Earlier this year, War on the Rocks contributors David Barno and Nora Bensahel argued that U.S. policymakers and military planners should think about how to prepare for the next big war. Their stimulating essay identified six gaps — munitions, weapons platforms, manpower, planning, technology, and stamina — that a big war against a peer competitor could reveal.
This important article is a call for the United States to improve its planning for mobilization. Part of such planning should consider the competitive aspects of mobilization. In war, mobilization will favor some players and disadvantage others. Mobilization can be a risky, even debilitating act. By fully understanding the competitive aspects of mobilization, decision-makers can tailor mobilization to their advantage, exploiting relative strengths while avoiding vulnerabilities. Crucially, U.S. officials can substantially reinforce deterrence by publicly displaying an understanding of the competitive aspects of mobilization, including how the United States would employ its competitive advantages against adversaries during a prospective mobilization. As we will see, the United States has experienced both the benefits and perils of mobilization, along with missed opportunities for enhancing deterrence.