16 December 2008

Secretary Gates Gets It

It's good to see that someone as enlightened as Secretary Gates is remaining in place for the next presidential administration.  Check out what he had to say about some of the shortcomings of the US military in the next few years.  (If you'll note in a number of his interviews, he bestows high praise upon the greatest military strategist of the last few years, Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd).

The secretary expressed frustration over the Defense Department’s budget and bureaucracy, calling them overly committed to conventional modernization programs. He urged balance, as spelled out in the new National Defense Strategy, which gives equal focus to nonconventional capabilities and know-how.

“My fundamental concern is that there is not commensurate institutional support … for the capabilities needed to win today’s wars and some of their likely successors,” he wrote. Gates extended blame to the Pentagon bureaucracy, Congress and the defense industry.

Direct military force will continue to play a role in the prolonged, worldwide, irregular campaign against terrorists and other extremists, Gates acknowledged.

“But over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory,” he said. “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.”

Like the late Colonel Boyd, Secretary Gates is also challenging many of the high-dollar items in the military's budget, instead relying on promoting a more efficient and strategically-minded military leadership, capable of fighting 4th Generation Warfare.  Like Boyd, he reminds us all that there is not always a direct correlation between defense spending and success on the ground.  

With the decline in the power of nation-states and the rise of globalization (and with it, trans-national organizations like most terror organizations), no wonder most nations are finding themselves at their wits' ends trying to combat irregular warfare--be it terrorism, insurgency or piracy.  

"The record of the past quarter century is clear. The Soviets in Afghanistan, the Israelis in Lebanon, the United States in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Smaller, irregular forces -  insurgents, guerrillas, terrorists - will find ways, as they always have, to frustrate and neutralize the advantages of larger, regular militaries," Gates said. "And even nation-states will try to exploit our perceived vulnerabilities in an asymmetric way." 

Defense analyst Sam Brannen at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says Gates has ordered the Pentagon to stop fighting the Cold War. 

"Despite lessons from Vietnam and elsewhere, our military has been almost singularly obsessed across-the-board with fighting another conventional military that would line up on the battlefield and face us and fight us that way," Brannen said. 

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