The recent buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and Chinese naval exercises to the east and west of Taiwan may be seen as evidence that great power competition will require a return to focusing on the threats posed by the maneuver brigades, air wings, and naval fleets of competitors. For the Biden administration, which entered office stating that “diplomacy, development, and economic statecraft should be the leading instruments of American foreign policy,” and “the use of military force should be the last resort,” there is a clear temptation to reduce US commitments to messy political-military conflicts on what many see as the strategic periphery (i.e., Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia). President Biden’s announcement last week that the United States will remove all troops from Afghanistan by September 2021 is a prominent, but certainly not the only, indicator of this trajectory. For some this means, perhaps, that there should be a division of labor between conventional forces and special operations forces (SOF) that might assign these messy contingencies to the latter forces, but that would be a mistake.
As the Biden administration develops its national security strategy, it should not conflate great power competition with major theater war or conventional operations. The last twenty years of conflict have pushed both state and nonstate actors to challenge the United States in ways that it has historically been uncomfortable countering. This is particularly the case in the gray zone, where actors oftentimes blend and blur various tools of power in order to achieve objectives below the threshold of war. Responding to this international environment will mean that thinking of policy elements in discrete bins of force, diplomacy, and development will hamper US responses to threats and opportunities. The United States will need to merge all instruments of power, to include various components of its military power, to counter challenges from its rivals.
For the Department of Defense, this will mean that the military will be actively engaged overseas, oftentimes alongside partners and allies, in order to respond to or—more preferably—shape regional dynamics. Irregular warfare (IW) will play an important role in this national security environment. Though much public debate over the definition and centrality of IW has centered on authoritative documents such as the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) and its 2020 IW annex, more informal notes on military doctrine offer useful frames through which to understand IW, such as the cooperation, competition, and conflict continuum. When we understand the nature and scope of IW through both national security guidance and doctrine, it becomes clear that IW will be an important element across the joint force. Neglecting IW or making it the exclusive domain of Special Operations Command (SOCOM) will limit and suboptimize our responses to these types of competition and threats.
Irregular Warfare and the US National Security Strategy
What is IW and why is it important in the current environment? National security guidance documents, to include the recently released Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, provide some useful framing to answer this question. The DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines it as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).” But the inclusion of the word “violent” is a bit limiting because information operations, cyberattacks, and shows of force or shaping operations that do not cross the threshold into violence can still have influence or effect the legitimacy of local power brokers.
While the term does not appear in the unclassified summary of the 2018 NDS, it is the subject of an unclassified annex to the report that was not released until October of 2020. The two documents combined number a slender twenty-six pages—almost certainly shorter than their classified counterparts. Strategic ambiguity or opacity are likely the rationale for only sharing small snapshots of these documents—the United States does not want to telegraph all of its capabilities and strategic thinking so that it can deter threats or challengers. But perhaps the 2018 NDS was too ambiguous. The public summary of that document led many to think that DoD was shifting to great power competition at the expense of smaller contingencies. Until the release of the annex, people had to take the word of Frank Hoffman, one of the authors of the NDS, that the concept of GPC was not just about turning the page from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to prepare for major theater war against near-peer competitors.
The recent IW Annex to the NDS usefully drops the word “violent” from the previous definition. “Struggle” is a more satisfactory term because it gets around the discrete concepts of war and peace. It also states that while GPC is the primary national security challenge, IW remains a critical task and that the United States “will sharpen these capabilities for application against peer competitor, nation-state adversaries.” This is an important statement because the use of irregular warfare techniques will be crucial no matter whether the United States is competing against China or Russia, combating nonstate actors such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, or assisting allies and partners against state-backed proxy forces. As suggested above, the last nearly twenty years of conflict, while showing some strong tactical performances by US forces in the conduct of such activities, has not translated to long-term operational or strategic success that might lead adversaries or competitors to steer clear of such techniques.
On the legislative side, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of FY2018 contains section 1202 (“Support of special operations for irregular warfare”). This law, which was extended as section 1207 in the FY2021 NDAA, defines IW as “activities in support of predetermined United States policy and military objectives conducted by, with, and through regular forces, irregular forces, groups, and individuals participating in competition between state and non-state actors short of traditional armed conflict.” While on the one hand this limits IW by putting it firmly in the domain of SOF, the removal of “legitimacy” and “influence” may be useful as those factors might not always be the primary drivers of US objectives—this would be the case particularly in a proxy war environment where one might back a side primarily to impose costs on an adversary.
