Obama's New Defense Strategy Isn't a Big Deal

The Pentagon hasn't been able to fight two wars at the same time for more two decades anyway.

+ More

President Obama announced today at a rare Pentagon press conference that he will set in place  a reshaping of the U.S. military that would abandon the decades-old strategic doctrine of building a force that could deter and defeat "two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts."

The U.S. Military will now be structured to…

secure territory and populations and facilitate a transition to stable governance on a small scale for a limited period using standing forces and, if necessary, for an extended period with mobilized forces. Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of—or imposing unacceptable costs on—an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.

There will surely be a lot of hand-wringing about this and political hue and cry over America's lost influence worldwide. Just look for the GOP presidential hopefuls to make a big stink about this (excepting Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, of course).

[ With Leaner Military, a New Focus on China.]

But in reality, Obama is merely formalizing what the Pentagon's internal strategy already is. The American military hasn't been able to wage two major theater wars at the same time since World War II. The 2MRC strategy was a budgetary drill imposed by Congress—giving the Pentagon spending guidelines on how much and what kind of hardware to buy (it was only in small part a guideline for personnel numbers).

Just look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2003, during the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Afghanistan fight became an "economy of force" operation—in other words, the minimum number of troops and gear were deployed there to "deny the objectives" of an enemy, in this case the Taliban and al Qaeda, while the bulk of American force was deployed to Iraq. The "major regional contingency" was Iraq. Then the strategy flipped when the insurgency in Iraq was defeated.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

More than just a reflection of fiscal realities, the new  Strategic Guidance is merely a formalization of the Pentagon's own conservatism and the reality of how America has fought in the recent past and will have to fight in the future.