the future of war
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a u.s. army firing excersize
discussion: what are your reactions to this report on remaking the u.s. army into a fighting force for the 21st century? what will future wars look like and how should we prepare for them?

Dear FRONTLINE,

It seems strange that I saw a "dampening" of U.S. Forces. It is true but that is mostly for political manners. One of our big advandages since the Civil War was just hitting them with more than could hit back with by production. Ever time we have played around like "just punch him but don't kill him", we have paid alot for it like Vietnam, Korea, or now where we are in the conflicts we are in. I do see the problems with the M1 but we can fix that without getting rid of them. How about increasing, and reorganize the supply and support network for quick deployment. And the Engineering section as well. Maybe new air transport gear to move in a brigade of M1's say in 10-14 days with enough supplies to stay in battle for up to 2-3 weeks with the support group attrached. And a way to continue to supply from air. Still keep the new force mentioned in the show. They could fastly deploy know that M1 where already on the way over. With a fast deployment option of heavy units, even if the new force got into trouble, or ran into heavy units, they would have a extra force advantage over any other force. Creating a fast airable heavy unit would need new ship and airplane transport unit types. It always better to have too much power than too little in battle.

Robert Clouse
Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

Interesting as far as it went but you hardly scratched the surface as far as unconventional threats. Where were the interviews with virologists and chemists? What about all the missing soviet scientists that used to work on the USSR's bio-warfare programs? What about all the genetically engineered anthrax they left behind in virtually abandoned - and now poorly guarded - labs? What about the under-paid Russian guards who could be bribed with a pair of blue jeans to look the other way?

However impressive the Army transformation efforts appear, they remind me of nothing so much as the Japanese preparations during WWII for the final American assault on their homeland: They trained all the civilians in Hiroshima to fight with bamboo spears. The real threats of the future are as unimaginable today as radiation sickness was to the fisherman of Hiroshima. Snipers are the least of our worries.

We are so willing to spend billions of dollars - and our finest minds - dreaming up new horrors and the tactics to 'defeat' them, all to defend the status quo. When will we be wise enough to spend the same money and brain-power righting the injustices in the world that make mass slaughter seem an attractive option? Money spent to prevent war - by mitigating the cause of war - is truly defense spending.

Brian Garvey
Austin, Tx

Dear FRONTLINE,

I Agree with the Army Chief of Staff that we need to think about fighting a future war instead of fighting the past one. However, the one thing that everyone seems to be forgeting is that without the manpower people power if you prefer none of their plans will work. The active forces are losing people in droves, so the reliance on reserve forces is growing at an alarming rate. And now the reserves are losing people because of extended deployments, no benefits, and the general treatment of the reserves by their active counterparts. As a retired member of the reserve, I have seen many good people leave because they are treated as second class citizens by the regulations. Instead of spending extremly large amounts of money on advanced weapons systems, try spending some of it on benefits for the service members. And if you are going to rely on the reserves, start providing them with the incentives to stay in. Allowing them full access to commissaries would be a good start, or near to my heart allowing them to start drawing their retirement pay immediately at retirement instead of waiting until they are 62 would probably do wonders.

Marc Murphy
Wasilla, Alaska

Dear FRONTLINE,

From a Canadian perspective, it is really quite interesting listening to the reasons and arguments for how the US Army should direct it's resources for the 21st century and what missions the army is to participate in. Our Armed Forces of 60,000 have been tasked in Peacekeeping missions since the 60s in multiple global theatres even with annual budget reductions. Equipment for our land forces is now slow being upgrade from equipment bought in the 1960s into order to response quickly to various roles and missions. Most soliders in the land element with spend usually 12 months away on missions even two years. With regards to George W. Bush's ideas that the US should not be involved in Peacekeeping is simply off the mark. As the largest remaining superpower, the US should be using its role as World Policeman in more UN missions. On a final Canadian patriotic note, it does give one a sense of pride seeing US Forces using Canadian built and owned COYOTES and LAV IIIs in Fort Lewis WA.

Robin Austen
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm afraid to acknowledge that Frontline has sunk to the level of all the other quasi-investigative mass media consent-manufacturing pap we are bombarded by.

If any of your producers can explain with a straight face how our culture is enhanced by having an annual military budget in excess of $300 billion with a B, I'll gladly reconsider my less than enamored view of the selling out of Frontline.

Show me the proportional threat anywhere in the solar system. We commit more funds, personnel and vital national resources to the military/industrial complex than our ten largest potential foes combined.

And our "elected" millionares, I mean officials
get in line to hand contract after contract to the some of the most corrupt, most often fined, worst polluting cadre of industrial statists on the planet. Despite all that, all Frontline can come up with is to question whether our ability to fight two major wars simultaneously is relevant to all the other reforms the military needs.