The Biden administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance does not mention either IW or GPC. It clearly and accurately describes China and Russia as revisionist powers. It singles out China’s assertiveness and potential in harnessing its elements of power to challenge the “stable and open international system.” Russia is assessed more as a disruptor. It describes both states as seeking “to check US strengths and prevent us from defending our interests and allies around the world.”
But the guidance also, seemingly, silos a focus on crisis response, counterterrorism (CT), and unconventional warfare (UW) to SOF. Although CT and UW are missions in which SOF is often in the lead, they are not the exclusive domain of these forces. The fifth SOF Truth, after all, is that “most special operations require non-SOF support.” While the interim guidance does state that capabilities will be developed to “compete and deter gray zone actions,” those are not elaborated upon. The administration will likely refine this over time, but it should not make IW exclusively the domain of SOF. Doing so would not only ensure that those forces are overused, but would also reinforce or create additional seams in US capabilities to respond to the current and future operating environments.
The Competition Continuum and the Joint Force
One way to ensure that these additional seams are not created and to focus the joint force on the challenges posed by the contemporary operating environment would be to use the thought template found in Joint Doctrine Note 1-19, Competition Continuum. While such notes are not authoritative, they are issued to “facilitate information sharing on problems and potential solutions as a supporting effort of formal joint doctrine development and revision.” This note is particularly useful as it describes the blending and blurring of cooperation, competition, and conflict—including how all three can occur simultaneously. Effectively conducting all three activities simultaneously requires a joint force effort.
The purpose of delineating these concepts is not simply to explain the environment, but to improve integrated campaigning. Cooperation usually relates to an enduring activity with an ally or partner. Sometimes, however, it can extend to neutral or adversarial partners. Competition below the level of armed conflict also tends to occur over a protracted period. Typically, it is more indirect and less resource driven than armed conflict. Armed conflict campaigning is rather straightforward for a military audience, but it argues that if cooperation and competition are “ignored or treated as strictly ancillary to the armed conflict effort, then the joint force is at increased risk for failure to meet some or all of the desired objectives.” Deterrence applies across the continuum.
The continuum is useful because all of these activities can occur simultaneously. For example, one might consider the current situation in Iraq. There, the United States has been cooperating with the national and the Kurdish regional governments and combating the Islamic State and other adversaries while also competing with Iran.
In terms of competition with China or Russia, cooperation with allies, partners, or potential partners will be essential. The United States will have to wisely weave together elements of its national power with those of its allies and then, as best as possible, leverage those resources and capabilities to promote engagement. The United States cannot maintain a permanent presence everywhere, so cooperation can take myriad forms, such as training or providing education to foreign officers or enlisted personnel through international military education and training, selling or providing weapons systems to friends or allies, and conducting bilateral or multilateral training exercises to build relationships and interoperability such as Cobra Gold in Thailand or maneuvers in South Korea.
While the military will not be the sole component of such cooperation, the size and ability of forces to move, communicate, and, when necessary, shoot often make it a useful tool. However, this engagement should not be a SOF-centered endeavor. This will drive overuse and, as the commander of SOCOM General Richard Clarke recently testified, the threats posed by violent extremism remain the primary focus of these units (60 percent of deployed forces) as opposed to GPC (40 percent). Even if these forces were 100 percent committed to GPC, their size and need for dwell time, for example, would not allow them to optimize US engagement across these activities. The more limited systems and capabilities of SOF also do not make them ideally suited to be the main effort to cooperate with the conventional units of friends and allies. Smaller, more frequent deployments of ships, aircraft, and company-sized elements not only could enable engagement with regional allies and partners, but would also show US commitment to an open international system without being overly provocative, facilitate relationships necessary for the future, and, hopefully, share American ideals.
