THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.


*1*

DONNELLY RAISES an interesting issue regarding defense transformation in Rumsfeld's War, but then lets it fall without examining it seriously: What are the premises on which defense transformation as understood by the US military is based, and how relevant is it to war in the 21st century?

I've written at great length, mainly for internal government consumption, on some of what I see as the logical and strategic fallacies of the so-called "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA). From my perspective, the most serious of these can be characterized as follows:

First, it is an attempt to reduce war to an engineering problem through the use of information technology to eliminate uncertainty. That one does not know where the enemy is, or what the enemy intends is the source of that uncertainty, and the fact that the enemy is an intelligent and dynamic adversary allows him to exploit that uncertainty to undermine one's plans and objectives. Under RMA theory, now generally called "Network Centric Warfare" (NCW), myriad streams of information are brought together through digital networks to present the commander with a God's eye view of the battlefield: in theory he knows were all of his forces are, and all of the enemy's forces, their status and what they are doing or intending to do. He can then allocate precision strike systems to attack the enemy before he can mass or close to attack friendly forces. However, this reliance on distributed sensor networks creates the seeds of its own undoing, for the enemy can not only attack the networks directly ("cyber-attack"), but can also resort to various deception measures to create a false picture upon which the commander would act. More simple still, he can flood the network with so much spurious data (noise) that the battle command system never manages to catch up; under the torrent of inaccessible information, the enemy can move at will. More insidious still, it creates a "scope dope" mentality in which "reality" is what appears on the situational display screen, not what is actually happening on the battlefield.

Second, the RMA is still rooted in the 20th century paradigm of armored-mechanized warfare between sophisticated nation-states. Its origins can be found in the deadlock of the NATO Central Front in the 1980s, when the US was looking for ways of destroying Soviet second echelon forces, and the USSR was exploring ways of breaking through NATO's front lines. The convergence of several technologies--remote sensors, high speed computers and networks, and long-range, precision-guided weapons--allowed in theory for the creation of what the USSR called "reconnaissance strike complexes" that would have the potential to break up or destroy conventional formations of tanks and armored vehicles from hundreds of miles away. This in turn would force the dispersion of forces into small packets, attempting to dominate spaces by fire rather than by physical occupation. In a situation where one has reconnaissance strike complexes and the other does not, any attempt by the enemy to concentrate his forces results in their destruction, while one can concentrate freely against the enemy's weakest points. We saw something very much like this during Operation Iraqi Freedom, where the US actually deployed primitive reconnaissance-strike complexes.

Faced with this situation, the enemy has only two choices (other than surrender): to develop his own reconnaissance-strike capability, or to respond asymmetrically. If both sides have reconnaissance-strike capability, then both sides disperse, and war becomes a matter of trying to find and destroy each other's reconnaissance strike systems, after which one side or the other has an insurmountable advantage. However, in reality no country other than the US has the economic wherewithal to develop such a capability.

Thus, the US has become effectively invincible in conventional warfare: regardless of the adversary, the result would have been much the same as Iraq (though a few armies might have given us a run for our money). Anyone wishing to oppose the United States militarily must therefore resort to asymmetrical warfare.

And therein lies the third flaw of the RMA: for network centric warfare to be relevant, the enemy must employ conventional forces. Guerrillas, terrorists, economic warfare, cyber-warfare--in all of these cases, the enemy does not present the sensor network with the kinds of readily detectable, high-contrast targets that can be engaged by precision strike weapons. Instead, the enemy blends into the background, and gets within close combat range of US forces, where much of the firepower advantage is negated.

Having been perfected by the US, our conventional capabilities have bred their own obsolescence, since adversaries will attempt to circumvent rather than engage them head-on.

Does this mean, then, that there is no need for defense transformation, or that all of the RMA has been a dead end?

By no means. The Army inherited by the Bush Administration in 2000 was not at all suited for the kind of war we find in Iraq and Afghanistan today. It wasn't even suitable for the operations we undertook in Bosnia, Kosovo or Somalia. It was organized, equipped and trained to fight the Warsaw Pact on the plains of central Europe, and not much more. Radical transformation was necessary, and the issue then should have been, What kind of transformation?

The enhancement of high-intensity capabilities as was demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq, while not suited for the predominant form of war in the 21st century, does serve a useful purpose: by so overshadowing the capabilities of potential adversaries, it deters them from competition in the conventional arena, and thus reduces the likelihood of high-intensity conventional war (which being the most destructive of all forms of war short of nuclear, should be avoided when possible).

