The United States and Irregular Warfare Challenges

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The United States (US) is facing a worldwide changing political landscape and an uncertain fiscal environment, and both will shape the United States military in the coming years. The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and other national strategy documents vaguely outline the path that the US military will take in response to these two stressors. With over a decade of counterinsurgency (COIN) and irregular warfare, the leaders of the US military strategic leadership must decide to what level these conflicts shape the preparation for future wars. In order to protect US national strategic objectives, the US military must prepare to conduct regular warfare while training specific units to fight irregular conflicts.
There are many definitions of irregular, conventional, regular and traditional forms of warfare. For the purpose of this essay, the term irregular warfare will be defined as “combat between the armed forces of states and other belligerent entities, foreign or domestic who may have no fixed abode.” Conversely, regular warfare will be defined as “combat between the regular armed forces of states.” Using these two definitions clearly delineates modes of warfare.
Additionally, the National Strategic Objectives must be clearly defined to establish a framework in which irregular and regular warfare may be compared and contrasted. As defined in the 2014 QDR, the US strategic objectives are as stated:
1. Protect the homeland, to deter and defeat attacks on the United States and to support civil authorities in mitigating the effects of potential attacks and natural disasters.
2. Build security globally, in order to preserve regional stability, deter adversaries, support allies and partners, and cooperate with others ...

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...also important weapons in the conduct of regular warfare.
There are pros and cons to preparation for either regular or irregular warfare, but when using the national strategic objectives as criteria, preparation for regular warfare is more critical to national strategic objectives than preparation for irregular warfare. The downside to this approach is that politicians must be selective in the irregular conflicts in which they decide to enter. Focusing on the quality (as opposed to quantity) of the force by clearly identifying units and linking them to other USG entities can help mitigate this downside. The US is facing a changing political landscape as well as tight fiscal constraints. In response to these stressors, the US must prepare for regular warfare and assign specific units to conduct irregular warfare for a quality, whole of government approach.

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