The Biden Administration and the Future of Irregular Warfare
The Biden administration and DoD will likely face pressures to reduce US engagement and capability development for IW environments. The president has already signaled a commitment to reinvigorating US alliances while shifting some resources from military capabilities to diplomacy, development, and intelligence tools. Defense budgets are likely to decline over time. Under institutional and political pressures, the military will likely shift its focus from engaging in the vagaries of counterinsurgency operations to preparing for large battles or pouring resources into capital-intensive systems to create smaller, more capable units. (To be sure, there are some valid reasons for wanting to turn the page from counterinsurgency, but other state and nonstate actors also get a vote in how they choose to confront us.) There will be calls for artificial intelligence and autonomous air, sea, and land systems to be the harbingers of the next American way of war. These systems, in many cases, will be important. But it will be vital to remember that nuclear weapons and other large conventional capabilities have deterrence effects that will tend to drive competition and conflict down into the IW domain.
SOF and the intelligence community will remain important actors in the United States’ IW political-military toolkit. Their training, experience, and capabilities will make them the forces of choice for sensitive activities, particularly when a light footprint and a low-visibility approach are required. But not all engagements should be low-visibility. This is particularly the case in competition. Countering the aims of revisionist powers will require imaginative planning that will balance the right mix of admitting students from county X into international military education and training programs, deploying a light infantry company to train with troops from country Y, and deploying humanitarian and civil assistance to country Z, for instance.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin should ensure that the military leadership buys into a vision that understands IW as a joint force priority. The IW Annex’s underlying logic should remain in place, at least loosely—that the “purpose of competition is not only to gain military advantages, but also to defeat adversaries’ strategies, shape their perceptions, and deny their strategic objectives in the pursuit of national interests.” In order to avert open conflict with revisionist powers such as China and Russia, the United States will need to cooperate with friends and compete against challengers in myriad ways across the elements of power. If proxy wars continue to proliferate and be the preferred means of competition between the great powers, then US capabilities in foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare will be as important for the new era of great power competition as they were in earlier ones. This will be the case in both intranational and international conflicts. After all, the hottest conflicts of the Cold War took place on the peripheries while the coolest spots were where the preponderance of conventional capabilities faced off. This will likely remain the case.
Michael P. Noonan, PhD, is the author of Irregular Soldiers and Rebellious States, a veteran of OIF, and a senior fellow in the national security program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense, or any organization with which the author is affiliated.
Image credit: Sgt.1st Class Adora Gonzalez, US Army
From the concluding paragraph of our article above:
"The IW Annex’s underlying logic should remain in place, at least loosely—that the “purpose of competition is not only to gain military advantages, but also to defeat adversaries’ strategies, shape their perceptions, and deny their strategic objectives in the pursuit of national interests.” In order to avert open conflict with revisionist powers such as China and Russia, the United States will need to cooperate with friends and compete against challengers in myriad ways across the elements of power."
From the perspective offered here, the first order of business would seem to be to:
a. First identify our own strategy (which is "transformational" and "expansionist" in nature). And then, in relation to same,
b. Identify our adversaries' "countering" strategies (which are, accordingly, "containment" and "roll back" in nature).
Dr. Jennifer Lind takes on Part "a" of this task in her Mar/Apr 2017 Foreign Affairs" article entitled "Asia's Other Revisionist Power: Why U.S. Grand Strategy Unnerves China." Here are some excepts from same:
"Since the end of World War II, the United States has pursued a strategy aimed at overturning the status quo by spreading liberalism, free markets, and U.S. influence around the globe. … the United States' posture stokes fear in Beijing and beyond." …
"But at its heart, U.S. grand strategy seeks to spread liberalism and U.S. influence. The goal, in other words, is not preservation but transformation." …
"The United States has pursued this transformational grand strategy all over the world." …
"In each of these regions (Europe, the Middle East, East Asia), U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military policies are aimed not at preserving but at transforming the status quo." (Items in parenthesis here are mine.) …
Sir Adam Roberts, in the first two paragraphs of his 2006 “Transformative Military Occupations: Applying the Laws of War and Human Rights,” also addresses the "transformational" and "expansionist" character of U.S./Western strategy:
