Strong, Ready Military Critical for Deterrence

Strong, Ready Military Critical for Deterrence

Panel at LANPAC
Photo by: AUSA/Jared Lieberher

A panel sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army about deterring war highlighted that winning without fighting doesn’t mean winning without a strong and ready military.

“To me, deterrence means being ready,” said retired Republic of Korea Army Lt. Gen. Chun In-Bum, senior vice president of AUSA’s Korea chapter. This includes having a strong and visible force so opponents will recognize that the U.S. is ready to fight if necessary.

Also important are alliances, Chun said. Knowing what allies and partners can and will do in the future is an important part of war planning. “Complexity of allies is something I’d really like you all to think about,” he said May 17 at AUSA’s 2023 LANPAC Symposium and Exposition in Honolulu.

Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, said the U.S. should be strengthening its ability to deny opposition forces in an effort to show a balance of power that dissuades conflict.

The utility of military force in deterrence should not be underestimated, Colby said, describing a key part of deterrence as being “ready at any moment.”

Diplomacy won’t stop war by itself, Colby said. “A strongly worded statement isn’t enough,” he said. “Economic sanctions won’t work so well. We really need to focus on the military element.”

Part of that deterrence could require presence in the contested theater. “Predictable engagement within the region” is important, said Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, commanding general of I Corps. Some of this presence should include the National Guard and Reserve forces.

“The goal is no war,” Brunson said. “The goal is how do we get to that.”

Brunson sees value in showing off relationships with allies and partners, which he described as “knitting together” partners that take part in joint exercises that demonstrate that cooperation. “I see what we have been able to bring together,” he said.

Catherine Johnston, deputy director for intelligence for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said a key element of deterrence could be showing a potential adversary the costs of war, in terms of the actual battle and the long-term economic consequences.

Johnston sees some urgency because of the potential speed and intensity of future conflicts. “There is plenty of room for industry to help us,” she said. “We probably have five years.”