National Security Experts

Contributor

Richard Hart Sinnreich

Biography provided by participant

Rick Sinnreich retired from the U.S. Army in 1990. A 1965 West Point graduate, he earned a master's degree in foreign affairs from Ohio State University and is a graduate of the Army's Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and the National War College. His active military service included commands from battery through brigade, combat service in Vietnam, teaching at West Point and Fort Leavenworth, and staff assignments on the Army, Joint, and National Security Council staffs, as Assistant Executive to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and as Army Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His last assignment prior to retirement was as chief of staff of the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized). Since retiring from military service, Sinnreich has worked as an independent consultant and columnist. He continues to play an active role in Army and Joint futures studies and war games and has assisted other defense agencies including RAND, DARPA, and IDA. His defense-related opinion columns for The Lawton (OK) Constitution have been reprinted by the Washington Post, ARMY Magazine, and other journals. His most recent scholarly work is The Past As Prologue (with Williamson Murray et al, Cambridge University Press, 2006) and "Enhancing Battle Command: An Introduction," in Battle of Cognition (Praeger, 2008). Other recent historical essays, appearing in forthcoming edited collections, include "A Strategy By Accident: U.S. Pacific Policy in the Cold War" (2003), and "In Search of Military Repose: The Congress of Vienna and the Making of Peace" (2006).

Recent Responses

June 13, 2011 06:32 AM

From my weekly Constitution column:

"Nowhere in the North Atlantic Charter will there be found any commitment to nation-building, any asserted right to intervene in civil wars in non-allied states - or even allied states, for that matter - or any claimed responsibility to protect third-world citizens from the depredations of their own governments...[Instead], the ineptitude complained of by Mr. Gates is our allies' failure to pony up the military resources necessary to perform just such unchartered missions. Those allies now find themselves running out of precision munitions that we are forced to resupply at outrageous and unbudgeted expense, or watch collapse an effort to which we never should have acceded in the first place. All in all, it's hard to decide which of us really has been the more feckless."

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April 18, 2011 06:34 AM

The real question isn't whether the Pentagon can absorb what amounts to roughly a 7% cut in annual obligations. Since doing so would no more than return the non-overseas-contingency budget to its 2008 level, which reflected nearly a 60% increase over the last pre-war defense budget, presumably it can. But unless we're prepared to allow modernization and recapitalization to lapse altogether, it can't do so without force compression. So the real question is -- and should be -- what current defense commitments will we relinquish? To put it differently, where will we apply strategic economy of force? If satisfying Obama's guidance compels the entire national security establishment (not just the Pentagon) to deal with that too-long-deferred question, it will have done us all a service.

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March 21, 2011 04:51 PM

When you don't know where you're going or how you're going to get there, it don't hardly matter who's leading.

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March 7, 2011 10:11 PM

Wow, Sydney -- in the wake of Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, you want to do it again? If Einstein was right that insanity consists in doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, we all need psychiatirc help.

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August 2, 2010 07:58 AM

Although there's much to approve in the Hadley-Perry report from a programmatic standpoint, it's regrettably as devoid of strategic logic as the QDR it critiques. In effect, it ends by arguing for more of everything, at a time when both economic and political constraints are pushing in precisely the opposite direction. That wouldn't be so bad if the report offered a convincing strategic rationale for increasing the level of national security investment despite those constraints. Unfortunately, apart from noting that the world remains a dangerous place and repeating the tired argument that it can't survive without American leadership, the report offers none. Strategy is about making choices, which implies a willingness to refrain from investing where the aims don't justify the required commitment or simply are unlikely to be achievable at any reasonable level of commitment. As a debtor nation with an exploding deficit and little hope in the near term of correcting either condition, we have a special need to reconcile our ambitions with our resources. As I've po

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July 20, 2010 08:33 AM

I've argued more than once in print the illogic of insisting on grounding success in Afghanistan on NATO's ability to impose effective indigenous central authority on a society with no recent history of it. To the extent that empowering local security efforts represents a shift away from that insistence, I'm all for it. But I'm afraid it may be too little too late. Even Iraq is far from an unambiguous success story at this point, and its starting point was light-years ahead of Afghanistan's. Needless to say, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

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June 28, 2010 10:26 AM

Like the Patton slapping incident, this episode falls under Holmes's warning that great cases make bad law. Exposure of what passed for military maturity among Gen. McChrystal and his staffers reflected at best their carelessness, at worst their utter obtuseness. Neither is grounds for any universal conclusion about military-press relations.

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March 9, 2010 10:40 AM

I join several others in this forum in believing that NATO will never be healthy again unless and until the U.S. divests itself of an over-reaching and overbearing international security policy. Not even all Americans, or even most, are comfortable with the state of permanent war to which we have largely subordinated U.S. foreign policy since 9-11. It’s scarcely surprising that our allies share that discomfort. Indeed, what’s amazing isn’t how little support they’ve offered, given their concern about America’s strategic prudence, but rather how much.

We might want to recall that, when NATO invoked Article V after 9-11 (for the first and only time in its history), our initial reaction was to reply in effect, “Thanks. Don’t call us -- we’ll call you.” At the time, we just couldn’t be bothered to negotiate the arrangements necessary to build an effective fighting coalition, and our decision within months to divert effort from Afghanistan in favor of an invasion of Iraq to which nearly all our NATO allies objected onl

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March 3, 2010 12:12 PM

Actually, provided the money holds out and our NATO allies don’t entirely forsake us, we can probably sustain this fight indefinitely. After all, apart from civilian contractors, and a few gallant AID folks, the only people at risk are those in uniform and their families, and so far recruitment and retention seem unaffected, no doubt thanks in part to the sour economy. How long Congress will put up with it is unclear, but absent stronger public opposition than we’ve seen so far, legislators have more pressing concerns at the moment.

In short, barring a TET-like event or visible political failure in Kabul, McChrystal probably has some time in hand. Whether Obama does is another matter

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March 1, 2010 10:29 AM

Years ago, in a column reacting to overheated criticism during the first Gulf War of U.S. air strikes on Iraqi troops fleeing Kuwait City on what became known as the "Highway of Death," I commented that trying to apply such domestic law enforcement notions as proportionality and restraint to the battlefield was a prescription for self-defeat.

Of course, that argument reflected an event in a so-called conventional war, in which the identity and legitimacy of the targets weren't in much doubt. There's no question that both are much harder to determine in fights like today's against insurgents who shun uniforms and deliberately shield themselves among noncombatants. Nor is there much question that indiscriminate killing is unlikely to win many Afghan hearts and minds, although it seems to have had considerably less impact on the Taliban's appeal than on ours.

That acknowledged, it remains tragically ironic that U.S. troops today find themselves largely denied the benefit of weapons in which billions of dollars have been invested, and on which Americ

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February 26, 2010 02:40 PM

"...For any expert bloggers who still want to engage on the subject, I would like to pose a last question on Iraq that tends to haunt me. What if the United States had never launched the Iraq war? "

Well, for starters, we might be out of Afghanistan by now...

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