Making Do with Less, or Coping with Upton's Ghost

  • May 01, 1995
  • Dr Eliot A Cohen

Each April the Strategic Studies Institute hosts a conference that addresses key strategic issues facing the Armed Forces and the Nation. This year's theme, "Strategy During the Lean Years: Learning from the Past and the Present," brought together scholars, serving and retired military officers, and civilian defense officials from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to discuss strategy formulation in times of penury from Tacitus to Force XXI.

Professor Eliot A. Cohen of Johns Hopkins University urges the Army to draw on lessons from its own history. More than one generation of American military professionals have inherited and perpetuated Civil War Major General Emory Upton s distrust of and disdain for civilians in general and politically elected or appointed civilian leaders in particular. As Professor Cohen indicates, the uncertainties of downsizing and reorganization coincide with the need to accommodate new technologies that could help the Army cope with the diverse threats that are part of what is still a very dangerous world. He cautions that in coping with this enormous challenge, the Army must be careful not to engage in the kind of introspection that may foster an institutionalized isolation from the nation it is sworn to defend. Professor Cohen suggests there are ways to keep America s Army truly the Army of the nation and its people. The way soldiers and leaders are recruited, trained, educated, and promoted must, he asserts, change to bring more and not less civilian influence into the Army. Professor Cohen urges the Army to go forward into Force XXI and to do so with both enhanced technologies and with an enhanced understanding of who and what it serves: the American people and the defense of their Constitution.