I read in the Early Bird this morning that the Army has just released its first new training field manual since 2002. Its title is "Training for Full Spectrum Operations" and it's based on the idea that today's (and tomorrow's!) soldier must be just as ready to kill you as he is to hug you...or at least to provide security on your street and help fix your infrastructure.
As you might guess, the Civil Affairs branch plays in hugely here (not that I'm biased or anything). Here is what Ike Skelton had to say:
"It's asking a lot of soldier, but today's environment is so different than World War II or Korea," said Skelton, D-Mo. "It deals with civil affairs. We have not been as active militarily in civil affairs in recent years. This puts it front and center."
This basically echoes what Robert Gates just wrote about in Foreign Affairs -- for conflicts in our era, our ability to kick down doors may not be as vital to victory as will be our ability to promote civil society, security, and infrastructure.
Some China-phobes and Russo-phobes may fear that we're too busy "fighting the current war" or the "last war" and will risk losing focus on near-peer competitors.
I VERY strongly disagree. For proof, just look at where so much of the Pentagon's money goes.
Our ability to understand foreign cultures and stabilize war-torn countries does not have to come at the expense of our ability to "break things and kill people." Thankfully, the generals quoted in the article seem to feel the same way.
One other thing worth mentioning: the new field manual highlights the need for readiness to respond to Katrina-esque or other types of domestic disaster scenarios. And therein lies the beauty of the National Guard -- while operating under a state governor's authority, we're not subject to that pesky little Reconstruction-era law called posse comitatus that restricts the military from conducting domestic law enforcement operations.