As part of the Brookings Institution's thus far yearlong series of speeches and conferences known as the 21st Century Defense Initiative, General George W. Casey, Jr., Army Chief of Staff and former Commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, recently briefed a group of conferees and took questions on the present state of the U.S. Army and America's future security environment.
Casey described the Army as neither broken nor hollow but rather stretched and stressed - both its soldiers and their families. Though suffering from the cumulative effects of six years of war, a presently unsustainable rate of deployment, insufficient time between deployments, and too little attention to missions other than counter-insurgency, he regards the present force - now over half way through a transition begun prior to the invasion of Iraq - as "very resilient, competent, professional," and "widely seen ... as the best in the world at what it does."
With the United States facing a near-term future of "persistent conflict," Casey called attention to developments likely to strengthen the potency of its terrorist enemies. Despite globalization, pockets of poverty and discontent persist and facilitate terrorist recruitment in regions of rapid population growth. Weakened states cannot deny safe-havens to terrorists, who can profit from the global spread of technology and possible nuclear proliferation. In the longer term, competition from India and China and the scarcity of water, resources, energy, and food may create conditions that lead to state-on-state conflict, for which U. S. forces must also prepare.
Non-state conflict with more than a thousand known terrorist organizations...