By Major Tom Mcilwaine, Queen's Royal Hussars
Best Defense guest columnist
Question Set Nine --
a. Will we really have to do this again?
It is difficult to say. While the future might be light infantry, so long as Iran, North Korea, Egypt, and Pakistan maintain large armored forces I think that it is as well that we keep them too, lest we find ourselves on the wrong end of the asymmetric warfare stick. While there does not appear to be any appetite for lengthy large scale entanglements in the third world, events have a habit of changing things dramatically. It is as well to be prepared for them.
b. So do we need a balanced force well-practiced in transitioning from one to the other?
Probably. The consequence of getting a high-intensity fight wrong is likely to be catastrophic, whereas we got COIN wrong for the best part of 12 years without much in the way of strategic consequence. (The consequences for those who fought were of course rather more severe.) The first step is getting out of this binary mindset that it must be one or the other. The philosophy is that we spend 90 percent of our money on house insurance (in the form of one distinct capability) but next to nothing on car insurance (other capabilities).
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.