April 16, 2006

Change is going to happen...

Sanger M put some criticisms into comments on my recent post on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and they've inspired me to just a bit more blogging...

"...this is NOT what soldiers are for. Soldiers are for fighting, or at least being able to fight, and so are therefore a deterrant..."

Sanger, nobody is going to play the game with us anymore. No army is going to attack us. If one did it would be destroyed in days. Our ability to deter is so great that it has simply changed the rules the world operates by.

On the other hand, we keep getting dragged into fights. And they are ALL in what TPM Barnett calls "The Gap;" the disfunctional and impoverished Third World globe-girdling slum belt. We can't ignore the Gap anymore, the world is too small, our economies are too inter-twined, and the destructive power of terrorists is too great. Therefore the only Grand Strategy available to us is to engage with the problem spots and try to bring those countries into the functioning world.

...a lot of soldiers are just plain aggravated at the civil affairs side of the job. An army is for fighting, not peacekeeping, which is nothing more than a glorified guard's job...

Tough That's the job we have now, and our military is of necessity going to be doing it, partly because the State Dept. and USAID and our european allies aren't willing to do their part, but mostly because the lines between "civil affairs" and war have almost disappeared. The guy helping with the sewers is almost as likely to get into a fight as the one patrolling on the "front line." Mostly there is no "front line" anymore. And a lot of the new tasks, far from being "glorified guarding," are leadership tasks requiring the highest levels of human skill and political wisdom.

We had a foretaste of this new world in the second half of 20th Century, when the huge armies of NATO and the Warsaw pact never fought, though millions of men spent their whole working lives preparing to do so. But all the while messy little countries no one had heard of before kept turning into battlefields or tension-spots, usually ones where much of our fire-power was useless.

The situation is much worse now (from your traditional soldier viewpoint). We are fighting terror groups so amorphous and protean that we sometimes are not sure they exist at all. They blur confusingly into criminal gangs and tribes and religious groups.

That's just the way the world is now. Soldiers who can't adjust to it should get out. They are working for "the people," and their job is whatever the people of America ask of them. Our military is going to change, because it has to. And, like any bureaucracy, it is resisting change stubbornly. In many cases such resistance is successful, but in the case of the US military the new needs are so compelling and deadly that change is going to happen, though it means steamrollering those who resist.

I'm not in the military and can't judge the specific reforms Rumsfeld is pushing, though they sound logical. But it is obvious that big changes are needed, and that a strong hand is going to have to force them.

And sneering at Rumsfeld as a "civilian" is just stupid. It is extremely rare to find anyone with such a breadth of leadership skills as he has. Congressman, ambassador, White House Chief of Staff, both the youngest and the oldest SecDef ever, and a businessman who has taken large floundering corporations and turned them around to high profitability. No general can match him in skills, and probably few in sheer smarts.

And we need all those skills. War is just not a "separate realm" anymore. It's intermingled with everything else.

Also, here is a Lt Colonel with a different view:

...I would beg to differ with that assessment by Mr. Ignatius. I am a combat arms officer, a combat veteran of the Global War on Terror, currently serving on the faculty of one of the Staff Colleges.

My assessment from extensive and continuous contact with young field grade officers, most of which are combat arms branch, combat veterans, is that Secretary Rumsfeld is considered the finest Secretary of Defense of the last forty years. This is in addition to my "peer group", of which many of us maintain contact with each each other regardless if we are in CONUS or SW Asia.

Maybe Mr. Ignatius has limited his conversations to Officers assigned in the Beltway. Yes, "beltway types" unfortunatly also exist in the military.

However, I can tell you that beyond the Beltway in dusty and dirty places like Ft. Benning, Ft. Stewart, Ft. Hood, Ft. Campbell and Ft. Bragg, where officers wear BDUs instead of Class Bs that there are tens of thousands of Officers, Commissioned/Warrant/Non-Commissioned, that would go to hell and back for this Secretary.

He pushes us to what we "think" is our limit, then shows us we have another ten percent to give. Secretary Rumsfelds nickname among many is the "110% Secretary." Former Secretary Cohen, a good man whom I respected, would have been considered the "90% Secretary" as he never was able to get us to give "all."
Posted by John Weidner at April 16, 2006 6:44 PM
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