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
. . . 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.
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.
. . . 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.
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
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
. . . 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.
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.
...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
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
...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
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.
experts' analyses ·
army chronology ·
gore & bush's military agenda ·
tapes & transcripts ·
pbs online ·
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation