Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says the 2008 National Defense Strategy which was released on Thursday makes clear that military action in itself will not win wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the military must work cooperatively with local governments to assist their efforts at self government. “For the foreseeable future, winning the ‘Long War,’ against violent extremist movements will be the central objective of the U.S.” Gates emphasized the United States “cannot lose sight of the implications of fighting a long-term, episodic, multi-front, and multidimensional conflict more complex and diverse than the Cold War confrontation with communism.” The 23 page document states that “success in Iraq and Afghanistan is crucial to winning the conflict, but it alone will not bring victory.”
The strategy outlined by the Pentagon recognizes the important of economic development as well as addressing the grievances of local populations. As Gates succinctly noted, the new defense program is aimed at “balance.”
Gates, like most Bush spokespeople, has a rather poor grasp of the fight against communism during the Cold War. The Marshall Plan of 1947 was predicated, not on military action, but on an economic focus which aimed at creating vibrant economies. Conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Hungary, and in many other areas of the world were equally as multidimensional as any currently faced by the Bush administration. Perhaps, it is time for Secretary Gates to actually study what happened in the Cold War.