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The Challenge of Adaptation: The US Army in the Aftermath of Conflict, 1953-2000

The Challenge of Adaptation: The US Army in the Aftermath of Conflict, 1953-2000 published on

Authored by US Army Combined Arms Center

In his foreword to Roberta Wohlstetter’s Bancroft prize-winning book Pearl Harbor (1962), Thomas Schelling addressed the problem faced by a government in foreseeing and anticipating future contingencies. For Schelling, Wohlstetter had demonstrated that the failure of the US government was not in its provision of sufficient warning of the coming attack, but in a culture of strategic analysis which was preoccupied with what the Japanese would obviously do rather than the full range of choices and actions at their disposal.1 The question of how the United States could best prepare itself for future threats and shape its military establishment to attain a balance between near-term operational demands and long-term force transformation were topics of considerable interest even before the attacks of 11 September 2001 reoriented the policy of the current administration towards what has come to be known as the Global War on Terror. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War the size of the US military establishment and the utility of military force were hotly debated topics. Like many other periods in American history, the US government and people had hoped that the end of the Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union would provide a “peace dividend” and allow national resources to be reoriented towards a wide array of domestic concerns. While the defense budget was trimmed accordingly, however, the US military soon found itself deployed overseas for a multitude of wide-ranging operations at a tempo which greatly taxed its personnel and increasingly deferred plans for modernization of the force. When the administration of George W. Bush assumed office in January 2001, there was a strong sense that the United States was still struggling to find a proper strategic orientation for the post-Cold War world. The Bush administration undertook the strategic review characteristic of any new administration, one that had additional importance given a Congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Review Report on Defense was expected from the Department of Defense during 2001. That summer, Schelling’s phrase about the “poverty of expectations” gained currency amongst the ranks of senior Pentagon officials who gave it widespread circulation. In its use was an implicit criticism of the type of force planning and strategic thinking which had characterized preceding administrations’ approaches to defense.

Publication Date:
Oct 31 2014
1503040542 / 9781503040540
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
Related Categories:
Political Science / Political Freedom & Security / International Secur


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