“Within the existing framework of international law, is it legitimate for an occupying power, in the name of creating the conditions for a more democratic and peaceful state, to introduce fundamental changes in the constitutional, social, economic, and legal order within an occupied territory?" …
These questions have arisen in various conflicts and occupations since 1945 — including the tragic situation in Iraq since the United States–led invasion of March–April 2003." …
As to how our enemies/our competitors view this such "threat" (in this case, described as the threat of expansionist neoliberalism) consider the following from the December 2, 2020, Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) paper entitled “Ideological Security as National Security” by Jude Blanchette. (Herein, note that much of this [to include my quoted items below] are a translation of a May 2019 article “Ideological Security in the Framework of the Overall National Security Outlook” by Tang Aijun, Associate Professor, School of Marxism, Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, Socialism Studies):
“One such trap is the myth of neoliberalism. Neoliberal thought originated in developed capitalist countries of the West. Since the 1980s, and especially after the drastic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, it has spread throughout the world through the “Washington Consensus.” Neoliberalism’s core value and concept is “freedom.” Neoliberalism holds that “individual freedom” is the highest-value demand and advocates freedom as a “universal value.” Individual freedom constitutes the fundamental yardstick for measuring all social activities, and individual freedom and personal interests become the reasons used to explain all individual or social behaviors and historical events. Taking individual freedom as its ultimate value, neoliberalism’s position in the economic field is embodied in the “three changes” [三化]: privatization, marketization, and liberalization. First, neoliberal economists advocate the “myth of private property rights.” They promote privatization for two main reasons: (1) private ownership can guarantee individual freedom, and individual ownership of the means of production gives individuals the opportunity to accumulate wealth and have the conditions for free choice, and (2) private ownership can stimulate individual proactivity, initiative, and creativity in economic activities, thereby increasing efficiency. …
The neoliberal trend of thought has severely affected China’s dominant ideology and has had a serious impact on China’s Reform and Opening policy and economic foundation. [Neoliberalism] not only endangers China’s ideological security but also endangers the state’s economic security. The values of the supremacy of the individual and freedom have a negative impact on dominant Chinese values such as collectivism, equity, and justice. The theory of privatization challenges the current Chinese concept of socialist ownership and impacts the economic foundation of public ownership. Both the theory of market omnipotence and trade liberalization are in fact opposed to the role of the government and government supervision and advocate ‘de-nationalization.’ These principles have had a [negative] impact on the Party’s leadership and the socialist state system.”
Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above:
If one begins by "knowing oneself" (and, thereby, begins by knowing and acknowledging one's own strategy) then, I suggest, one can — by way of this such knowledge — come to "know one's enemies" (and, thus, one's enemies' strategies').
From the information that I have provided above, one can clearly see — THROUGH THE EYES OF BOTH PROMINENT U.S./WESTERNERS AND THROUGH THE EYES OF OUR OPPONENTS/OUR COMPETITORS ALSO — that U.S./Western strategy is "transformative" and "expansionist" in nature.
This such knowledge, I suggest, allows us to understand that — in relation to same — our opponents/our competitors strategies are "containment" and "roll back" in nature.
IT IS FROM THIS SUCH PERSPECTIVE, I suggest, that we should (a) "ENVISION IRREGULAR WARFARE" and (b) ENVISION IRREGULAR WARFARE AS A JOINT FORCE PRIORITY" today.
Here, I suggest, is an example of this such irregular warfare thinking — in this case — as discussed by LTG (ret.) Charles Cleveland in the "Conclusion" of the "Summary" section of his 2020 Rand paper "The American Way of Irregular War: An Analytical Memoir:"
"An American way of irregular war will reflect who we are as a people, our diversity, our moral code, and our undying belief in freedom and liberty. It must be both defensive and offensive. Developing it will take time, require support from the American people through their Congress, and is guaranteed to disrupt the status quo and draw criticism. It will take leadership, dedication, and courage. It is my hope that this study encourages, informs, and animates those with responsibility to protect the nation to act. Our adversaries have moved to dominate in the space below the threshold of war. It will be a strategy built around the American way of irregular war that defeats them."
Addendum to my comment immediately above:
Question No 1: How can we confirm that we are, in fact,
a. A group of countries with a (clearly threatening) "transformative" and "expansionist" agenda; countries who are
b. Now under attack by opponent countries who — both logically and correctly — have determined to employ "containment" and "roll back" strategies against us?
Answer No 1: By confirming that our opponent countries are targeting — for their extensive use and exploitation — their "natural allies" in these such matters, to wit: the more-conservative/the more-traditional/the more-"no change" (and/or return to a status quo anti) elements of the world's — (and especially our own — populations.
