Monday, December 22, 2008

Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age - Why the U.S. Military Is in Shambles - The Choice for Pakistan's Military - Mosque To Be Erected At Norway's North Pole

A Balanced Strategy

Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age

Robert M. Gates

From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2009

Summary:  The Pentagon has to do more than modernize its conventional forces; it must also focus on today's unconventional conflicts -- and tomorrow's.

Robert M. Gates is U.S. Secretary of Defense.

The defining principle of the Pentagon's new National Defense Strategy is balance. The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything. The Department of Defense must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs.

The strategy strives for balance in three areas: between trying to prevail in current conflicts and preparing for other contingencies, between institutionalizing capabilities such as counterinsurgency and foreign military assistance and maintaining the United States' existing conventional and strategic technological edge against other military forces, and between retaining those cultural traits that have made the U.S. armed forces successful and shedding those that hamper their ability to do what needs to be done.


The United States' ability to deal with future threats will depend on its performance in current conflicts. To be blunt, to fail -- or to be seen to fail -- in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries.

In Iraq, the number of U.S. combat units there will decline over time -- as it was going to do no matter who was elected president in November. Still, there will continue to be some kind of U.S. advisory and counterterrorism effort in Iraq for years to come.

In Afghanistan, as President George W. Bush announced last September, U.S. troop levels are rising, with the likelihood of more increases in the year ahead. Given its terrain, poverty, neighborhood, and tragic history, Afghanistan in many ways poses an even more complex and difficult long-term challenge than Iraq -- one that, despite a large international effort, will require a significant U.S. military and economic commitment for some time.

It would be irresponsible not to think about and prepare for the future, and the overwhelming majority of people in the Pentagon, the services, and the defense industry do just that. But we must not be so preoccupied with preparing for future conventional and strategic conflicts that we neglect to provide all the capabilities necessary to fight and win conflicts such as those the United States is in today.

Support for conventional modernization programs is deeply embedded in the Defense Department's budget, in its bureaucracy, in the defense industry, and in Congress. My fundamental concern is that there is not commensurate institutional support -- including in the Pentagon -- for the capabilities needed to win today's wars and some of their likely successors.

What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, worldwide irregular campaign -- a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and those of moderation. Direct military force will continue to play a role in the long-term effort against terrorists and other extremists. But over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory. Where possible, what the military calls kinetic operations should be subordinated to measures aimed at promoting better governance, economic programs that spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented, from whom the terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideologies.

The United States is unlikely to repeat another Iraq or Afghanistan -- that is, forced regime change followed by nation building under fire -- anytime soon. But that does not mean it may not face similar challenges in a variety of locales. Where possible, U.S. strategy is to employ indirect approaches -- primarily through building the capacity of partner governments and their security forces -- to prevent festering problems from turning into crises that require costly and controversial direct military intervention. In this kind of effort, the capabilities of the United States' allies and partners may be as important as its own, and building their capacity is arguably as important as, if not more so than, the fighting the United States does itself.

The recent past vividly demonstrated the consequences of failing to address adequately the dangers posed by insurgencies and failing states. Terrorist networks can find sanctuary within the borders of a weak nation and strength within the chaos of social breakdown. A nuclear-armed state could collapse into chaos and criminality. The most likely catastrophic threats to the U.S. homeland -- for example, that of a U.S. city being poisoned or reduced to rubble by a terrorist attack -- are more likely to emanate from failing states than from aggressor states.

The kinds of capabilities needed to deal with these scenarios cannot be considered exotic distractions or temporary diversions. The United States does not have the luxury of opting out because these scenarios do not conform to preferred notions of the American way of war.

Furthermore, even the biggest of wars will require "small wars" capabilities. Ever since General Winfield Scott led his army into Mexico in the 1840s, nearly every major deployment of U.S. forces has led to a longer subsequent military presence to maintain stability. Whether in the midst of or in the aftermath of any major conflict, the requirement for the U.S. military to maintain security, provide aid and comfort, begin reconstruction, and prop up local governments and public services will not go away.

