Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave a speech yesterday that's receiving a ton of attention, so we've put it up here.
It really must be read in full, but here's a choice excerpt:
In the past I have expressed frustration over the defense bureaucracy’s priorities and lack of urgency when it came to the current conflicts – that for too many in the Pentagon it has been business as usual, as opposed to a wartime footing and a wartime mentality. When referring to “Next-War-itis,” I was not expressing opposition to thinking about and preparing for the future. It would be irresponsible not to do so – and the overwhelming majority of people in the Pentagon, the services, and the defense industry do just that. My point was simply that we must not be so preoccupied with preparing for future conventional and strategic conflicts that we neglect to provide both short-term and long-term all the capabilities necessary to fight and win conflicts such as we are in today.
Support for conventional modernization programs is deeply embedded in our budget, in our bureaucracy, in the defense industry, and in Congress. My fundamental concern is that there is not commensurate institutional support – including in the Pentagon – for the capabilities needed to win the wars we are in, and of the kinds of missions we are most likely to undertake in the future.
What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, world-wide irregular campaign – a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and moderation. In the long-term effort against terrorist networks and other extremists, we know that direct military force will continue to have a role. But we also understand that over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Where possible, kinetic operations should be subordinate to measures to promote better governance, economic programs to spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented from which the terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideology. As the National Defense Strategy puts it, success will require us to “tap the full strength of America and its people” – civilian and military, public sector and private.
We are unlikely to repeat another Iraq or Afghanistan anytime soon – that is, forced regime change followed by nation-building under fire. But that doesn’t mean we may not face similar challenges in a variety of locales. Where possible, our strategy is to employ indirect approaches – primarily through building the capacity of partner governments and their security forces – to prevent festering problems from turning into crises that require costly and controversial American military intervention. In this kind of effort, the capabilities of our allies and partners may be as important as our own, and building their capacity, is arguably as important, if not more so than the fighting we do ourselves.