Shaping the military of the future
For the next few decades, it will continue to be “we” versus “they.” “We” are the folks who have proven individual freedom and capitalism make possible the lofty dreams of our Declaration of Independence. You know: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Add to that clean food, water, decent health care and in-door plumbing that works.
“They” are the anti-capitalists who seek dominion over how others should think, act, worship and earn their daily bread. “They,” and their poor, suffering subjects live in the under-developed places of the Middle East, Africa, South America and Asia – places you read about in National Geographic but wouldn’t want to visit.
Overtime, the Communications Revolution will allow them to see why the free world lives so well. Hopefully, their current hatred and envy will turn toward imitation and accommodation. Meanwhile, we must defend ourselves and our allies against a wide spectrum of physical threats ranging from suicide bombers to weapons of mass destruction.
After President Reagan and Chairman Gorbachev dismantled the Soviet threat and after our forces under President George H.W. Bush ejected Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, national security became such a back-burner issue that even the draft-dodger, Bill Clinton, could be elected President and Commander-in-Chief. But, post 9/11, national security is perceived, as it should have been all along, as the essential function of our federal government. And, it will remain so until we get “them” to see cooperation, not confrontation, is the path to a better life for all.
Until then, our military must organize and arm for whatever the future holds. In Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom, we witnessed military operations unlike any that have gone before.
Never before have the various armed services worked together so well. Never before have we seen combined operations ranging from special operations behind pre-war lines to precision-guided weapons being delivered from B-2 and B-1 bombers to missile-launching ships and submarines to the Apache Longbow helicopters to the ungainly A-10 Warthog to the missile-firing Predator drone. Even so, President G.W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must push even harder to shape our military strategy, doctrine and equipment to fit the new realities of the post-9/11 world.
The Predator and other unmanned weapons platforms are beginning to fulfill the dream of getting the soldier off of that most dangerous of all places called: the battlefield. But, left to their own devices, the pilot types in the Air Force will push for more and better aircraft requiring pilots to fly them. Some Army brass, whose conventional thinking has a hard time accepting special or elite forces and their special operations, will push for an Army perfectly designed to oppose the Red Army at the Fulda Gap. The monetary food fight between the Navy’s black shoes (surface ships), brown shoes (carrier pilots) and its undersea forces (rubber shoes) may continue. And, the Navy will probably continue to starve its poor relative, the U.S. Marine Corps.
Fortunately, Secretary Rumsfeld appears to have a working male bovine excreta detector for use in ferreting out the brass who put branch of service before force integration. Look for Secretary Rumsfeld to select the successful commanders from the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns to command a military that must prevail against every kind of weapon from the AK-47 to bio-chem agents to nuclear weapons.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, the U.S. Army claimed the individual soldier was: “The Ultimate Weapon.” That claim finally came true in the 21st Century when individuals armed with suicide bombs can topple governments or, when strapped into wide-bodied, fuel-laden, jet aircraft, can alter the course of American history.
Currently, we spend less than 3.5 percent of our Gross National Product on defense. If we are to survive, that percentage must increase. And, to prevail, our leaders must spend the money on the future -- not the past.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and retired military officer, served two years with the U.S. Air Force, one year with the U.S Navy, three years in covert intelligence, and 14 years as an Army paratrooper.
©2003. William Hamilton.