The military and civilian elements of the United States' national security apparatus have responded unevenly and have grown increasingly out of balance. The problem is not will; it is capacity. In many ways, the country's national security capabilities are still coping with the consequences of the 1990s, when, with the complicity of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, key instruments of U.S. power abroad were reduced or allowed to wither on the bureaucratic vine. The State Department froze the hiring of new Foreign Service officers. The U.S. Agency for International Development dropped from a high of having 15,000 permanent staff members during the Vietnam War to having less than 3,000 today. And then there was the U.S. Information Agency, whose directors once included the likes of Edward R. Murrow. It was split into pieces and folded into a corner of the State Department. Since 9/11, and through the efforts first of Secretary of State Colin Powell and now of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the State Department has made a comeback. Foreign Service officers are being hired again, and foreign affairs spending has about doubled since President Bush took office.

Yet even with a better-funded State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, future military commanders will not be able to rid themselves of the tasks of maintaining security and stability. To truly achieve victory as Clausewitz defined it -- to attain a political objective -- the United States needs a military whose ability to kick down the door is matched by its ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward.

Given these realities, the military has made some impressive strides in recent years. Special operations have received steep increases in funding and personnel. The air force has created a new air advisory program and a new career track for unmanned aerial operations. The navy has set up a new expeditionary combat command and brought back its riverine units. New counterinsurgency and army operations manuals, plus a new maritime strategy, have incorporated the lessons of recent years in service doctrine. "Train and equip" programs allow for quicker improvements in the security capacity of partner nations. And various initiatives are under way that will better integrate and coordinate U.S. military efforts with civilian agencies as well as engage the expertise of the private sector, including nongovernmental organizations and academia.


Even as its military hones and institutionalizes new and unconventional skills, the United States still has to contend with the security challenges posed by the military forces of other countries. The images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia last August were a reminder that nation-states and their militaries do still matter. Both Russia and China have increased their defense spending and modernization programs to include air defense and fighter capabilities that in some cases approach the United States' own. In addition, there is the potentially toxic mix of rogue nations, terrorist groups, and nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. North Korea has built several bombs, and Iran seeks to join the nuclear club.

What all these potential adversaries -- from terrorist cells to rogue nations to rising powers -- have in common is that they have learned that it is unwise to confront the United States directly on conventional military terms. The United States cannot take its current dominance for granted and needs to invest in the programs, platforms, and personnel that will ensure that dominance's persistence.

But it is also important to keep some perspective. As much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, for example, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined -- and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners. Russian tanks and artillery may have crushed Georgia's tiny military. But before the United States begins rearming for another Cold War, it must remember that what is driving Russia is a desire to exorcise past humiliation and dominate its "near abroad" -- not an ideologically driven campaign to dominate the globe. As someone who used to prepare estimates of Soviet military strength for several presidents, I can say that Russia's conventional military, although vastly improved since its nadir in the late 1990s, remains a shadow of its Soviet predecessor. And adverse demographic trends in Russia will likely keep those conventional forces in check.

All told, the 2008 National Defense Strategy concludes that although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium term given current trends. It is true that the United States would be hard-pressed to fight a major conventional ground war elsewhere on short notice, but as I have asked before, where on earth would we do that? U.S. air and sea forces have ample untapped striking power should the need arise to deter or punish aggression -- whether on the Korean Peninsula, in the Persian Gulf, or across the Taiwan Strait. So although current strategy knowingly assumes some additional risk in this area, that risk is a prudent and manageable one.

Other nations may be unwilling to challenge the United States fighter to fighter, ship to ship, tank to tank. But they are developing the disruptive means to blunt the impact of U.S. power, narrow the United States' military options, and deny the U.S. military freedom of movement and action.

In the case of China, Beijing's investments in cyberwarfare, antisatellite warfare, antiaircraft and antiship weaponry, submarines, and ballistic missiles could threaten the United States' primary means to project its power and help its allies in the Pacific: bases, air and sea assets, and the networks that support them. This will put a premium on the United States' ability to strike from over the horizon and employ missile defenses and will require shifts from short-range to longer-range systems, such as the next-generation bomber.

And even though the days of hair-trigger superpower confrontation are over, as long as other nations possess the bomb and the means to deliver it, the United States must maintain a credible strategic deterrent. Toward this end, the Department of Defense and the air force have taken firm steps to return excellence and accountability to nuclear stewardship. Congress needs to do its part by funding the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program -- for safety, for security, and for a more reliable deterrent.

