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interview: richard cheney

He served as Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, 1988-1992, and was interviewed here while he was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 2000 election. He is now the vice president of the United States.
Governor Bush said the other day that we need to redefine how war is fought and won in the future, and redefine how the peace is kept. What does that mean?

The governor and I share a concern with many other people. We've made some adjustments since the end of the Cold War, but we're still very much a force that's built around those concepts and systems. Those systems and concepts were built to be successful against Soviet force. The planning originally was to have to be able to deal with 100 Soviet-led divisions that would invade western Europe from the inner German border. That meant heavy armor. That meant being prepared to go nuclear, if necessary, with tactical nuclear weapons--if that was what was required--all the way up to all-out global nuclear war. And, of course, that scenario is no longer valid. The Cold War went away; we won. The Soviet Union imploded. And now it's important to replace that with something else.

That process has begun. Colin Powell and I developed a new regionally based strategy when we were in the Defense Department. We started to change the force structure in some fairly significant ways. But I think there's a general feeling--it's certainly one I have, and I know the governor has--that we haven't done nearly enough to look forward, to look at what the force ought to be like 20 or 30 years from now. Looking forward and thinking about the next war is so important, and we don't think that has been adequately addressed.

We interviewed John Hillen, who believes the 2MTW strategy is locking us into a force that's not going to be able to fight the next war. He calls it a "death embrace" with the 2MTW. Do you think it's still valid, or do you think it's flawed?

The two major theaters scenario is certainly a valuable planning device. It's easy to construct a scenario in which you get bogged down. For example, in a Gulf conflict, where you've gone to war against the Iraqis, you could simultaneously have the North Koreans decide to invade South Korea. It's easy to imagine that some hostile power would take advantage of a major commitment some place. So I think that there's absolutely nothing wrong with that notion for planning purposes.

There are all kinds of missions.  I think it's important to remember that committing US troops isn't the only option. You do have to be careful not to assume that you can relax once you've put together a plan to deal with that scenario. Plans never work out exactly the way they were anticipated to work out. Planning is a useful device. It's important for training. It's important for thinking about your forces, what kind of forces you want, what your requirements might be. But you don't want to be hidebound as a result of those plans. You have to be flexible, to innovate, to find ways to deal with the unexpected. All that scenario really does is give you some broad dimensions within which to plan.

The National Defense Panel is coming out with a recommendation that basically says they don't feel that 2MTW is adequate for today's world. They may even come out and say that it should be scrapped.

It depends on what you replace it with. I worry that if you scrap the two-theater war scenario, it really would be a cover for reducing the forces even further; that it would simply be used--by those who don't believe we need a robust military--as a rationale or justification for even further cuts in the defense budget. And frankly, I think that would be a disaster. So to some extent, it's a bulwark against unwise action. But there are other areas that badly need to be addressed. I would agree that there are important things we need to begin thinking about in terms of future threats and future defense capabilities.

I think about the whole need for homeland defense. If there is an area where we have not done nearly enough in terms of thinking about our vulnerability as a society--thinking about how an adversary might want to come at us and attack us--it's in the whole area of vulnerability that we find here inside our continental borders. That's really a new thing for us to think about, especially within the context of the Defense Department. The military historically has not had a significant role in terms of homeland defense. We've always been concerned, because of posse comitatus and other concerns, that we not allow the military any domestic role. We're very careful about how we use even the National Guard. The National Guard, when it's operating domestically, is under the control of the state governors, not the Defense Department.

But think about the possibility of somebody bringing a weapon of mass destruction into the United States, or detonating a nuclear weapon inside the United States, or releasing biological or chemical agents. It's not a traditional kind of attack from an adversary from enemy territory, but it's something that is internally generated. Or think about attacks on our intelligence or energy infrastructure. It is important for us to begin to think about how do we defend against that. How do we collect intelligence against those kinds of threats? Does that then put us in the position where we have to collect data and report on Americans? We've never wanted to do that in the past.

How has the world changed in the past ten years, in terms of the messy conflicts, versus when you were secretary of defense?

When the Cold War ended, that sort of took the lid off. As long as there was conflict between the US and the Soviet Union and the specter of all-out global nuclear war, then other conflicts got bottled up. Or, because of the influence of the two major powers, conflicts didn't arise. You think about Yugoslavia, part of the Soviet bloc. As the Cold War ended, you ended up in a situation where Yugoslavia came apart at the seams. All of a sudden, there's Bosnia and civil war, and the war between the Serbs and the Kosovars and all of the other ethnic conflicts that have arisen in that part of the world.

Now, when we think about various parts of the world, or we see civil wars emerging, such as battles of religion or ethnicity or territory, it's in part because we don't have the bigger conflict to focus on. So now we're more aware of, and perhaps more concerned about those conflicts. Perhaps there's even an increased frequency in those kinds of operations. But what it means is that you don't have as neat an intellectual construct within which to think about how you apply military force; when you would deploy forces; the terms and conditions under which it would be deployed; who the enemy is; what constitutes victory. It's more difficult now to define.

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

We need to have a debate about how we use force and why we use force. I have certain preconceived notions based on my time and experience in the Defense Department. I think everybody has preconceived notions. I am a great believer that you have to be very cautious when you deploy US troops--that you should not do it when you can't think of anything else to do. You need to do it when there is some purpose that can be achieved by the application of military force. You need to do it when there is a strategically vital issue at stake that affects the United States.

You don't do it simply because there are terrible pictures running on CNN of bad things happening to people in some part of the globe. That may indeed be a great tragedy, but it may not lend itself to the commitment of American military force.

In recent years, we have not had that kind of consideration with respect to our deployments. That's one of the reasons we're in difficulty today--we've over-committed the force. And we've put ourselves in several situations around the world where we now have no concept of how we're going to get out, how we're going to end that deployment, and what would constitute victory in that scenario. And those are important questions to ask.

Condi Rice, Governor Bush's advisor on international affairs, said we're not the world's policeman. But we interviewed Fred Kagan, an instructor at West Point. He says if you don't police the world, it's not going to get policed. Isn't it far more difficult to say that we're not going to be the world's policeman when America is now so dominant in the world?

One of the things that drives this whole debate is the modern media's impact. That huge machine is available out there to cover events and have an impact on the debate here at home as to whether or not we want to commit forces. It's a very difficult thing for a president to resist the cries to go and deal with the crisis in Bosnia, or Rwanda, or wherever it might be. . . . If you've got videotape that can run on the evening news, and people can see it on the all-news channels, then you get growing demand in a democracy for action. If you didn't have any videotape on that particular incident, the incident still occurred, and it still happened. But you don't have the kind of public pressure building on the decision-maker about the possibility of using troops there.

So you have to look at this whole question of how we're going to decide when we're going to commit force, and when we aren't. One of the most difficult things any president has to do is to resist the temptation to operate as though we are the world's policeman. I don't think we can go every place, and do everything. I don't think we should try. We have a small force. We're a democracy defended by volunteers. It's important to keep in mind the value and the significance of the relationship between the civilian leader--the president, who is the commander in chief--and the troops. And If you cannot explain to them the strategic significance of their deployment, if you cannot say to their parents, "This is worth the possible loss of your son's life," then you don't have a valid policy. Then you have to back off and think about whether or not that's a proper commitment of resources. It's vital for us to keep that in mind as we think about these questions.

Should we not have gone into Mogadishu? Are there conflicts that we should just stay away from because it's not our business?

Somalia is an interesting case. There are all kinds of missions, and I think it's important to remember that committing US troops isn't the only option. There are other things we may want to do. We may want to be involved diplomatically to try to deal with the situation. We may want to provide humanitarian assistance. We might want to encourage others to provide humanitarian assistance. We might want to encourage others to commit troops. Maybe we go in and provide logistic support, but somebody else actually puts the manpower on the ground. There are different ways that we can respond to a situation. We don't always have to be in a position where we say, "Only troops."

President Bush decided initially to deploy in Somalia because there was a humanitarian mission. You had an absolutely chaotic situation. You had civilian refugee agencies in there who were unable to deliver food and medicine because of the violence that was taking place. We put our troops in, dampened down the violence, and made it possible for the NGOs, the non-governmental organizations, to deliver their services. We thought we had achieved a success.

Then, of course, we left office. The follow-on problems developed when the mission changed. The mission changed eventually to one of taking sides, instead of staying neutral with respect to the factions fighting in the Somalian civil war. And once we took sides and decided to go arrest the leader of one particular faction, Mr. Aidid, then we got into a situation where we had our troops engaged in combat against Somali forces. Eventually, the net result was the battle of Mogadishu, which was very costly for Somalians as well as for Americans, and which ultimately led to our withdrawal.

But I think the key thing there is to keep in mind how the mission involved over time. As long as it was humanitarian, and the people looked at us as being there to deliver food and medicine, we were in relatively good shape; we could carry out the mission. Once we shifted, we sent in Delta Force and some of our special ops people and decided to try and capture Mr. Aidid. Then we clearly became an adversary for one of the major factions there. We were engaged in a civil war, without having really thought about the consequences of that, or why we wanted to do it, or without putting the forces in place that would guarantee victory.

The idea of peacekeeping has come up on several occasions. I interviewed General Jim Campbell at the Tenth Mountain Division. He recalls seeing on the cover of a magazine, "Do you call this soldiering?" And it was a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. And he said, "You're darn right I do." Should we be pulling back from peacekeeping commitments abroad? When Governor Bush says, "We're peacemakers, not peacekeepers," what's the heart of that argument?

We have to be careful not to let our troops be used the same way, frankly, that a lot of other forces are used in the world. A peacekeeping mission is an important mission. There needs to be forces that can carry that out. I happen to think it's best if we've got, for example, the Moroccans or the Bengalis, or the Indians, or some of our other friends and allies in various places around the world willing to commit troops to that kind of a venture.

There are times when we may want to have US forces involved, but those times are relatively rare. The edge we have--our capacity, our military competence, our ability to go to war and project power vast distances around the world--is unique; nobody else can do that. That's not always required in terms of these peacekeeping missions. It's important to husband that resource, and not misuse it, and not get bogged down with all of our combat units somehow committed to peacekeeping.

But I do think it's appropriate, if we are going to send in peacekeepers some place, to suggest that maybe the US ought to have a little specialization of labor here. Let us provide the air support; we're good at that. Let us provide the logistics and some of the intel support; we're good at that. These are things that a lot of these Third World countries don't have--but they have troops. We can provide that essential level of support on the ground, but it would be their men on the ground, their battalions that would go in and actually occupy a particular piece of territory and deal with one of these situations. We'd be committed. We'd be there. But we wouldn't have all of our ground forces tied up in various places around the world on missions that frankly are not of the same high order that we train them for.

Is it simply a question of money? If it were properly resourced, we could then do the entire spectrum? Could we then do everything from small-scale contingencies to peacekeeping? Or are you saying that, even if the money were there, we need to reconsider the way we deploy forces?

We need to reconsider, even if the money were there. It's not just a question of money. I keep coming back to the enormous importance of recognizing the volunteer nature of the service in the US military today. And morale is enormously important, and that degree of trust between the commander in chief and the troops is important. The troops want to know that what they're doing is valuable, that it is worth the potential risk to life and limb for them to go and do that. And that's not true of a lot of so-called peacekeeping missions around the world.

It's also true that a large part of our force is married. They have families. I keep running into what people call the birthday problem. The first time somebody said that to me, I said, "What do you mean, the birthday problem?" He was an active duty officer. He said, "The third time you miss your kids' birthdays in a year because you're deployed, you begin to wonder about whether or not you ought to re-enlist." And we have to take that into account, given the nature of our force.

All kind of things enter into it: morale, housing for the families, good schools for the kids. Ultimately our ability to defend ourselves depends on being able to persuade good people that it's a worth of a piece of their lives, and significant commitment of their time and energy, including possible personal risk, for them to wear the uniform. And if we're sending them off to Timbuktu some place, to some far corner of the globe to deal with a local conflict where they fail to see the relevance, we're going to have trouble retaining them and recruiting them. We eventually run into the situation where they don't perceive that they're part of an organization that . . . genuinely values their service.

. . . Isn't there a moral dimension to foreign policy--that we must go in because this is the right thing to do? Or do we only go in if our strategic interests are threatened?

There is oftentimes a moral dimension to it. I don't think you can draw a line and say, "This is a moral deployment, and this is a realpolitik deployment." Because of the values we have as a society, there are times when the level of concern rises to the point where some kind of an action is appropriate. But you have to resist the temptation to let your indignation, if you will, override your good judgment. You have to remember the cost that is involved. It's very hard sometimes to say, "No, we're going to take a pass; we're not going to get involved in that conflict." . . . And yes, there usually is a moral dimension. Usually, once we make a deployment or get involved, there is an element of morality in the justifications we use as to why we're there and why we're doing it.

Lots of times, it's to defend freedom and democracy, or to restore rightful government and so on. These all take on moral dimensions. I really don't think it's an either/or proposition. But in the broad scheme of things, I'm most interested in having a president who understands the cost of what it means when you commit troops to foreign lands. I want a president who understands what the potential risks are, and that it be the kind of operation that you feel justified in putting lives at risk--that you can explain to their parents when it's over why it was necessary for them to make that sacrifice.

What is the most fundamental disagreement between yourself and your opponents in this race on the use of force in the world?

I have the feeling that they have been more driven by CNN than by a careful, thoughtful analysis of what's in our interest and what isn't. I also think that, to some extent, they've been driven by pressures from our allies that would not have been there if they'd been more reliable in terms of the leadership that they were providing to the Free World. When you've got an American president who's demonstrated his commitment and his leadership, who keeps his word, who has good relationships with our allies around the world, then our allies respect him and our adversaries fear him. Then he can make a commitment about the extent to which we're involved in a particular circumstance, and people will take him at his word.

Some of the deployments in the Balkans were driven by an insistence on the part of our allies that they didn't believe we were committed if we didn't put troops on the ground. If we'd had a steadier hand as we were going through that process, we might have been able to again have them put the troops on the ground. We'd provide the support we can, but we wouldn't have to have American personnel on the ground in the Balkans today.

The Haiti deployment was a mistake. It was an unwise use of US forces. It has produced very little result of any great validity. We were going to go in and quote, "restore democracy to Haiti." Of course, Haiti never really had a democracy before that. But today we've pulled out for the most part. We just have a small handful of people still there. But Haiti is really no better off than it was when we committed 20,000 troops there some years ago.

What phrase would you use in your recommendation as we look at the way we deploy?

I'd say "reevaluation." What we're really interested in is reviewing all those commitments. A lot of them will be kept, without question. But there will be an effort to try to rationalize why we're where we are; to think about the exit strategy. Are we permanently resigned now to the notion that we're going to have a significant number--say, several thousand American troops--permanently in Kosovo? I don't think that's where we want to go. We do need to begin thinking about an exit strategy.

There are a number of areas like that where some new thinking is in order. But this is not an isolationist proposition. That's certainly not my record. It's not the record of any of those people that Governor Bush talks with, such as his advisers, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and so forth. We're all very much internationalist. But we think there is some fine-tuning needed in terms of how the US plays that role and what kind of leadership we provide in the future, as well as what kind of resources we assign to the military. The military clearly has a significant role to play in carrying out those missions.

. . . The Congressional Budget Office just came out with a report that said the military is woefully underfunded. . . . The only item of the budget that they increased was procurement. We've interviewed a lot of people who are saying that you can't just keep pouring that money into the same Cold War weapons systems. Does it make you a little bit nervous that we still keep feeding this legacy force? Even though they're recommending $50 billion more, it's for procurement. When the readiness crisis looms . . . a little money is taken for readiness, and a lot more is taken for weapons. . . .

I haven't seen the CBO study yet. Part of the difficulty is that they have really short-funded procurement. Bill Owens, a very thoughtful and talented officer . . . was my military assistant when I became secretary; and later, was vice president of the Joint Chiefs. He probably is as knowledgeable as anybody in the business about some of the things that might be done to do things differently in the Pentagon. He's made an estimate that the budget may be $150 billion undercapitalized. That's a huge number. It is based on the fact that a lot of the procurement budget in recent years has been diverted to support a lot of these deployments, and diverted to make up for the shortfalls in the readiness accounts.

So we've been eating our own seed corn, in a sense. Procurement is the money you're investing for the future. There are two ways to look at that future investment. One is buying tanks and planes and ships--the hardware you need to replace the stuff that's wearing out. The other important part to look at is building those new systems that you hope will be different and better and able to carry the fight to the enemy 50 years from now. Those new technologies, the R&D spending, becomes an important part of the planning, and ultimately feeds into procurement.

