The phrase "boots on the ground" can have positive connotations, e.g. when footwear is air-dropped to the occupants of a poor nation (along with tools and medical equipment) in order to help the locals out of poverty and undermine a communist insurgency there;
— or negative connotations, as when they contain the cloned feet of Hitler, in which case you should probably set bootstraps for them.
Volney Warner is cautious as to the uses and the limits of military force, and when he used the phrase in 1980, his intended sense was neutral and descriptive. Scholars have been locked in mortal debate ever since whether to call it an example of synecdoche or metonymy.
Use of the phrase was rising through the 1990s as if in premonition, but shortly after 2000 something happened to turn it whelmingly positive. It entered the vocabulary of journamalists and duckspeak propagandists (but I repeat myself); and went Archaeobacterial as the kids like to say.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine pundits calling for "boots on the ground" — forever.