When thinking about the range of threats, it is common to divide the "high end" from the "low end," the conventional from the irregular, armored divisions on one side, guerrillas toting AK-47s on the other. In reality, as the political scientist Colin Gray has noted, the categories of warfare are blurring and no longer fit into neat, tidy boxes. One can expect to see more tools and tactics of destruction -- from the sophisticated to the simple -- being employed simultaneously in hybrid and more complex forms of warfare.

Russia's relatively crude -- although brutally effective -- conventional offensive in Georgia was augmented with a sophisticated cyberattack and a well-coordinated propaganda campaign. The United States saw a different combination of tools during the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein dispatched his swarming Fedayeen paramilitary fighters along with the T-72 tanks of the Republican Guard.

Conversely, militias, insurgent groups, other nonstate actors, and developing-world militaries are increasingly acquiring more technology, lethality, and sophistication -- as illustrated by the losses and propaganda victory that Hezbollah was able to inflict on Israel in 2006. Hezbollah's restocked arsenal of rockets and missiles now dwarfs the inventory of many nation-states. Furthermore, Chinese and Russian arms sales are putting advanced capabilities, both offensive and defensive, in the hands of more countries and groups. As the defense scholar Frank Hoffman has noted, these hybrid scenarios combine "the lethality of state conflict with the fanatical and protracted fervor of irregular warfare," what another defense scholar, Michael Evans, has described as "wars . . . in which Microsoft coexists with machetes and stealth technology is met by suicide bombers."

Just as one can expect a blended high-low mix of adversaries and types of conflict, so, too, should the United States seek a better balance in the portfolio of capabilities it has -- the types of units fielded, the weapons bought, the training done.

When it comes to procurement, for the better part of five decades, the trend has gone toward lower numbers as technology gains have made each system more capable. In recent years, these platforms have grown ever more baroque, have become ever more costly, are taking longer to build, and are being fielded in ever-dwindling quantities. Given that resources are not unlimited, the dynamic of exchanging numbers for capability is perhaps reaching a point of diminishing returns. A given ship or aircraft, no matter how capable or well equipped, can be in only one place at one time.

For decades, meanwhile, the prevailing view has been that weapons and units designed for the so-called high end could also be used for the low end. And to some extent that has been true: Strategic bombers designed to obliterate cities have been used as close air support for riflemen on horseback. M-1 tanks originally designed to plug the Fulda Gap during a Soviet attack on Western Europe routed Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah and Najaf. Billion-dollar ships are employed to track pirates and deliver humanitarian aid. And the U.S. Army is spinning out parts of the Future Combat Systems program, as they move from the drawing board to reality, so that they can be available and usable for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nevertheless, given the types of situations the United States is likely to face -- and given, for example, the struggles to field up-armored Humvees, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) programs in Iraq -- the time has come to consider whether the specialized, often relatively low-tech equipment well suited for stability and counterinsurgency missions is also needed. It is time to think hard about how to institutionalize the procurement of such capabilities and get them fielded quickly. Why was it necessary to go outside the normal bureaucratic process to develop technologies to counter improvised explosive devices, to build MRAPs, and to quickly expand the United States' ISR capability? In short, why was it necessary to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities needed to protect U.S. troops and fight ongoing wars?

The Department of Defense's conventional modernization programs seek a 99 percent solution over a period of years. Stability and counterinsurgency missions require 75 percent solutions over a period of months. The challenge is whether these two different paradigms can be made to coexist in the U.S. military's mindset and bureaucracy.

The Defense Department has to consider whether in situations in which the United States has total air dominance, it makes sense to employ lower-cost, lower-tech aircraft that can be employed in large quantities and used by U.S. partners. This is already happening now in the field with Task Force ODIN in Iraq, which has mated advanced sensors with turboprop aircraft to produce a massive increase in the amount of surveillance and reconnaissance coverage. The issue then becomes how to build this kind of innovative thinking and flexibility into the rigid procurement processes at home. The key is to make sure that the strategy and risk assessment drive the procurement, rather than the other way around.


The ability to fight and adapt to a diverse range of conflicts, sometimes simultaneously, fits squarely within the long history and the finest traditions of the American practice of arms. In the Revolutionary War, tight formations drilled by Baron Friedrich von Steuben fought redcoats in the North while guerrillas led by Francis Marion harassed them in the South. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Marine Corps conducted what would now be called stability operations in the Caribbean, wrote the Small Wars Manual, and at the same time developed the amphibious landing techniques that would help liberate Europe and the Pacific in the following decade. And consider General John "Black Jack" Pershing: before commanding the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe in World War I, Pershing led a platoon of Sioux scouts, rode with buffalo soldiers up San Juan Hill, won the respect of the Moro in the Philippines, and chased Pancho Villa in Mexico.

In Iraq, an army that was basically a smaller version of the United States' Cold War force over time became an effective instrument of counterinsurgency. But that transition came at a frightful human, financial, and political cost. For every heroic and resourceful innovation by troops and commanders on the battlefield, there was some institutional shortcoming at the Pentagon they had to overcome. There have to be institutional changes so that the next set of colonels, captains, and sergeants will not have to be quite so heroic or quite so resourceful.

One of the enduring issues the military struggles with is whether personnel and promotions systems designed to reward the command of American troops will be able to reflect the importance of advising, training, and equipping foreign troops -- something still not considered a career-enhancing path for the best and brightest officers. Another is whether formations and units organized, trained, and equipped to destroy enemies can be adapted well enough and fast enough to dissuade or co-opt them -- or, more significant, to build the capacity of local security forces to do the dissuading and destroying.

As secretary of defense, I have repeatedly made the argument in favor of institutionalizing counterinsurgency skills and the ability to conduct stability and support operations. I have done so not because I fail to appreciate the importance of maintaining the United States' current advantage in conventional war fighting but rather because conventional and strategic force modernization programs are already strongly supported in the services, in Congress, and by the defense industry. The base budget for fiscal year 2009, for example, contains more than $180 billion for procurement, research, and development, the overwhelming preponderance of which is for conventional systems.

Apart from the Special Forces community and some dissident colonels, however, for decades there has been no strong, deeply rooted constituency inside the Pentagon or elsewhere for institutionalizing the capabilities necessary to wage asymmetric or irregular conflict -- and to quickly meet the ever-changing needs of forces engaged in these conflicts.

Think of where U.S. forces have been sent and have been engaged over the last 40-plus years: Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, and more. In fact, the first Gulf War stands alone in over two generations of constant military engagement as a more or less traditional conventional conflict from beginning to end. As General Charles Krulak, then the Marine Corps commandant, predicted a decade ago, instead of the beloved "Son of Desert Storm," Western militaries are confronted with the unwanted "Stepchild of Chechnya."

There is no doubt in my mind that conventional modernization programs will continue to have, and deserve, strong institutional and congressional support. I just want to make sure that the capabilities needed for the complex conflicts the United States is actually in and most likely to face in the foreseeable future also have strong and sustained institutional support over the long term. And I want to see a defense establishment that can make and implement decisions quickly in support of those on the battlefield.

In the end, the military capabilities needed cannot be separated from the cultural traits and the reward structure of the institutions the United States has: the signals sent by what gets funded, who gets promoted, what is taught in the academies and staff colleges, and how personnel are trained.

Thirty-six years ago, my old CIA colleague Robert Komer, who led the pacification campaign in Vietnam, published his classic study of organizational behavior, Bureaucracy Does Its Thing. Looking at the performance of the U.S. national security apparatus during the conflict in Vietnam, both military and civilian, he identified a number of tendencies that prevented institutions from adapting long after problems had been identified and solutions proposed: a reluctance to change preferred ways of functioning, the attempt to run a war with a peacetime management structure and peacetime practices, a belief that the current set of problems either was an aberration or would soon be over, and the tendency for problems that did not fit organizations' inherited structures and preferences to fall through the cracks.

I mention this study not to relitigate that war or slight the enormous strides the institutional military has made in recent years but simply as a reminder that these tendencies are always present in any large, hierarchical organization and that everyone must consistently strive to overcome them.

I have learned many things in my 42 years of service in the national security arena. Two of the most important are an appreciation of limits and a sense of humility. The United States is the strongest and greatest nation on earth, but there are still limits on what it can do. The power and global reach of its military have been an indispensable contributor to world peace and must remain so. But not every outrage, every act of aggression, or every crisis can or should elicit a U.S. military response.

We should be modest about what military force can accomplish and what technology can accomplish. The advances in precision, sensor, information, and satellite technologies have led to extraordinary gains in what the U.S. military can do. The Taliban were dispatched within three months; Saddam's regime was toppled in three weeks. A button can be pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck will explode in Mosul. A bomb dropped from the sky can destroy a targeted house while leaving the one next to it intact.

