The performance of the Armed Forces has shown a marked improvement since its low point in the post-Vietnam era Military leaders have deliberately sought out and internalized lessons from each succeeding conflict The challenge for the next generation is learning the lessons of these past operations and building an even more effective, flexible force. The military cannot pick and choose its missions. Their political masters may well decide that national interests require the use of force for more nontraditional missions or in situations that may be less than ideally suited to military solutions. Force protection is critical; high rates of casualties can erode popular support and undermine the mission. On the other hand, excessive fear of casualties can erode the morale of the Armed Forces. The key is forging American leadership that understands the military risks involved. Commitments to our allies may draw us into conflicts where U.S. national interests are limited, but where American leadership is essential to the vitality of the alliance. Even a small operation conducted abroad requires an extraordinary range of well-trained forces, either highly deployable or already in theater. Despite successes, the Armed Forces must address a number of challenges: urban warfare, weapons of mass destruction, tracking and destroying mobile targets, the need for lighter, more deployable forces, and the burden of ongoing operations.
Strategic Forum No. 174
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