the future of war
homeexperts' analysesinterviewschronologydiscussion

analyses: who's the enemy?: At the heart of the Army's internal debate over transformation lies the question of its true mission:  what will the next war look like, what will be the new kind of battlefield, and who is the potential enemy?

excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with
richard cheney  |  john hillen  |  major general james dubik  |  lawrence korb  |  general eric k. shinseki  |  andrew f. krepinevich, jr.  |  ralph peters
Richard Cheney

He served as Secretary of Defense in the George H. Bush administration, 1988-1992 and was interviewed here when he was the 2000 Republican vice-presidential candidate. He is now Vice President of the U.S.

read his full interview >

. . . Who are we facing as the potential enemy?

.... We clearly are the preeminent power in the world today. We have advantages that nobody else has, when you think about our military capacities and capabilities. But what I worry about is homeland defense--the notion that somebody who wishes us ill will find other ways to get at our vulnerabilities. And we are vulnerable in so many ways domestically here at home, while we're out there ready to deploy at a moment's notice to the far corners of the globe to beat the bad guys. The bad guys are right here at home looking for ways to bring down our economy, to do damage to our society, and maybe kill millions of Americans. We need to start thinking about that problem--how we deal with it; how we have to shape our expectations that we have for key institutions; what roles they're going to play in our society, if we're going to be equipped to cope with that kind of threat.
John Hillen

He is a former Army captain and a former staff member of the Commission on National Security, a Congressionally appointed independent committee set up to examine national security issues in the 21st century. He has been a defense policy adviser to the Bush 2000 campaign.

read his full interview >

What will we see more of in the future?

More of the sort of thing you saw in Mogadishu in October of 1993. More of the sort of thing you saw with the World Trade Center bombing just a few years ago in the United States. Now we're going to see new modes of warfare, terrorism, guerrilla operations, and low-intensity conflicts. The rules will change. There won't be the old rules about "You're a soldier and I'm a civilian and therefore this is my game and not yours." Soldiers and civilians will be intermixed. And the adversaries fighting the US won't care about the old rules. In fact, they recognize the old rules are a construct that give the advantage to the United States--so why play by them?

...

The army has been a bit naïve, to date, about the role that urban warfare will play in the future. One thing we recognize on the commission as a clear trend of the future is a growing urbanization of the world. So much of the world's wealth and power, even in developing countries, is solely concentrated in these urban areas. And wars have always been, and always will be about centers of power. It does no good to attack the capillaries. . . . You have to attack the heart of the problem, whether it's peacekeeping or war fighting. The heart of the problem will lie in these large urban areas. We're only beginning to see what they'll look like. Lagos in Nigeria and Mexico City are just precursors of this war. We may see megacities emerging over the next half century. The American military will have to prepare for it much more seriously than they have done to date. And that will be painful, because urban warfare is a very labor-intensive and very inefficient style of warfare,

.....

All the rules will be different in the future. You can even see that in a situation like Kosovo, where we sent in the Eighty-second Airborne with a set of rules that didn't apply. When a crowd came and threw snowballs and stones at the Eighty-second Airborne Division, our most hearty warriors had two rules, neither of which fit the situation. They could retreat, or they could shoot to kill. Neither was allowed. And so what happened was a sort of embarrassing combination of a little bit of force used improperly, and then having to pull out completely. A great military superpower like the United States frittered away a lot of capital in that one instance. It's because we had a military that wasn't prepared for an entirely different set of rules.

Something similar happened in Mogadishu in 1993. Many similar things are going to happen in the future. Each case will be different, and we're not necessarily preparing for them. This isn't just a criticism on the American military. It's hard to determine what the future rules are going to be when we don't know what they are. But one thing that we do know for certain is that they will increasingly look less like the rules of the past. . . . And yet still our planning centers are operating within the context of those rules that we know and with which we're familiar. We need to shift a significant amount of our energies towards preparing for the uncertain conflicts of the future in which we're going to have to figure out the new rules right along with everybody else. And we're going to have to take that and shift it away from the conflicts of the past.
Major Gen. James Dubik

He is Deputy Commander General for Transformation at Ft Lewis, Washington and is overseeing the creation of the Army's interim brigades. Dubik is a former infantryman, paratrooper and West Point instructor.

read his full interview >

. . . What is the shape of war in the future?

The name I would put on future war is "variety." The question is not what's the next kind of war--it is that war of many varieties could emerge. You have a situation in the world now such that any potential adversary can buy a niche advantage without very much money, and we want to be in a position so that niche advantage can't be turned against us. We want overmatch. We want overwhelming power. We're not interested in having a fair fight. We're interested in winning.
Lawrence Korb

He is vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, 1981-1985.

read his full interview >

How do you define who the enemy is?

Right now the enemy of the United States and the world is instability. What we need to do is to preserve stability in the world. That stability is threatened in a number of ways. You have the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. You have countries that don't keep agreements like the non-proliferation treaty. You have countries that don't respect the waters of other countries. You have people who defy the laws and standards that are generally accepted by mankind. They wipe out people because they happen to be a certain race, creed, color or religion.

But what we have to do right now is maintain stability in the international environment. The military is one of those devices that we have to do that. We have no peer competitor right now. Our situation is unlike any we had at any time in the twentieth century, when you have the British and then the Germans became a peer competitor. We don't have any peer competitors. Could we have some in 10 to 15 years? Sure, we could, but we don't have anybody right now.