But no one should ever neglect the psychological, cultural, political, and human dimensions of warfare. War is inevitably tragic, inefficient, and uncertain, and it is important to be skeptical of systems analyses, computer models, game theories, or doctrines that suggest otherwise. We should look askance at idealistic, triumphalist, or ethnocentric notions of future conflict that aspire to transcend the immutable principles and ugly realities of war, that imagine it is possible to cow, shock, or awe an enemy into submission, instead of tracking enemies down hilltop by hilltop, house by house, block by bloody block. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said, "Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster."

Repeatedly over the last century, Americans averted their eyes in the belief that events in remote places around the world need not engage the United States. How could the assassination of an Austrian archduke in the unknown Bosnia and Herzegovina affect Americans, or the annexation of a little patch of ground called Sudetenland, or a French defeat in a place called Dien Bien Phu, or the return of an obscure cleric to Tehran, or the radicalization of a Saudi construction tycoon's son?

In world affairs, "what seems to work best," the historian Donald Kagan wrote in his book On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace, ". . . is the possession by those states who wish to preserve the peace of the preponderant power and of the will to accept the burdens and responsibilities required to achieve that purpose." I believe the United States' National Defense Strategy provides a balanced approach to meeting those responsibilities and preserving the United States' freedom, prosperity, and security in the years ahead.

Why the U.S. Military Is in Shambles

By Andrew Cockburn, CounterPunch. Posted December 8, 2008.

Our bloated, declining military structure is the result of a bought-off Congress and a Pentagon distracted by bureaucratic agendas.

Coinciding with the arrival of Obama and his deputies in Washington, the Center for Defense Information is releasing America's Defense Meltdown -- Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress, a primer on what is wrong with our defense system written by men with long and honorable experience in the bowels of the military services and Pentagon bureaucracy. The book's editor, Winslow Wheeler, is familiar to readers of this site for his acrid and knowledgeable commentaries on the defense establishment. CounterPuncher Andrew Cockburn interviews him about the book and its message.

Andrew Cockburn: You say in your preface that "the vast majority, perhaps even all, of Congress, the general officer corps of the armed forces, top management of American defense manufacturers, prominent members of Washington's think tank community and nationally recognized 'defense journalists' will hate this book." Why is that? 

Winslow Wheeler: The conventional wisdom amongst the elite in Washington is that they have done a pretty good job of taking care of our national defense, that things may be a little expensive but we have the best armed forces in the world, perhaps even in history, and we do the best for our troops by giving them the world's most sophisticated equipment which is, of course, the most effective. We have, so the elite asserts, demonstrated our ability by knocking off Saddam Hussein's forces twice and are in general a model to the rest of the world on how to build equipment and provide for forces. That's all crap. None of it is true. None of it stands up to scrutiny.

Let's tick through it. First of all, we now have the largest defense budget in inflation-adjusted dollars since the end of World War Two. That has bought the smallest military establishment we have had since the end of World War Two. We now have fewer navy combat ships and submarines, fewer combat aircraft and fewer army fighting units than we have had at any point since the end of World War Two. Our major items of equipment are on average older than at any time during this period. Key elements of our fighting forces are badly trained. In other words we're getting less for more. People point to the two wars against Saddam Hussein. His armed forces were pitifully incompetent and even against them in both the 1991 and 2003 gulf wars we demonstrated serious deficiencies while overestimating how good we were. 

Cockburn: But is the U.S. likely to be facing anyone better in the near future?

Wheeler: Apparently we are right now. In Afghanistan things are going south, rapidly. In Iraq people seem to think the surge saved things, but far more important than the so-called surge in reducing American casualties has been the purchase of Sunni co-operation with hefty bribes and the ceasefire that was brokered not by us but by Iran to get Muqtada al-Sadr's forces to sit on the sidelines. Time after time we read in the press about how American air units have killed civilians, how American ground units have killed civilians. We have a huge technological edge against these opponents and yet they are able not just to survive against us but fight us all too effectively.

 Cockburn: What brought the U.S. to this sorry state of affairs?

Wheeler: The fundamental reason, I believe, is that we are not interested in what works best in combat. Instead, our defense structure in Washington is interested in other things. In Congress they're interested in jobs and campaign contributions. In the Pentagon they're interested in various political and bureaucratic agendas. They're not paying attention to the lessons of combat history. A bloated, declining military structure is the result.

