Is the U.S. military properly prepared to provide for the national defense? Gore defense adviser Gordon Adams, retired US Army Col. David Hackworth, former Defense Dept. official Lawrence Korb and Bush defense adviser Stephen Hadley take your questions.
Proctor of Portland, OR asks:
Exactly what enemy do Gov. Bush and others allege our military is unprepared to fight?
It is not clear who the adversary is, from their point of view. In fact, overall, their strategy is undescribed. They seem to want a military that goes nowhere and does nothing, but is mighty strong, just in case an enemy appears. Al Gore's approach is to set out a strategic goal: Forward engagement and global leadership; then tailor our tools to achieve that goal - diplomacy, intelligence, the economy and our military - all of which are global. Better to isolate the problems, deal with them close to the source, solve them before they become crises, and to do so enlisting our friends, allies and even former adversaries, in the process. This is not so much a search for an enemy as the exploitation of an opportunity for leadership.
In the Cold War, our military forces had as their principal objective preparing to deal with a military threat to the United States and its allies from the Soviet Union. Now the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union is gone. But the great irony is that the level of military operations overseas today is up three times over what it was in the Cold War. These are active operations where our military has been engaged in everything from a major military operation in Kosovo to peace keeping operations to counter-drug programs to humanitarian intervention.
The issue of readiness or our "preparedness" to engage in these operations has two parts. First, the list of possible operations is a long one and they will not come one at a time. The questions is how many of these contingencies should the U.S. military be prepared to handle at once? Could the current U.S. military conduct a major military operation such as the Persian Gulf War and still maintain its operations in Kosovo, Bosnia, the skies over Iraq, and its forward deployments around the world? This is a question of both the size of our forces and the adequacy of the military budget.
The second question is whether U.S. forces are "prepared" to conduct these operations in the way the American people have come to expect. We expect our military to perform its operations with maximum effectiveness and minimum casualties. We ask our military not just to succeed but to succeed decisively. This requires military forces that are well equipped, well trained, and well led. This costs money. The question is whether we have provided our military forces with the equipment, training, leadership, and financial support that allows them to meet the high standard that we have set for them.
David Hackworth responds:
That's the essential problem that no one has worked out: What is the threat? When the Cold War ended, everybody said "Oh my God, what are we going to do to justify the $300 billion a year that goes to the Pentagon, because there's no threat out there." And it was Defense Secretary Cheney that came up and said, "Well, let's see, the threat is Cuba and Libya and North Korea and Iraq and Syria and Iran. These are the countries we need to be concerned about." And when you look at the defense budgets of the new "evil empires," their total monies spent for defense wouldn't be 5 percent of what the United States spends each year. We spend, each year, about what the rest of the world combined spends on defense. So, as a result, there's an incredible amount of wasted money.
So what's needed is a really fresh look of analyses saying "what is the threat" and this needs to be done in an objective manner, rather than one of manufacturing an enemy to justify a budget. In my view, we have two threats. One, down the line -- 2020, thereabouts -- is we'll have Communist China. What is needed is a real hard look at what the threat is. We could call that the "high-tech threat." The second aspect, the "low-tech threat," is the kinds of fights we've seen in Somalia, in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti -- mostly insurgency situations. Also, as part of that "low-tech threat," you have a great threat coming from terrorism. You have the local, home-grown terrorist like Timothy McVeigh, who blew up [the Murrah Building in] Oklahoma City. And then you have the international terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, who are even more dangerous in terms of what they could bring to the party in terms of weapons of mass destruction that have come out of the former Soviet Union. Biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons. What we're preparing for now is another Cold War, another Desert Storm, when we're not really addressing real, significant security concerns like China, on the high tech side, and like Colombia and terrorism on the low tech side
Good question. The U.S. military's relative advantage compared to any enemy or potential enemy has never been greater. Bush has not signified who we are not prepared to fight because he cannot. Instead, he talks in vague generalities about the Cold War military.