Question No. 2: Is this exactly what the U.S/the West did versus the "transformative"/'the "expansionist" Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday — and is this exactly what our opponents/our competitors are trying to do versus the U.S./the West today?
Answer No. 2: Yes. Here is are some examples of this such activity by our opponents/our competitors today:
“Compounding it all, Russia’s dictator has achieved all of this while creating sympathy in elements of the Right that mirrors the sympathy the Soviet Union achieved in elements of the Left. In other words, Putin is expanding Russian power and influence while mounting a cultural critique that resonates with some American audiences, casting himself as a defender of Christian civilization against Islam and the godless, decadent West.”
(See the "National Review” item entitled: “How Russia Wins” by David French.)
“In his annual appeal to the Federal Assembly in December 2013, Putin formulated this ‘independent path’ ideology by contrasting Russia’s ‘traditional values’ with the liberal values of the West. He said: ‘We know that there are more and more people in the world who support our position on defending traditional values that have made up the spiritual and moral foundation of civilization in every nation for thousands of years: the values of traditional families, real human life, including religious life, not just material existence but also spirituality, the values of humanism and global diversity.’ He proclaimed that Russia would defend and advance these traditional values in order to ‘prevent movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.’
(See the Wilson Center publication “Kennan Cable No. 53” and, therein, the article “Russia’s Traditional Values and Domestic Violence,” by Olimpiada Usanova, dated 1 June 2020.)
“Russian efforts to weaken the West through a relentless campaign of information warfare may be starting to pay off, cracking a key bastion of the U.S. line of defense: the military. While most Americans still see Moscow as a key U.S. adversary, new polling suggests that view is changing, most notably among the households of military members.”
(See the “Voice of America” item entitled: “Pentagon Concerned Russia Cultivating Sympathy Among U.S. Troops” by Jeff Seldin.)
Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above:
By way of the information provided above, we now know — quite clearly — that the strategy of our opponents/our competitors today; this is, at least in significant part, the "containment" and "roll back" of the power, influence and control of the U.S./the West.
We also know now, as per this such information, that:
a. The manner in which our opponents intend to achieve their such "containment" and "roll back" goals today (and much as we did versus them in the Old Cold War)
b. This is by the extensive exploitation and use of the more-conservative/the more-traditional elements of both our own — and the world's — populations.
(Thus — in order to defeat our opponents'/our competitors' "containment" and "roll back" strategies today — we must "move out smartly" to [a] tackle head-on and [b] address this such vulnerability?)
I'm honest to god sick of hearing "national security" trotted out as a defense of bad foreign policy emanating from the Pentagon (or its enablers) and not Foggy Bottom.
Just because there is conflict in some corner of the world does not justify an American presence, even one we would treat as disposable as the French Foreign Legion. Not even if it is a proxy conflict – and can't we leave that relic in the dustbin along with the rest of the Cold War?
I am infuriated at the repeated assertions of the necessity of engaging in acts of war without an appropriate declaration from Congress committing the country to being in a state of war. I used to think that only the progressive left wanted to destroy our Constitutional governance, but these actors are just as bad if not worse. If we must have a military that engages in such – then be honest and demand a Constitutional amendment granting the Executive the ability to decide when and where to employ military force without Congressional assent.
I think that we should remove the guns and helmets from Irregular Warfare (IW) for a while.
What bothers the world right now? It is COVID and Climate Change that is causing droughts and forcing people to move because their homeland doesn't grow enough food due to lack of rain.
OK, so COVID…what is the MOST PRECIOUS ITEM right now? It's COVID vaccine. There are Second and Third World nations and people that refuse the Chinese Sinovac and the Russian Sputnik COVID vaccines. They want U.S. COVID vaccine because it's very transparent as to its efficacy record. If six women get very ill with a COVID vaccine, the shots stopped. THAT is vaccine transparency.
When the U.S. is vaccinated, and the U.S. COVID vaccines go out into the world, will these vaccine-bearers be secure? That is the IW that we're talking about in the future—not guns, bullets, and government coups. There will be nations, people, militia, and criminals hungry for vaccine—it might be right out of a Sci-Fi "Mad-Max" graphic novel!
The same goes for the new Malaria vaccine—77% efficacy compared to the current 55%! That is money; that is liquid gold; that is Western medicine! Who is going to carry such vaccines into the Second and Third World nations? Who is going to protect these vaccine bearers? If it's Western medicine, then the West will carry it—and that is the job of the Pentagon and DoD to ensure the safety of the vaccine bearers and the patients.