 Cockburn: Surely you're not suggesting that our leaders in uniform, as opposed to those interfering civilians [sound of Wheeler laughing] aren't interested in producing the most combat-efficient force possible?

 Wheeler: I was laughing because that's the bilgewater that they keep on pumping - and believing, I'm sure - on Capitol Hill. If you look at the record, a lot of our military leadership is very questionable. During the 2003 march to Baghdad the commanders had to pause simply out of panic at the minimal opposition they were facing, coupled with some poor weather and a supply problem. None of the commanders warned the public, or the president, about the problems that we encountered in Iraq.

People point to [former army chief of staff] General Eric Shinseki as the great hero who told us that we needed a larger invasion and occupation force and was ignored. That argument simply doesn't work. The idea that more Christian, white American soldiers occupying an alien country would have prevented an insurgency is ridiculous.

Cockburn: We might also pause to note that Shinseki gave his famous warning just three weeks before the invasion, having remained totally mute for the year of buildup when a public statement might actually have made a difference. Anyway, criticism of the Pentagon is normally considered liberal turf, but I believe you yourself served as a Republican staffer on the hill for many years and your contributors don't look like too dovish a crew. Can you tell us a little more about who put this book together?

Wheeler: It's not a bipartisan bunch, it's a non-partisan bunch. I myself worked for three Republicans and one Democrat on Capitol Hill. Two of the Republicans were so-called 'suspect Republicans'. One was Jacob Javits, the other was Nancy Kassebaum, neither of whom were 'good soldiers' on the Republican dogma of "more money for the Pentagon means we are stronger."

The people who wrote this anthology come from all over the political spectrum. In most cases I don't even know what their politics are. Some of them are registered Republicans. Most of them are pretty non political people. Their qualification is the fact that they had brilliant careers, albeit sometimes short ones, in the armed forces or inside the Pentagon, as civilians. Some of them are writers who have written extensively about defense issues with no identifiable politics.

Cockburn: On the list of contributors I see majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels. I don't see any generals. Why do you think that might be? 

Wheeler: I've not met a general in my lifetime that I would welcome to write a chapter in this book. That doesn't mean they don't exist. I just don't know of them. In some cases these contributors sacrificed their careers in order to speak truth to power. These are people who have demonstrated by what they have already written and what they have already done that they understand the nature of the problem in our defenses and that they have real ideas to address those problems.

Cockburn: Now there will be some among CounterPunch's readers who say, "Wheeler and his pals just want to give us a more combat-efficient military so that President Obama can go and bomb and invade and lay waste to more countries." What do you say to that?

Wheeler: They're half right. We do want to give any president an effective, usable military force. But we have three chapters in this book that address various aspects of our national character and national security strategy. The second chapter, written by retired air force colonel Chet Richards is remarkable in the radically different national security strategy it urges Congress and the president to consider. It is fundamentally a strategy that goes back to America's roots and says that we should only fight when we truly have to fight rather than pursue agendas and political dogmas and help politicians posture as patriots.

Cockburn: It's clear that you feel strongly about the amount of money we're spending on defense and yet it's frequently pointed out that calcaulated as a percentage of GDP, we spent more on defense in the 1950s. Do you think we're exaggerating the burden of the present defense budget? 

Wheeler: The use of the measure of GDP percentage to decide how much money we should spend on the Pentagon is specious and ridiculous. The thing that should define how much we spend is the world situation; how much we can afford; how we decide to make good use of our money. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, an individual that President-elect Obama seems to be happy with, has said that we should adopt a specific share of GDP - four per cent, he says - and spend that only on defense. It would make as much sense if we counted the number of MacDonalds in this country as a measure of the size of our economy and built our defense on the basis of the number of MacDonald's hamburger stands in this country. It is a completely irrelevant measure of what our spending should be. 

Cockburn: Given the way the economy is going, pretty soon four per cent of GDP isn't going to get you much of a defense budget

Wheeler: That's why they're now starting to talk about "4.8 percent." It's a cheap trick designed to make the defense budget look small. Because the Pentagon budget is now bigger than it has been since 1946 they're looking for devices to make it look small and this ruse of a percentage of GDP is right down their alley.

Cockburn: Outline what you and your contributors say the Obama national security team should be doing, as opposed to what they seem more than likely to do. 

