America's Army in Transition: Preparing for War in the Precision Age

  • September 01, 1999
  • Maj Gen Robert H Scales

The following two articles were written during and immediately after the war in Kosovo. The first is an adaptation of an earlier work written after a trip to Asia in 1998. In that essay, I suggested that foreign militaries were beginning to perceive our fixation on a firepower-centered way of war as an exploitable weakness. In fact, some states, armed with experience gained against us in real war, had already begun to evolve a doctrine to counter our superiority in precision. These potential adversaries concluded that dispersion, deception, patience and a willingness to absorb punishment offered them the means to endure precision strike long enough to outlast a technologically superior foe. Subsequent practical experience in Kosovo caused me to modify this thesis somewhat, but not much. The "From Korea to Kosovo" article was written after a visit to Albania in May 1999. There I developed the central thesis for this essay: In wars of limited liability, success must be gained with a limited expenditure of means. A brief review of recent history tells us that we have been practically learning this lesson in real wars for half a century, beginning with Korea. The imperative to prepare for a full-scale war against the Soviets, however, has effectively impeded our ability to embed this lesson into our warfighting doctrine. Kosovo is a wake-up call. This article concludes with a maneuver warfare concept for this new era of limited liability wars in the Precision Age.