A Return to Offshore Balancing

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 5 months ago

The recent chorus of calls for withdrawal from Afghanistan (which I will treat in more detail later) involve a number of different avenues, some liberal, some conservative, some pragmatic, and some nonplussed.  Courtesy of Bryan McGrath at Information Dissemination, we have a mythical reason, called A Return to Offshore Balancing (albeit somewhat dated).

As the new President takes office, the United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East. Despite Obama’s promises to withdraw from Iraq, the debacle there shows no sign of ending soon, and it has made America’s terrorism problem worse, not better. Meanwhile, Hamas rules in Gaza, Iran’s stature is on the rise and Tehran is quickly moving to acquire a nuclear deterrent—which, despite a lot of tough talk, the United States and its allies have been unable to prevent. And America’s image throughout the Middle East is at an all-time low.

All this is a direct result of the Bush administration’s misguided policy of regional transformation. George W. Bush hoped he could implant democracy in the Middle East by using the U.S. military to topple the unfriendly regime in Baghdad—and maybe those in Damascus and Tehran, too—and replace them with friendly, democratic governments.

Things didn’t work out well, of course, and it’s now vital that the new president devise a radically different strategy for dealing with this critical part of the world. Fortunately, one approach has proved effective in the past and could serve America again today: “offshore balancing.” During the cold war, this strategy enabled Washington to contain Iran and Iraq and deter direct Soviet intervention in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. As a Middle East policy, offshore balancing may be less ambitious than Bush’s grand design was—no one promises it will lead to an “Arab spring”—but it will be much more effective at protecting actual U.S. interests.

So what would it look like? As an offshore balancer, the United States would keep its military forces—especially its ground and air forces—outside the Middle East, not smack in the center of it. Hence the term “offshore.” As for “balancing,” that would mean relying on regional powers like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia to check each other. Washington would remain diplomatically engaged, and when necessary would assist the weaker side in a conflict. It would also use its air and naval power to signal a continued U.S. commitment to the region and would retain the capacity to respond quickly to unexpected threats, like Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But—and this is the key point—the United States would put boots on the ground in the Middle East only if the local balance of power seriously broke down and one country threatened to dominate the others. Short of that, America would keep its soldiers and pilots “over the horizon”—namely at sea, in bases outside the region or back home in the United States.

This proposal assumes first that in using SF and SOF we have the actionable intelligence and logistics to support their interdictions, raids and HVT killings.  We will not have that with a small footprint.  Intelligence sources are killed in small footprint campaigns because their is no force projection on the ground.  Logistics would be nonexistent because every participant in trucking supplies into the FOBs or launch points for these operations would have been beheaded or shot.  Thinking that this can all be done from offshore platforms is not serious analysis.  It’s wishful and even mythical thinking.

Our friend Galrahn (who still hasn’t blogrolled TCJ) says that the light footprint model hasn’t failed us because Afghanistan is not currently a sanctuary for AQ.  The problem with this is that as Michael Yon points out, the enemy controls the terrain.  Those who would harbor AQ could come back into power.

It should be remember that the so-called Hamburg cell originally intended to attack Germany, and their minds were changed when AQ in Afghanistan (UBL) convinced them to target the U.S.  The Hindu Kush and areas South of there (Helmand) harbors AQ and other globalists and also their enablers.  Don’t think for one minute that we can simply launch clinical raids with pristine intelligence supported by operators who have all they need when they need it, with combined arms including air support that has air controllers who have all of the logistics that they need while they target only know HVTs with verifiable accuracy.

This is simply a myth – a strategic daydream.  The small footprint model has led us to where we are in Afghanistan, and claiming that we should do more of the same will continue the diminution of the campaign.  We can withdraw or we can go big, but what we cannot do is hope that more of the same saves us.

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  1. On September 2, 2009 at 7:31 pm, blkfoot_04 said:

    Maybe a little off subject but…heres a novel idea…


    I wonder where they possibly could have gotten that from…

  2. On September 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm, blkfoot_04 said:

    Ok, I just can’t let this go on just a “go to this site” attachment…and I know I’m still off topic…but, since I somehow got “banned from replying on military.com (hmmm, I don’t swear any more than R.Lee does on Mail-call), anyways…the Comment section really is something on with all the bickering on why aren’t the REMF’s being sent out on Patrol’s and guard duty and stuff like that, and doesn’t everybody know how to use a gun (a gun?, by gawd it’s a freakin weapon there Susy! Whoops, sorry, R. Lee needed to be heard there..)
    There are a lot of good USMC replies, beacuse “Every Marine is a Rifleman”…which is true, first at Recruit training a huge % is training new recruits basic combat skills and survival technics, 2 full weeks of intensive weapons training, followed by Combat Skill coarse which last pretty much more than half of the 12 weeks of Marine recruit training (the other 6 weeks are just brutal in your face are ya gonna fall down and cry personality enhansing gut checken snap and poppin take the Wall Ooh Rah’n stuff!…Then after Graduation, Combat Infantry types go to “The School of Infantry”, where as every other Hardcharger goes thru another 4 more weeks of “Basic Combat Skills training” (Just a modified version of the School of infantry, but not by a whole lot, oh and just so happens is ran by..taaa daaa..The School of Infantry!)…then these very hard Charging individuals go off to their Primary MOS training schools…
    Hmmm let see there Gunny, you mean to tell me that Every freakin Marine gets practically 10 weeks of Infantry training, like Admin types, supply guys, Motor-T heads, En-gineers, even the Women Marines (W.M.’s)?…
    Affirmative there Zoohead…EVERYBODY!
    The Army, God bless em…hasn’t quite figurered how to get everybody up to speed as their wonderfull Infantry types are (I’m not being sarcastic…the Army’s Combat Arms are badazzes!), it’s the follow up people that get the dirty end of the stick on just learning “Basic Combat Skills” and how to survive, shoot a weapon or just wear their freakin helmet right. The Army has improved in this…but, it could do a whole lot better. The Air Force, could easily add a week of “how to load a fully loaded magazine into your service rifle and point the thing the right direction” Classes, and Basic Combat Skills abreviated classes in their Recruit training too (The Air Force could subcontract those skilled instructors from the Marine Corps, Marines that are recouperating from Combat Injuries to be the Instructors, The Marines would get the Physical and Spiritual healing of getting back into it and just motivate the hell out of them to scream and yell at Airmen that screw up, And represent the Corps with a fellow service and the Air Force would get the benifit of Experenced Combat Veterans passing on their skills to Air Forces young Airmen recruits, plus, the slightly damaged bodies would definately make them pay attention to what that Marine is trying to pass onto them and Survive.
    The Navy has Firefighting training everybody has to go thru..for a damn good reason, look up U.S.S. Forestal and see why…so I wont harp on them

    Sorry to get off subject like that Captain..but my soap box was calling my name…

    Semper Fidelus

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You are currently reading "A Return to Offshore Balancing", entry #3730 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Offshore Balancing and was published September 2nd, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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