Rediscovering the Infantry in a Time of Transformation

By Bing West Defense Horizons 10



In the summer of 2001, the Bush administration expressed impatience with the military services, suggesting that unspecified legacy capabilities had to give way to a “transformation” that would be based upon “stealth, precision weaponry, and information technologies.” Operations in Afghanistan, however, have shown the wisdom of today’s balanced force structure. In the current campaign, all-source intelligence has been used to vector teams on the ground, which in turn have identified targets for aircraft that have shattered the opposing forces. The result has been devastating air power controlled by Americans on the ground, with a psychological effect rippling far beyond Afghanistan. All governments inclined to harbor anti-American terrorists now understand that the consequences may be their removal from power, not just a few cruise missiles hitting empty buildings.

U.S. ground forces, however, are still vulnerable; they lag far behind the resources devoted to air and high-level command, control, and communications (C3). Now is the time to recognize the multifaceted roles of the rifleman and to recapitalize the infantry. A transformation based upon facts rather than theory would shift resources from C3 niceties for high-level staffs to force protection essentials for the people doing the fighting.