Mark Thompson, Project on Government Oversight -

Mark Thompson, Project on Government Oversight
"Forever wars" and what's next for the US military


From the early days of his presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised he would end the era of “forever wars.” But what did the candidate, what does the president mean when he says “forever wars?”

To the degree that Mr. Biden celebrated America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan as a fulfillment of that promise, he gave us a clearer picture of what he means.

In his announcement that the U.S. was out of Afghanistan, Joe Biden made another promise — “We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it.”

So are “forever wars” ground wars?  Meaning lots of American boots on the ground for a war’s length of time?

Does that leave loopholes for “limited duration” applications of in-their-faces American armed force? It certainly embraces a future of “over the horizon” attacks with drones and missiles.

Even if it does continue some uses of armed force, the Biden promise to end “forever wars,” still raises some existential questions about future military missions, the size and shape of the Armed Forces, not to mention of the Pentagon budget.

For example, if the U.S. forswears offensive use of ground forces, how many do we still need? And how many ground forces do we need for our defense? Against, say, Russia or China?



Mark Thompson writes about military matters for the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C. A an investigative reporter, his work for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was recognized with the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Thompson graduated from Boston University College of Communication in 1975 and began his career where he grew up, at the Pendulum, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. After a spell in Pontiac, Michigan, he moved to Washington in 1979, and joined the Washington bureau of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The newspaper received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a five-part series by Thompson that was published in March 1984. Thompson covered, or uncovered, a design flaw in Bell helicopters that went uncorrected for a decade and led to the deaths of 250 U.S. servicemen; in consequence of his work, 600 Huey helicopters were grounded and modified. He joined Knight-Ridder Newspapers in 1986, where he reported extensively on the Persian Gulf War and the U.S. invasion of Panama.

In 1994, Thompson joined Time magazine as national-security correspondent, focusing on the challenges facing the post-Cold War U.S. military. Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, he charted the resulting profound changes in U.S. military policy, and the impact of those changes on the men and women waging the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He retired from Time in 2016 and now writes about military matters for the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C.



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