Wheeler: The book is divided into chapters that identify specific problems as well as the solutions we identify, but to keep it short and simple, it starts with a national strategy that seems more appropriate for the 21st century and does not get America involved in these quagmire occupations in alien lands and seeks to defend us only when we have real threats that we actually have to face. What that means is that our army, navy and air force need to go through a radical resizing and reposturing to make themselves appropriate to the world as it currently exists.

It also means that we need to learn how to think in new and different ways in making decisions in the Pentagon. By that I mean decisions about hardware need to be made on the basis of much more reliable data, in sharp contrast to the phony, biased data that they use to make decisions now. We need to have a set of people making those decisions who are not corrupted by the possibility that after they leave the Pentagon they can go work for people who are making or losing money based on their decisions. That's the so-called revolving door issue. People tend to think it's not a big deal. It's a huge deal. It corrupts our decisions and it corrupts the people making them.

Cockburn: Given the sort of people he's selecting for defense position, it looks as though Obama is not necessarily going to follow the course of action you urge in your book. What is your opinion of the Obama defense team as currently formulated?

Wheeler: He campaigned on "Change We Can Believe in" and his transition almost immediately switched to "Continuity We Can Believe In." The people so far selected, especially Robert Gates, have a track record, and that track record is basically to keep things the way they are. Gates will do what he's told on issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. He's already made it clear that as far as managing the Pentagon is concerned he thinks he's been doing a competent job. But during his tenure things have only gotten worse. The budget's going up faster than ever before in recent history; the size of our forces is going south; the equipment continues to get older.

We have a new report from the Congressional Budget Office that tracks the size of our weapons inventory and its age. This study shows that if everything goes perfectly according to Gates' plans as revealed in his Pentagon budget, our forces will continue to shrink and the equipment will continue to get older. The one exception is Obama's plan to expand the number of combat units in the army and marine corps. That is turning out to be a question of much larger cost than people suspected. It's going to cost us somewhere in excess of a hundred billion dollars. It's very unclear therefore if that expansion is actually going to occur and the historic trend suggests that even if it does occur it will reverse itself in a few years and the additional units will be phased out. Also, if you look at previous wars such as Korea and the Indochina wars, the expansions that occurred during those conflict were gigantic compared to the puny little 60,000 man increase that Robert Gates and Barack Obama say they want to endorse.

Cockburn: Realistically, do you think there's any possibility that you could [see] meaningful reform in the Pentagon?

Wheeler: I'm not at all optimistic. The second tier of appointments that they're talking about in the press for the Obama team are mostly holdovers from the Clinton era, when things were almost as bad as they were during the Bush era. Most of the major hardware programs that are now coming a cropper as major cost and performance disasters were conceived during the Clinton era. Things such as the Future Combat Systems, or the Navy's DDG 1000 Destroyer known as the Arsenal Ship and later the DDX Destroyer, spawned when Richard Danzig was Secretary of the Navy. Danzig is under active consideration to be deputy secretary of defense and Gates' natural successor when Gates finishes whatever short timer term he has under Obama. The F-22 fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, it goes on, all these programs that are cost and performance disasters had their genesis during the Clinton era. One of the individuals being talked of now for some unspecified senior position with the Obama team is an individual by the name of William Lynn. During the Clinton era Lynn was the Comptroller of the Department of Defense. I was a staffer on the Senate Budget Committee and I've never seen, before or since, such preposterous gimmicks as those that were added when William Lynn was chief financial officer at the Pentagon as the DoD Comptroller. If that's the kind of performance we can expect, we're in for a rocky time with the Pentagon and its budget.

Cockburn: What about Obama's National Security Adviser, General Jim Jones? He looks like a fine upstanding marine.

Wheeler: He is a man of great stature, physically and figuratively, in Washington. He is a Washington 'heavy' but if you look at his record, nothing much ever happened. Things went south in Afghanistan pretty rapidly when he was supreme commander of all Nato forces in Afghanistan. When he was Commandant of the Marine Corps, a lot of the marines' overpriced underperforming hardware programs, such as the V-22 [vertical takeoff troop transport plane] and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle were endorsed and continued happily along. He seems to have been mostly a placeholder when he had these very senior and important positions.

Interested readers can download America's Defense Meltdown for free from the Center for Defense Information.

The Choice for Pakistan's Military

Fareed Zakaria: Unless Pakistan changes how it conceives of its interests and strategy, it will remain an unstable and distrusted place.

