Friday, January 01, 2016

The next president will face tricky military questions

By David Ignatius Opinion writer December 31, 2015, WashPost

Making New Year’s predictions is tricky in this turbulent world, but here’s one fairly safe bet: The next president will propose a more assertive U.S. foreign policy. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, has often sounded nearly as hawkish about the use of military force as the Republican contenders.

But what would a new U.S. assertiveness mean, in practical terms? What can U.S. military power do, realistically, to combat the Islamic State and other threats more effectively? How can China and Russia be checked militarily? The rhetoric of U.S. power will be flexed during the campaign, but what about the substance? Projecting power will be harder than many candidates seem to realize.

The first reality check for a new president will be the Pentagon. This generation of military leaders has been through traumatic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve cautioned President Obama about the potential cost in lives and money of new commitments in the Middle East, and they’ll do the same with the next commander in chief. If you want to hear arguments against deploying a big U.S. ground force in Syria, just ask a general.

Half-baked ideas about projecting power aren’t likely to survive long in a new administration. There will be continuity in military advice, given that Gen. Joe Dunford and Gen. Paul Selva likely will remain into 2017 as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively. A new roster of combatant commanders, including the Central Command chief who will oversee U.S. military forces in the Middle East, will be appointed by Obama before he leaves office.

(More here.)

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