range of dynamics for
our adversaries due to their combination of operational
maneuver and fire. These combinations pose a series of
dilemmas for the opposing commander and his forces.They
can respond to our deep maneuver by concentrating and
moving against us, which exposes them to our fire. If they
remain fixed in place, they can be isolated and eliminated
in detail. In any event, whatever the enemy does, he faces
a continuing series of dilemmas for which he has limited or
no respective countering options.This dilemma matches that
described by Liddell Hart and American strategist John Boyd
for diminished system effectiveness and collapse.
Sustains influence and reassures
partners. Finally, as noted
in the last QDR, “in the absence of dominant U.S. power
projection capabilities, the integrity of U.S. alliances and
security partnerships could be called into question, reducing
U.S. security and influence and increasing the possibility of
These strategic benefits have accrued to the West in the past
century and could make similar contributions in the current
tense if retained and modernized for future contingencies.
Counter Arguments
Some might contend that the United States need not risk its
ground forces in contested zones, and that we should rely on
extraordinary Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
(ISR) and precision strike capability. This would reduce
America’s power projection options to “Stand Off Warfare.”
Such powerful strikes, it is alleged offset the need to make
the investment in littoral maneuver, and preclude the need
to place Marines or soldiers at risk in the “contested zones” of
the world’s increasingly urbanized littorals.
Admittedly, precision strike can indeed destroy the
adversary’s networks and fielded forces with multiple kinds of
kinetic and non-kinetic strike assets. However, these have yet
to be proven as decisive in the absence of a combined arms
approach. Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya all bear witness to
ultimately, U.S. interests should not be
held hostage to hope or the whims of
third party states that may
not share our interests
Some might contend that the United
States need not risk its ground
forces in contested zones
The Myth of the Post-Power Projection Era
Frank G. Hoffman
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