If the Mumbai attacks were India's 9/11, then it has responded quite differently than the United States did in the weeks following that horrible event. Much of the debate among Indians has looked inward, focusing on their government's lack of preparedness, poor intelligence and bungling response to the attack. Senior Indian officials have resigned, some evidence links the terrorists to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the Indian government has not rushed to war. Even the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, traditionally ultrahawkish, is advocating "coercive diplomacy," calling on the world community to insist that Pakistan implement its U.N. treaty obligations to fight terrorism. India is showing restraint for some wise reasons -- the two nations are nuclear-armed and a military strike would only inflame Pakistani nationalism. But a democratic government, approaching an election season, can only remain restrained if its restraint yields something. If not, South Asia -- and that includes Afghanistan -- is going to get a lot more unstable.

Some have argued that India should use its intelligence and air power to go after some of Lashkar's camps in the borderlands of Kashmir. But one would not need spies and airplanes to find the head of Lashkar, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. He lives and works in Lahore. Of course, Lashkar was banned by the Pakistani government in 2002, but Saeed now runs its "charitable" arm, Jamaat-ul-Dawa, a large and growing force in the country. The problem with Islamic militant groups in Pakistan is not that they are hard to find but rather that they are in plain sight. The Pakistani government has never made a fundamental decision to turn its back on the culture of jihad.

When one speaks of the Pakistani government, it's necessary to be precise. The elected, civilian government appears to be something of an innocent bystander in this affair. Initially, President Asif Ali Zardari denounced the terrorists and offered full assistance to Indian investigators. His prime minister offered to send the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency to New Delhi to help. Then, after the Army weighed in, the offer was withdrawn. Zardari's statements became more evasive and defensive. If anyone wondered who actually ran the country, it soon became clear.

Whether the Pakistani military was involved in the Mumbai attacks remains unclear. The Indians certainly think so. "The attackers were trained in four places in Pakistan by men with titles like colonel and major. They used communication channels that are known ISI channels. All this can't happen without the knowledge of the military," one Indian official told me. They're not alone in their suspicions. "This was a three-stage amphibious operation. [The attackers] maintained radio silence, launched diversionary attacks to pull the first responders out of the way, knew their way around the hotels, were equipped with cryptographic communications, credit cards, false IDs," says David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency expert who has advised Gen. David Petraeus. "It looks more like a classical special forces or commando operation than a terrorist one. No group linked to al-Qaeda and certainly not Lashkar has ever mounted a maritime attack of this complexity." Which would be worse: if the Pakistani military knew about this operation in advance, or if they didn't?

The situation in South Asia is very complicated. But one thing is clear. All roads lead through Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistani military. For decades it has sponsored militant groups like Lashkar and the Taliban as a low-cost strategy to bleed India and influence Afghanistan. It now faces a choice. Unless Pakistan changes how it conceives of its interests and strategy, the country will remain an unstable place, distrusted by all its neighbors. Even the Chinese, longtime allies, have begun worrying about the spread of Islamic extremism. Pakistan needs to take a civilian, not a military, view of its national interest, one in which good relations with India lead to trade, economic growth and stability. Of course, in such a world Pakistan wouldn't need a military that swallows up a quarter of the government's budget and rules the country like a privileged elite.

The one country that could do more than any other to change the military's mind-set is America. For India to bomb some Lashkar training camps would be to attack the symptoms, not the source of the rot -- and would only fuel sympathy for the militants among ordinary Pakistanis. To the contrary, what the world needs is for Pakistan to decide on its own that its prospects are diminished by tolerance of such groups. American diplomacy has been fast and effective so far. But we must keep the pressure on Islamabad, and get countries like China and Saudi Arabia involved as well. President-elect Barack Obama has proposed aid to Pakistan that has sensible conditions attached, meant to help modernize the country.

America also has much to lose if things fall apart in South Asia. If tensions between India and Pakistan rise, distracting the Pakistani military from the jihadists in its tribal areas, it will lead to much greater instability in Afghanistan and a freer hand for the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Washington, too, needs to see results.

Mosque To Be Erected At Norway's North Pole

A Saudi businessman has donated $2.78 million for the construction of the first mosque at the North Pole.

It was reported that the Muslim community in northern Norway asked that the municipality in the region allocate to it 1,000 square meters for a mosque that will be the largest in the north of the country.

Source: Shams, Saudi Arabia, December 6, 2008

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