The revolution in military affairs (RMA) identified as a key feature of the second interwar period was in fact the result of decades of Cold War military investments. From the perspective of American defense and military strategy, it is more correct to date the start of the second interwar period from the end of US military involvement in Vietnam. This chapter examines the evolution of American defense strategy in the last decades of the Cold War, arguing that many developments in the 1990s adapted and extended technological and doctrinal innovations began decades earlier without updating the planning assumptions and strategic objectives for their development. Although the rhetoric changed and the relevant technologies certainly matured, many of the key concepts underlying the American RMA and “transformation” had their roots in a much earlier strategic effort, known as the “offset strategy,” to win a conventional war against the Soviets in Europe. Defense strategy in the 1990s was in some sense old wine in new bottles. Ironically, just as the vision of the 1970s began to come to technological and organizational fruition, it proved increasingly ill-suited to the post-Cold War security environment. At least two possibilities existed for potential innovation in defense strategy. First, strategy could have continued along the path of conventional innovation set by the offset strategy, but in an even more radical way: stressing major efficiencies in force structure to be gained by information technologies, and using such technologies to replicate tasks usually performed by armor and firepower. In short, it could have produced a significantly smaller, lighter, faster, and more lethal force in conventional operations that relied on unmanned systems, that had intelligence and civil affairs capabilities that could support any regional conflict, and that extended operational capabilities into urban environments. Second, defense strategy could have responded to the environmental stimuli of the second interwar period: it could have attempted to integrate the information and targeting advantages of the offset strategy into a small wars environment. It could have used the lessons of American operations in the 1990s to revamp and revitalize service doctrine for a task much different from a conventional fight in Cold War Europe. Neither innovation occurred. Instead, OSD retreated behind a set of RMA jargon that – if it reflected anything – reflected the same ideas animating the

offset strategy: increased situational awareness and information management for the purposes of precision targeting. This failure to innovate in strategy has many fathers, but can be seen especially clearly in two factors: there was little civilian effort, attention, or intervention into strategy debates at a high level; and the services had little interest in pursuing innovation. This chapter details the ideas behind the offset strategy in the 1970s and 1980s, and then traces their fate in the 1990s and beyond. It does so in four parts. First, the offset strategy is described, and similarities are noted with contemporary rhetoric. Second, the offset strategy’s three major components are examined, with the conclusion that a real innovation in strategy occurred during the Cold War. The third section contrasts this innovation with the impoverishment of strategic discourse during the interwar period. A final section details the emergence of the language of “transformation” during the late stages of the second interwar period and the disruption of transformation planning in the post-9/11 period. The chapter concludes by reviewing what when wrong and what might be possible in the near term.