Perhaps the obviously indoctrinated, love America or leave it dinosaurs that have flooded your discussion area can ignore reality because its their sacred cow that should and would be gored if our entire system of governance actually operated with peace and social justice for all as its guiding principals. Or even informed consent? But I certainly can't!


tim bauman
portland, or

Dear FRONTLINE,

My concern is that once we don't have tanks, then all the enemy
has to do is to fall back on using tanks. Our guys will be the ones hiding in buildings and alleys and if the enemy has no compunction about inflicting casualties on noncombatants, he could use biological or chemical weapons, or just blast the entire place with tanks and artillery. The enemy does not have the same limits as we place on ourselves.

On thelarger policy issues, we probably can't be the world's policeman even if we wanted to, but on the other hand, there is the thinking that we cannot claim to be a superpower if our armed forces are purely defensive. Also, while we might be able to keep troubles in check for a while, historically,
it might make for a greater war or time of chaos if our vigilance should slacken---just as regional/ethnic differences are being felt in the former
Soviet Union. It might be part of morality that we have to at least try to do something instead of letting everything run amok.
Also, from history,
we want to be strong so that if a future Hitler should ask for
Czechoslovakia in return for peace, we don't have to agree and cite how our national security is not threatened by such a move when the real reason is
that we are not ready to fight.

Finally, I wonder what would have happened had there been a ground war in Yugoslavia. Would it have actually
strengthened Milosevic's hold or would he have been ousted as he is now and how stable is the region now versus the aftermath of a ground war? I wish the program had been longer.


Leonard Wyler

Dear FRONTLINE,

An interesting show for sure. The USMC currently provides this medium-infantry capability with LAVs nonetheless and has integrated air assets to provide anti-tank capability. It is good that the Army is being re-invented but it seems a decade behind.

What on earth does a Senator know about capabilities of wheeled versus tracked vehicles? It is ridiculous that the Chief of Staff has to fight off the lobbyists/defense contractors in his efforts to lighten up the Army. As a last point, all training that is done in air conditioned rooms/with lasers is incomplete until validated by live fire.

Tim V

Dear FRONTLINE,

I don't know why the US Army has not incorporated the LAV into its system. I remember when when the 9th infantry was made into a motorized division but then later deactivated. The LAV would be a good addition to the US Army arsenal. I wonder what the other division was labeled as a Cat 4 division. I wonder if it was the good old 4th Inf Div.

I remember when I was we spent more time about looking pretty then actually doing real training. I can tell you this from my prespective as a medic in the army. I wonder how concerned the US Army is about the training of its medical personal.

I was assigned to an Engineer Battalion and it was nearly impossible for me to setup any type of training for my troops. When we went to NTC it was a complete waste of time for medical personal. The Chief of Staff should be also concerened about the training of medical personnel in the US Army.

Sean S
Altadena, Ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

I appreciate the candor and harsh picture you shed of OUR Army adrift, fighting to find it's way through a "constrained" transformation. It's apparent to me after ten years as an Army Armor officer and some significant individual research, that the hands-off approach our political leadership has taken to the military has reached a true crisis of proportions we've never experienced before in the history of the United States.

Our political and military leaders have maintained a continued reluctance to shed the 2 military theaters of war MTW strategy that was first developed at the conclusion of the cold war. This 2 MTW strategy coupled with a desire to stem the world's bloodshed as a policeman to all has frazzled the ranks and is directly attributable to the poor condition of morale, in the force today. We pay for continued deployments to far away lands that may not be in the national security interests of our country with quality of life, and research & development dollars not to mention the lives of airmen in Dharran and sailors in Yemen.

I agree with GEN Shinseki that the Army needs to leap ahead to ready itself for the next war so that we won't have to fight another Task Force Smith Korea or Ia Drang Vietnam or Moghidishu Somalia. However, I know that he is constrained by the political leadership and available resources, of which there aren't many after you figure the costs of deployments to over 25 countries world-wide. GEN Shinseki is simply attempting to make lemonade of the lemons that he's been given in the construct of an administration that has been all too laissez-faire in it's dealings with the military.

What this country, our military and our men in unuiform need is a decisive strategic policy and money to back it up. Only then will we see a resurgence in the military's morale, and pride of ownership of America in it's military.

VOTE AMERICA on November 7th, it really does matter to those of us in uniform!

Frustrated Army Armor Captain
Fort Irwin, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program, in its very premise, shows a bias towards the notion that war is either the correct way to deal with problems or at least an inevitability. We spend billions on preparing for war, yet efforts to achieve peace are limited to diplomacy during crises. We can address the conditions that create wars by recognizing legitimate concerns of discontented societies and by teaching both the power of peaceful techniques, such as Gandhi's and Martin Luther King's, and the lessons of the horrors of war. Those who would follow another would-be Milosevic deserve this opportunity to avoid plunging their country into such a deep mistake -- before America feels compelled to bomb them or deploy its newly agile and lethal forces.