The future will see more of these "global vaccinations" and that is what the DoD and SOFs need to prepare for, in addition to preventing WW3. Marketing, PR, and government alliances are being forged with COVID and diseases and vaccinations, and many nations, governments, and people in their rightful mind KNOW that Western medicine cannot be beat by peer nation medicines, no matter how many arms are getting needles. These Second and Third World nations WANT Western vaccine and medicine, and THAT is the IW that should be fought, won, protected, and R&D. More soldiers need to be medics and more Marines need to be Corpsmen and IW needs to become "Immunization Warfare Irregular Warfare" because vaccinations are NOT all fair.
IW should be a joint force priority. This will help policy makers and civilian leaders avoid making the mistake of overusing our SOF. In addition, if we don't make it a priority, we will be rather limited in our ability to respond to the threats of our competitors, such as Russia and China.
I found striking similarities in this article to what we are currently going over in class, discussing what the use of SOF should be. Even though they are capable, not every operation requires the light footprint and level of secrecy that SOF brings to the table. If we as a nation take more of a joint force approach to irregular warfare, we will be better prepared to defend against attacks. For example, certain types of attacks such as cyber attacks and information operations are expected to become more prevalent in the future. By limiting the use of SOF, or at least having a sensible reason for SOF to be used, we can allocate and assign different agencies that might be better for the job.
I think that the author is informally advising the administration to keep IW a joint force priority – which is not really stated in its guidance to the NDS. Force structure and priorities are something built/decided with civilian policymakers, and it is imperative that they understand what SOF can/cant do, and that they recognize that IW is the competition-grounds in GPC, which will require all of our resources being dedicated to it.
Article does a good job recognizing that great power competition and IW aren't mutually exclusive. The Cold War shows us that great power competition is conducted largely via IW. This serves as a signal to show that as a joint force, we need to both focus on emerging tech., the conventional threat, but also on the IW threat. The author correctly assesses that our enemies will attack us where we are weak, not where we are strong. Insurgency is the tool of the weak against the strong, and it works, and we're not very good at combating it in the 21st century/
I agree that IW should become a joint force priority because of its magnitude and frequency. Also, the more capable we are dealing with IW, the more familiar we will be with our hegemony adversaries in both capability and knowledge.
This analysis of the United States in the pool of world powers brings to light the new environment the world has become. The problem is that so many state actors are trying to find new ways to impose their will on smaller countries. This type of dynamic is not something the US is known for, and it is not a notoriety that the government would be willing to uphold. This policy of upholding moral values could be described as a weakness the US possesses, but this is the nation's reputation. This the image that the US should uphold in the world. This makes the need to use every available option for gaining resources and power even greater. Now, the question boils down to: Can the US maintain its notoriety as a freedom-upholding world power in the international environment today?
"If proxy wars continue to proliferate and be the preferred means of competition between the great powers, then US capabilities in foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare will be as important for the new era of great power competition as they were in earlier ones."
I think this sentence describes some the U.S. conflicts of the future. I see proxy wars with near-peer threats as a likely result in the near future, and unconventional forces will need to be ready. With that said, IW being a joint force policy should be a priority because of how SOF is likely to be used in the proxy wars of the future.
Honestly, this seems just like a bit of a no brainer. Of course we shouldn't leave irregular warfare to SOF. As long as state and non-state actors use Irregular warfare tactics, we should have the whole of our forces capable of fighting on the ground. It seems really pointless to try and have only a small section of our force capable of fighting the wars we're usually fighting.
Although the presidential administration has the goals to use military force as a last resort, I agree that joint force involvement and doctrine are necessary and will remain necessary throughout conflict areas. The administration's directives and the joint doctrine can work together, through compromise and the redefinition and reconsideration of using military force. I think Noonan's lines explaining that the NDS, "…usefully drops the word 'violent' from the previous definition. 'Struggle' is a more satisfactory term…" show this well. Further, the joint presence of the US military will be an increase in personnel but could very likely have an inverse impact on the number of conflicts. Small scale and spread out SOF operations yield a much greater chance for military force to be used, and risk more American lives than the alternative.