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  • Author: Jonathan D. Caverley
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: A capital- and firepower-intensive military doctrine is, in general, poorly suited for combating an insurgency. It is therefore puzzling that democracies, particularly the United States, tenaciously pursue such a suboptimal strategy over long periods of time and in successive conflicts. This tendency poses an empirical challenge to the argument that democracies tend to win the conflicts they enter. This apparently nonstrategic behavior results from a condition of moral hazard owing to the shifting of costs away from the average voter. The voter supports the use of a capital-intensive doctrine in conflicts where its effectiveness is low because the decreased likelihood of winning is outweighed by the lower costs of fighting. This theory better explains the development of the United States' counterinsurgency strategy in Vietnam during Lyndon Johnson's administration compared to the dominant interpretation, which blames the U.S. military's myopic bureaucracy and culture for its counterproductive focus on firepower and conventional warfare.
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Vietnam
  • Author: Bruce M. Sugden
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Should the United States deploy conventional ballistic missiles (CBMs) in support of the prompt global strike (PGS) mission? Most important, do the political-military benefits outweigh the risks of CBM deployment? The United States, if it works to mitigate the risk of misperception and an inadvertent nuclear response, should deploy near-term CBMs in support of the PGS mission. The prompt response of CBMs would likely be sufficient to defeat many time-sensitive, soft targets, provided actionable intelligence was available. Near-term CBMs, those options capable of being deployed prior to 2013, would have the required attributes to defeat their targets: payload flexibility, throw weight, and accuracy. More specifically, the U.S. Navy's Conventional Trident Modification is a cost-effective, near-term PGS option that would mitigate the concerns of CBM opponents. The large-scale use of midterm and long-term CBMs against mobile targets and hard and deeply buried targets, however, will require a wider range of technologies that have yet to mature. Thus, the United States should continue investing in research and development for a broad portfolio of PGS options to cover the emerging target set.
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: United States