Defense News reports this week that defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has set new “speed goals” for winning America’s wars. According to staff writer Jason Sherman, “Rumsfeld is challenging the military services to structure themselves to deploy to a distant theater in 10 days, defeat an enemy within 30 days, and be ready for an additional fight within another 30 days.” The new goals, referred to as 10-30-30, will serve as a metric for assessing the warfighting concepts and investment plans of the military services.
Isn’t it a little odd that the Pentagon’s plans for military transformation seem so disconnected from what’s going on in Iraq? Nearly a year after President Bush declared victory and his Pentagon team began crowing about the successes of transformational warfighting, U.S. soldiers are bogged down in the bloodiest month of fighting since the operation began. With the Marine Corps about to roll out plans for transforming itself into a lighter force, maybe it’s time for the big thinkers to take their own “strategic pause” and ask themselves whether they know what they’re doing.
Just about everybody agrees that the military needs to change the way it does business. The Air Force has too many fighters and the Navy needs to rethink the role of surface combatants. The Army is understaffed and lacks critical equipment. But the administration’s answer to these issues, generically called “military transformation,” looks like the last gasp of dot.com mania rather than a balanced response to the emerging warfighting environment. Look at the way its various biases have contributed to the unfolding debacle in Iraq:
Awareness. The Pentagon’s Transformation Planning Guidance says “exploiting U.S. intelligence advantages” is a pillar of transformation. But the missing weapons of mass destruction and our perplexity about how to cope with insurgents show those advantages are exaggerated.
Speed. U.S. forces were so busy racing to Baghdad that they bypassed much of the Iraqi Army. It melted into the countryside, where it now provides the backbone of resistance to coalition forces.
Precision. The reason Germany and Japan accepted defeat at the end of World War Two is that they had been pounded into submission. By substituting finesse for firepower, the Pentagon’s warplan for Iraq neglected the psychological dimension of defeat.
Lightness. Transformational warfighting concepts resulted in an occupation force too small to stabilize Iraq. Troublemakers got the message that U.S. forces were stretched thin, and now the resistance is firmly rooted.
America’s military was overdue for change when Secretary Rumsfeld took office. But military transformation has many possible meanings, and the approach the Bush Administration has taken is too trendy, too politically correct. It’s time to set aside all the network-centric ideology and recognize the many ways in which war has not changed.
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