Instead of politics: How about some good ideas?
On December 7, 1941, and over 2,400 miles from our mainland, 2,388 American military and civilians were killed at Pearl Harbor. Immediately, our nation unified behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt. We fought as one nation until the armed forces of Germany and Japan and their allies were defeated. Partisan politics were truly left “at the water’s edge.”
On September 11, 2001, over 3,000 Americans and citizens of 40 other nations were killed by direct attacks on our mainland – not on far away Hawaii. Yet, some Americans refuse to recognize we are now in an all-out struggle for the survival of our way of life – not just a war to save Great Britain, Hawaii and the Philippines.
Instead of offering constructive suggestions and ideas on how to transform our military into the kind of force we need to confront and defeat an entirely new kind of threat, all we hear from the Democrat presidential candidates are statements that can lead our enemies to think we are going to cut and run. It must aid and comfort the terrorists to think their persistence could be rewarded with our abandonment of the Iraqi people and with our retreat to an America which 9/11 proved is no longer safe.
Frankly, we’ve never before been faced with an enemy motivated solely by envy and hatred and whose primary goal is to spill the blood of those who would defend Judeo-Christian Western Civilization. So, to win this new kind of war, we need the best thinking of everyone to address questions such as: How much of our Gross National Product (GNP) should we invest to win the War on Terror? During the Cold War, our yearly defense spending averaged just over 10-percent of GNP. During the Clinton years, defense spending was slashed to less than three percent. So, how much of an increase is needed now?
In this new kind of war, do we need a different mix of forces? Do we need more military police, more civil affairs units, more linguists, more intelligence specialists, more engineers, more air and sea mobility and fewer heavy armored vehicles and track-mounted artillery pieces?
As long as we pay them and care for them well enough, we can sustain our all-volunteer, active-duty forces, forever. But we are wearing out our reserve components and their families. So how much should we increase our reserve components?
Moreover, when reserve component units go on active duty, they take with them many law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and other first-responders we need here for homeland security. This problem needs a fix.
We must diminish inter-service rivalry while increasing inter-service cooperation. Secretary Rumsfeld’s approach is to bring in new blood. Currently, only one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Marine Commandant, is a service academy graduate. The JCS Chairman is from Kansas State. The Army Chief is from Wyoming U. The Air Force Chief is from VMI, and the Navy Chief was commissioned through Officer Candidate School (OCS). This is unprecedented. General Tommy Franks was an OCS graduate.
One the best examples of increasing interoperability came during Operation Enduring Freedom when one of the Afghan war lords of the Northern Alliance turned to a horse-back mounted U.S. Special Forces Sergeant and requested some heavy firepower on the Taliban forces holding key mountain passes and road junctions.
Equipped only with a satellite telephone, a GPS, a map and a laser target designator, the Green Beret radioed up the latitude and longitude of the targets. Within 15 minutes, the sky rained death and destruction on the Taliban positions. That kind of inter-service interoperability is what won the Northern Alliance over to our side and led to the defeat of the Taliban. It wasn’t speeches at the U.N.
Gaining more interoperability and being able to sustain our active and reserve forces for the long haul are our biggest challenges. Persistence and endurance are key here. To meet those challenges, politics should be left at the water’s edge.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2004. William Hamilton.