I’m currently waiting for Megan Carpentier to come online so we can do our Crappy Hour thing — see, I don’t stand her up like some CH interlocutors — so naturally I start reading Frank Hoffman’s Armed Forces Journal overview on the Quadrennial Defense Review. I’ll have more to say about it when I’m not expecting Megan to IM at any moment saying she’s ready, but Frank is one of the most knowledgable and reliable and fair interpreters of extremely complex defense issues, so check the piece out if you’d like to get a quick sense of the stakes in the QDR. He reminds me I haven’t actually written anything on the process building up to the document, including on Michele Flournoy and Shawn Brimley’s recent Proceedings piece saying what it is they’re up to. But I inadvertently previewed it over a year ago when I interviewed David Petraeus:

 Like after Vietnam, there will be those who say “the best way to avoid doing this again is to not have the ability to do this again. But,” [Petraeus] concluded, “having said that, you don’t get to pick your wars. Sometimes they are thrust upon you. They don’t always turn out the way they were envisioned, or the way you envisioned them turning out. The enemy gets a vote. And that’s why I’m persuaded by the logic of the concept of full-spectrum operations.”

This is a vogueish term to indicate that the most likely near-term threat that the military will be called to confront is a threat from a mixture of capabilities, up (heavily conventional) and down (heavily irregular and asymmetric) the threat "spectrum." Picture an insurgent network jerryrigging together a bunch of powerful bombs or mines into a powerful IED and then launching some kind of cyber attack to jam you up and reestablish a hold on a particular piece of territory. Are you up or down on the threat spectrum there? You’re down, but with a big asterisk. Over the lifespan of the QDR, that’s probably where we’ll be, so the Pentagon is moving away from a less-relevant concept of prepping to fight two major theater wars simultaneously and toward this one. Notice that this is something that’s counterinsurgency-relevant but doesn’t displace preparations for other fights. COINdinistas want a seat at the table, not the whole banquet.

Wow Megan is late.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman