It is without doubt that the United States still holds the largest military establishment in the world. This does not come as a surprise because America is still the world’s only superpower.
This rating is determined not by troop levels, but rather by the levels of sophistication in weapon systems and the investment in infrastructure. Having been a student in one of their military institutions and the tour of their bases in Germany, I am a witness that Americans will continue to dominate on this number one spot.
In the past two installments on my column I discussed the militaries of the United Kingdom and India and this was after we looked at the way they have had influence in the development of Botswana Defence Force. Each country including the US has had very critical contribution in the development of Botswana’s military.
When taking into account the fact that BDF is essentially an army, I would want to bring this discussion with the US military into focus with the US Army. Unlike what we discussed with the Indian military where we looked at the Unified Command, we will only look at the US Army’s military doctrine. If I could in any way discuss the US Unified Command, it would take us several weeks to come to a reasonable conclusion because of the size of this military establishment.
The US Army developed the Training and Doctrine (TRADOC) concept in 1974 after the end of the Vietnam war. They had to relook and rethink their future strategies in conducting wars. In all earnesty, the Vietnam War had become a failure by all measure and standards. The Americans had gone there with an attitude that they were going to defeat “the little men in pyjamas” referring to the Viet Cong’s manner of dress.
The disgraceful departure of the Americans out of South East Asian became a lesson for future generations in the ways of conducting war. This war became a hard lesson so much that the Gulf War was approached with much trepidation because they did not want to experience the slaughter of Vietnam. What is interesting is that the Americans went to introspect rather than hide in denial.
Allow me to discuss the latest development in TRADOC which I find to be intriguing. Of late they have developed what they term as Army Operating Concept (AOC). This is a concept that catapults the US Army into the future. This defines the Army’s future involvement in supporting future US policy objectives and how future wars will be won by ground forces. This is not a myopic view of future conflicts but rather it is a very broad strategy that focuses on 2025 and beyond.
It is important that BDF reads this policy document because it will help them in the development of their future policy. The reason why I am taking an overview of the US Army doctrine is because our own military should copy what is already in existence as it is surely working for the US Army.
The reason why I am going through the pain of making comparisons of the different militaries is for the purpose of laying a foundation for the future policy of the BDF. Honestly, we cannot keep a military that has an undefined role. BDF has transitioned from what it was created for and I believe it needs a redefining.
AOC exists to help the army win wars and achieve any set political agendas. It is important to note that the US Army recognises the political leadership of their country and wants to maintain a growing relationship. It is the political leadership that funds the military anywhere in the world and hence the need to maintain a good working relationship. In some African countries, the military and the army in particular has become “untouchable” and keeps the political leadership in constant fear of a coup de tat.
The US Army plays a unique and important role of protecting the vital interests of America and securing the nation. Of course other armed services equally play their significant roles. It is important to realise that the US Army’s doctrine defines its role and purpose of existence taking into account the fact that it does not operate in total isolation.
Any military exists for the purpose of conflict. Further details may be defined and redefined in the progressive life of a military establishment, but the bottom line is that fighting wars is the primary purpose. In the case of the US Army, the AOC underscores the unique role the Army plays in order to give the US advantage over its adversaries. It defines the role of the institutional and operational army.
The AOC is a manual that acts as a blueprint of how the US Army thinks and perceives future conflicts. They have created such a concept taking the past and the future into consideration lest they become out of context and the realities of conflict in the 21st Century. AOC focuses on tactical, operational, and strategic elements of war. The US Army’s approach and doctrine on how to fight future wars is intelligent and an admirable piece of work.
TRADOC’s purpose, role and work is in symbiotic existence with the army itself. No country can have an army that does not train. It is the doctrinal issues that seem to raise questions. BDF like other developed militaries such as those in Britain, India and the US needs a neat and water tight military doctrine. This is a necessary tool for every military establishment. With so many examples to compare with, we have now arrived at a point where we can begin to question the workings of our own defence force.