On the other hand, that very success increased the probability of asymmetrical responses such as terrorism and guerrilla warfare, and even the development of WMDs, which are the poor man's response to the overwhelming materiel capability of the US.

Thus, a second transformational path was also required, one which focused on this "low end" warfare and its unique operational requirements.

In contrast to conventional war, this type of warfare requires more emphasis on human factors--training, tactics, psychological warfare--than on high technology. It is a war fought by relatively small numbers of elite troops whose weapons are lighter, and far more discriminating than even the precision guided bombs on which we have come to rely. The enemy is hunted down in his lair, or out-thought in the realm of ideas. It is war where the main weapon might be a dagger, or a water pump, depending on the situation, since much of this kind of war involves civil-military affairs.

Does this mean, then, that high technology sensors and weapons have no place here? Not at all, but the types of technology, and their application, must be carefully matched to the situation. A lightweight, reliable personal radio and individual troop location system, for instance, would be worth many times its weight in gold, as would information networks that allowed troops to access highly specific data on local political alliances, cultural peculiarities, and so forth. Occasionally, there might even be use for those laser designators and precision-guided weapons, as we saw during the war in Afghanistan.

But, in the end, it would really come down to high-quality troops trained for this particular mode of war. And therein lies the rub, for no matter what the military does, it cannot increase the potential pool of physically and mentally qualified applicants for elite light infantry and special forces units. Attempts to enlarge these forces by arbitrary increases in troop levels is self-defeating, because it can only be accomplished by diluting standards. How many such troops can the US field? Based on current selection standards, one might estimate as many as 15,000 men in special forces, roughly 5000 more than we have today. For more conventional light infantry (e.g., the 10th Mountain Division), the answer is on the order of about 50,000 men.

What this implies, then, is that there is no real point to increasing the personnel topline, because we would not be able to recruit or train the types of troops we need. It would be far better to begin a radical reexamination of Army force structure with a particular eye on the mix of heavy and light forces (it's really hard to make the case for more than three heavy division equivalents), and between active and reserve components (placing more of combat service support in the active component to allow for extended deployments without political ramifications--though note that the switch to lighter forces will reduce the overall need for CSS).

Like what, then, should the Army of the next decade look? Certainly not like today's Army, only bigger. Force levels are probably right where they ought to be, given our present and future commitments, but the composition of the forces must be altered in a radical manner. Most forces will consist of light infantry backed by a cutting edge of special operations troops and a small but highly lethal armored-mechanized contingent. Units will be self-contained and not reliant upon the reserves or National Guard for combat service support (killing the Powell-Weinberger Doctrine would be a major strategic advance).

The reserve component will no longer serve as discrete formations, but will be organized as battalions or even companies to round out or augment active forces, and will have a secondary homeland security function.

RDT&E and procurement should be oriented not towards high-intensity combat systems (such as the Army's huge but amorphous Future Combat System program), but rather focused on unique low-end capabilities (much of which can be met by commercial off-the-shelf items). With reduced logistic requirements, the Army will need fewer support troops, improving the tooth-to-tail ratio. More troops at the sharp end, better organized and trained to fight the kind of war we are most likely to fight, will generate far more effective combat power than a larger army of the kind we now field. Thus, without any increase in total force levels, we will be more combat effective and better able to address existing commitments and contingencies.

After all, an examination of successful counter-insurgency operations shows that wits, not numbers, win out in the end.

--Stuart Koehl

Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations

Johns Hopkins University, SAIS


*2*

DONNELLY MAY NOT, but I fully support Rumsfeld's statement that "you go to war with the Army you have." As a combat wounded veteran of the Vietnam war, I can attest to the fact, and history shows, that no Army ever goes to war with everything they want. It is not possible nor practical to put every soldier in a 60 ton tank.

I trained on an M-60 main battle tank and was assigned to a Cav platoon with M-48s. I was an Armor Officer and my first job in 'Nam was as an Artillery Forward Observer. We had M-113s which were gasoline powered and blew-to-hell in a hundred pieces when hit high on the left rear side panel. The diesel M-113s did not come until just before Tet and we had only three of them.

In addition, my son is in the military and I have already told him that he needs to use what he has in the best possible way, no matter what anyone says.

Donnelly's article does not represent the truth about the military or Rumsfeld. I've lived through the realities of war and Donnelly does us a disservice by piling on.

--Rick Toledo


*3* LEAVING ASIDE the rest of Jonathan V. Last's Prove It, it is actually a very fair summary of how Campaign Desk (now CJR Daily) chose to cover the Rather affair in its on-line postings.