Thomas Marshalek
Bloomington, IN

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am very disappointed in this Frontline show because it is slanted toward a "democrat" point of view as to what our military policy should be. The democrat anaylsts had more air time and the last word. How do you go about selecting your "experts" for these shows? Although you gave both sides air time, the way the clips are presented gives the impression that Al Gore is on track and George Bush is not. Was this supposed to be a political show or an educational show? We had one general's point of view and there are many points of view on this issue within the military. This is a very important issue and it deserves an unbiased , in-depth look. This show did not achieve that goal.

Melanie Thomas

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a soldier assigned to an Infantry brigade combat team with the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault, I really enjoyed "The Future of War". When you live the Grunt life in the field, you learn very quickly just how much equipment you CAN'T carry on your back! Much of the focus on tomorrow's Army is on some sexy new technological marvel that doesn't adhere to the K.I.S.S. principal. The first Landwarrior model was a good example. It was SO heavy, an average Infantryman couldn't carry it all plus his survival load. Fortunately, this project allowed for some early field testing that revealed it's fatal flaw. Now, it's lighter, more efficient, and perhaps more effective, and lots of good ideas have sprang up as well.
I'm greatly encouraged by what I've heard from Gen. Shenseki. He seems to have a very down to earth attitude about what America needs from the Army, and what soldiers need from the Army. As an officer rises in rank, and begins putting stars on his collar, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember what matters to someone digging a foxhole that he hopes will keep him alive. Gen. Shenseki knows that it is the people that make the military, and that the right vehicle to get them to the fight doesn't matter if they can't win when they get there. Many thought our country was about to come to a screeching halt when he announced we were leaving the M1 Abrams behind same goes for the Black Beret thing :o but it seems We were just resting on our D.S. laurels. My two biggest worries are: 1We have to fight someone like the Chechins or the Viet Cong, or 2We have to grab Taiwan back from the Chinese on their front porch. None of these groups are scared of casualties in war. They know We don't have the spine for a long bloody war. Smart bombs aren't smart enough. They can't tell citizen from partisan. This is the joe's job, and it hasn't changed much. It probably never will.

Spc Poe
A co, 1/502 INF

Patrick Poe
Ft. Campbell, KY

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I applaud the military for attempting to address an apparent imbalance in its force structure. The problem is that the proposed transformation relies on the perceived threat actually appearing. What if they are wrong a heavy conventional force is needed? The size of the military at its mission is the primary problem, along with the obligations we have to our allies. The current size of force, treaty obligations, and mission creep are incompatible. The mission has to be clearly stated and then a force designed to carry out that mission can then be created. The current level of peace keeping operations is unsustainable. The average american won't join the all volunteer force if it continues and the public won't continue to support them on an ongoing basis. Americans have never like and supported a centurian military occupation army and never will. The current peace keeping missions are leading to this and the average american will not support it for long. This will be particularly true if some battalion or company gets wiped out in some samll town that americans view as worthless peace of ground, and that the sides were separating want to keep fighting. Question What happens to this grand scheme then?

James Reeves

Dear FRONTLINE,

Frontline presented only a one of the many dilemmas facing the US Army today, and yet, the "Transformation" dilemma will prove to be the easiest to resolve. This is because, in large measure, its resolution lays in material or equipment selection.

The major dilemma that faces the Army is one of leadership or rather its lack of effective senior leadership. The effects of this lack of leadership routinely grace the nation's newspapers and periodicals, for example: the many reports of junior officers opting to leave the Army in increasing numbers; plus the tales of an Army where a "Zero Defects" mentality holds sway among senior officers to the detriment of the development of junior officers and NCOs; or the growing morale problem among the troops who perceive that their senior officers are unwillingly to speak up for average soldier; along with the erosion of the warrior ethos in favor of political correctness, in where it has been reported that soldiers spent more time in "sensitivity training" sessions than they do on a rifle range.

These problems cannot be resolved by covering them, like the Army will soon do, with a new hat. No, resolution lies in providing leadership, which is something that I fear in is short supply amongst the Army's generals.

James O'Keeffe
Upper Arlington, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a former sodier in the 82nd Airborne Div., I am truly glad that there is a clear focus on future preperation and planning. It is good to know history. It is neccesary to be strong. It is wise , however, to prepare for future contingencies before the price of experience is paid in human life. It is this forethought that will prevent surprise. My hat is off to Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki. I hope his pursuit is expedient. There are American sodiers counting on it.

Kim Shrauner
Yellville, AR.

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