Many people say the most likely candidate would be China, but the fact of the matter is, it would take the Chinese a long time. They'd have to spend an awful lot of money to be able to come up anywhere close to us, and we would have plenty of warning to take the steps that we needed to if that happen. It's an absurd comparison to say that the Chinese military is bigger than the United States military. If you want to attack China, that becomes relevant. But why would we want to attack China? What you need to worry about is the power projection capabilities of the Chinese. They have a few submarines. They try to convert an old Russian aircraft carrier. But these things don't happen overnight. Look who surrounds the Chinese. They've got the Vietnamese on one side. They've got the Russians on the other side. They've got the Japanese.

. . . China, the theoretical peer competitor, is trying to join the World Trade Organization so that they can open up their society and be part of this international system. If the Chinese have a choice, if they want to continue developing economically, they're going to have to join the world, and its going to change them politically. If they change politically, they're not going to be the same type of threat. If they don't join and change politically, they're not going to have the money to modernize their military in such a way that they could become a threat.
General Eric K. Shinseki

Appointed Army chief of staff in June 1999, he is calling for an Army transformation that will better prepare it to fight the new 21st century wars. As part of this effort, he wants to put a brigade combat team anywhere in the world in 96 hours, a division in 120 hours and five divisions in 30 days.

read his full interview >

Look in the headlines for the kinds of things that are happening, whether it's the relations between India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, the Koreas, or southwest Asia. You can see all of those elements of power being employed in a variety of ways, whether they're economic sanctions or political initiatives being used to leverage behavior and stability from the protagonists. If you look at the use of the military as one of those elements, you'll see us in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. And so you see a requirement for those capabilities. If you read the articles in the newspaper closely, you'll also see the emergence of some things that I would call "complicators," for lack of a better term.

I'm talking about organized crime. I'm talking about narcotrafficking. I'm talking about terrorism, and maybe the fourth piece is weapons of mass destruction. All four of those actors seem to be gaining a kind of nexus where organized crime is generating dollars through narcotrafficking, the use of terrorist actors and the employment of weapons of mass destruction. If they come together, they provide a significant capability that we doctrinally don't have a way of describing, intellectually, how we would deal with it today.
Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.

He is executive director of the non-profit Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and also served as a member of the National Defense Panel. The Panel was set up in 1997 by the Secretary of Defense to re-evaluate changing military needs in the new post-Cold War environment..

read his full interview >

...the near-term problem for the army is, how to solve the Task Force Hawk problem--how to get to that austere forward base more quickly. The longer-term problem that the army faces, though, is how to project power, how do move over great distances in the absence of access to forward bases. I think that is going to be the big challenge for the army in the twenty-first century. But when the army gets there, it's probably going to face an environment that's more urbanized.

With the urbanization of the Third World--urban sprawl and so on--the army will likely find itself engaged in more Groznys, Mogadishus, Belfasts, and Port au Princes in the future than rice paddies, mountains and deserts. And so it's going to have to learn to fight differently. Plus, its adversaries will want to fight in that kind of an environment. The urbanized environment is an environment where the value of technology is dumbed down, and where manpower requirements go up. This goes against the grain of the US military, which typically emphasizes technology and tries to minimize the risk to manpower and to the individual soldier.

Finally, in a sense, the army is going to come home again. The army is going to find that the American homeland is going to be increasingly at risk. And this is not only because of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and Cruise missiles to a number of nations. It's also due to the fact that this military revolution is going to empower small groups and individuals.

It's been said that if you have the know-how today to run a baby formula factory, you have the know-how to fabricate chemical weapons. If you have the know-how to run a microbrewery, you have the know-how to fabricate biotoxins. There are long open borders and an open society. That adds to the potential for disaffected groups, whether they be terrorists or perhaps agents of a foreign government hostile to the United States. The threat to the defense of the American homeland is going to grow. That's traditionally been an army mission.
Ralph Peters

A former Army Lt. Colonel and author of several books on the military, he initially was a skeptic of General Shinseki's efforts to change the Army. He is the author of Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?.

read his full interview >

...when you're betting about the future, you've always got to be a bit cautious. But I'm as confident as one can be betting that we are going to see a lot more Sierra Leones, East Timors, Kosovos, Bosnias, Kashmirs, Chechnyas, and Colombias. That doesn't mean we're going to get involved in any or even most or a plurality of them. But inevitably for national interests, or because the genocide is so horrific we cannot stay out, we're going to get involved in some. It's not just the army, but our nation that needs these medium-weight forces.

The Marines do a terrific job. They're a small elite force. They're a bargain for the taxpayer. There are not enough of them. This medium-weight force is not a threat to the Marines. It doesn't even compete with the Marines. The army forces will always be heavier than the Marines, have more logistics, more tail. But the Marines and the army have to work together. We need to learn from what the Marines have done with medium-weight or quasi-medium-weight forces. At the same time, they have to be willing to work with us in good spirit, and not circle their own wagons and feel threatened.

The fact is our ground forces today, Marines and army, are very, very small numerically, and in terms of capability for our global responsibilities. Given the tremendous and potential requirements we face around the world, we have a miniature ground force military.

home ·  experts' analyses ·  interviews ·  army chronology ·  quiz ·  discussion
gore & bush's military agenda ·  readings ·  synopsis
credits ·  tapes & transcripts ·  pbs online ·  frontline

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation


SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Solitary NationApril 22nd

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS