There’s something of a more micro conflict going on as well. Senior officers make their bones leading combat regiments and divisions or their equivalents. The way military culture operates, officers who lead these units in combat or combat-like situations advance. Other offices are far less likely to.
The system is designed to incentivize combat. Senior generals and admirals at the Pentagon say they sincerely want out of the Middle East, and I don’t doubt their sincerity.
But institutional inertia is tremendous given the incentives. Thousands of small decisions get made every day by officers who need to go to war to be successful.
This is just one of the reasons why I think Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense is a poor one. Military officers who served recently have no business being part of the Pentagon civilian leadership.
The Pentagon is not well served by civilian leadership that struggles with the institutional bias military officers can’t help experiencing.