The difference between me and Last, of course, is that he considers said summary a critique; I consider it a fair and accurate account of a press monitor refusing to join a lynch mob based on a storm of incomplete and inaccurate accusations and allegations.

So, in its own way, Last's summary serves his purposes as well as mine.

--Steve Lovelady


*4*

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ makes some interesting points in Justice Out of Balance. But he forgot to mention that a key reason why Albania is so cooperative with the war on terror has nothing to do with principle, but lies in the motives of Fatos Nano, Albania's Prime Minister. Nano, one of the most corrupt government officials in the world, does everything he can to curry favor with Washington. There are two reasons for this. First, Albanians, in general, are among the most pro-American people in the world and Nano is keenly aware of this. But more important, it earns Nano a free pass from an invasive review of his corrupt practices.

This is all designed to assist Nano in lining his pockets with ill gotten gains from nefarious activities that, according to numerous allegations, include money laundering, human trafficking, and extortion. History has shown us time and again that this type of realpolitik diplomacy has a nasty way of backfiring on its proponents. When one makes a decision to share his bed with a dog, it is very possible that such an individual will awake with fleas, and there are few dogs with more fleas than Fatos Nano.

--Gary Kokalari


*5*

SCHWARTZ may realize that the Saudi monarchs will pay anything and do anything to retain their power and wealth. So the Saudi's continue to play both sides of the game. Our problems there are multi-faceted, but the foremost problem is that if the royal family doesn't retain power, their successors may be much worse.

--Dean Herbst


*6*

THE TURKISH government made the right choice in changing their adultery laws to facilitate entry into the EU, but that decision will not be without cost. To mitigate that cost, Steven E. Rhoads article The Turkish Letter should be translated into Turkish and Kurdish and handed out on the street corners and shouted from the pulpits in every Turkish town.

Having lived in an 'Islamic Republic' for a time, I have to agree with Europeans who say that the coercive forces of the state should be kept out of the bedroom. On the other hand, that should not stop those of us who recognize the evil of adultery from using other non-coercive means to promote morality and protect the family.

--Youseph Yazdi


*7*

WHILE READING The Year That Was, I wondered whether Irwin Stelzer knew that Israel, the 100th smallest country in the world, sent major rescue and aid teams, as well as packages of food and medicine to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand. This represented the highest per capita donation of any country in the world. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country. Saudi Arabia (with all its oil and the fantastic capital reserves it has gathered over the past year of high oil prices) sent nothing. Kuwait and the UAE did promise to donate small amounts of money, but offered no direct aid.

Just thought it would be nice for people to know the truth about Israel, for a change. You certainly aren't getting any of that from the AP, CNN or the BBC.

--Amir Stamper


*8* Editor's Note: This poem was sent in response to Hugh Hewitt's Journalism and Mosul.

Commitment

Watching the flag twisting in the breeze

The bright sunshine playing among its shadows

With its field of stars and its bloodied stripes

It proudly waves and flutters, then wraps around the flagpole

Until a helpful breeze untangles it to let the sunshine play.

It flies carefree here, open and unguarded

Its privileged existence redeemed by our kin

The banner of a liberated people,

It signals humanity's freedom from tyranny.

The very same banner carried into battle

By a people ready to aid the oppressed

A free people twisting in the winds of disharmony,

In league against the tyrant - sundered by anguish

Porting the sunshine of freedom - the shadows of suffering

Entangled on the flagpole of commitment

Ready at the next helpful breeze to let the sunshine play.

--Arthur V. Dieli


*9*

The only thing articles like Hewitt's demonstrate is how easy it is to panic the left. For this reason alone, although there are many others as well, we must all hope that the United States is never asked to face a difficult struggle when the left is in charge of the country. They surely lack the strength of character needed to lead us in times of bloodshed and struggle. They never seem to grasp that war is not an event, it is a process, a chaos to be led and managed to success. The left seems best suited to creating strife and fear at home as they unwittingly aid our foes abroad.

--Dan Graff


*10*

As Hugh Hewitt chronicles the collapse of Old Media he should be aware of a new transitive verbal phrase and noun that has made its way into the English language in 2004:

dan rather (d n r '-ther) v. -rathered, -rathering, -rathers. - tr.

1. a. To report news in a blatantly false and deceptive manner: The major media dan rathered many reports on the war in Iraq in 2004. b. To deliberately mislead the viewer or reader of news. [Am. E. Orig. name of American television newscaster.]

dan rather (d n r '-ther) n. 1. An obscenely dishonest reporter. 2. A journalistic quisling.

--Marco Gilliam

Next Page