We do need to think about how we invest in new technology--how we take advantage of the revolution in information technology, for example--and feed that into the force and use it. . . . Vast numbers of our vehicles in the US military don't have Global Positioning System units on them . . . yet many recreational boats have them. We have not made that investment in enormously valuable pieces of equipment that are cheap, and take advantage of modern technology. Those kinds of things aren't happening and they do need to happen.

The procurement debate turns, in part, over which airplane to buy? We've got several of them in the pipeline now. We've got the F-18E and F-18F models for the carriers. You badly need to have a naval aircraft if you're going to have carriers; it doesn't do any good to have carriers without airplanes on them. You need the F-22 for the air force. That's the next-generation air superiority machine. You've got the joint strike fighter in the works, which is supposed to provide a ground attack capability for all the services. There are a lot of systems out there. The V-22 Osprey takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane. That's going to cost the Marines a lot of money. And partly what they're saying is that it's not clear at all how we're going to pay for all of that if we leave things as they are--if we're walking down that road and saying, "We've got to have all of these systems."

We're going to be spending half a trillion dollars on the Super Hornet, the S-22 joint strike fighter. Should we go forward with those?

. . . You put yourself in a position of either choosing among those, or coming up with a lot more money, or leaving some very important area uncovered. The joint strike fighter is not as far along as the others. The F-22 is about ready to go operational now. It's in production. We've done virtually all the R&D. It's a great airplane. There's a big investment there. It will probably guarantee us air superiority for the next 50 years.

And you need a carrier force if you're going to have aircraft carriers. We've got a dozen aircraft carriers. The F-18 has the advantage at least of being a lot cheaper than the other stuff, because it's an upgraded version of the old F-18. It was built on an old system of design. You've probably got to go with at least some of both of those items. Maybe you can find ways to reduce the buy; which has the effect of increasing the cost of each unit, as happened with the B-2. You end up with 20 B-2s, and they each cost $2 billion.

These are very tough problems. I don't think, though, that you can simply go in and say that we're going to cancel any one particular system. I need to sit down and look at it. And if I had to make the decision and go to two from three, I'd have to spend some more time looking at it. I'd want to talk to the services. I'd want to hear what they've got to say. I'd want an assessment of what we can do with the F-16. The F-16 has been a great aircraft. It's got a lot of the capabilities that they plan to build into the joint strike fighter. Can we get another generation out of upgraded modernized F-16s? We're producing a lot of those. They're in service all over the world. It is a great airplane. And maybe we can solve our ground attack problem by continuing to build F-16s for the next 10 years, instead of going immediately to the joint strike fighter.

Some people say that these are Cold War legacy systems, which were built for a different world.

They are clearly based on technology we already have, or we wouldn't be building them. But a good reason for going with the F-18 is that it simplifies your deck load on an aircraft carrier. You get down to basically one airplane that can perform all the missions around the carrier; that saves significantly on your maintenance and your spare parts inventories. It becomes cheaper to operate the system. You get rid of the F-14s that are on the deck now. You get rid of the A-6s and some of the other aircraft that you no longer will need, because the Hornet can perform all those missions. So ultimately, you end up with a more efficient carrier unit.

The other thing to keep in mind here is the timelines that we're talking about. That next generation of technology we want to bring in and put on the force is a 20-year proposition. It takes so long to design and build new systems, and to get them into the force. You can't do it overnight. You have to have something between now and 2010 and 2015; you can't just scrap all of that capability. It takes about nine years from the time we authorize an aircraft carrier until the time it's ready to go to sea. That shortens the time horizons unless you build a program totally in the black, as we did with the F-117. But the F-22 has been in the works since before I was secretary, and that was 10 years ago. It's just now getting to the point where we're going to begin to have some units flying with the F-22.

These are long time horizons in building and developing the technology; incorporating it in a weapons system; developing the operational doctrine for how you're going to use it; training people for what the mission is, and how it can be used in the mission. So you can't just shut off today and say we're not going to buy anything else. You clearly need to make sure you can fill that gap until we get to whatever it is we're ultimately going to.

General Bob Scales, who was commandant at the Army War College, said that the Gulf War was the last great industrial age war.

I don't know what the next war is going to be yet. The Gulf was clearly an industrial age war, without question--look at the Iraqi forces, and the US forces that we brought to bear, the equipment we used, and so forth. We had the advantage of having geared up to fight the Cold War, and then we got to go use that capability in the desert against Iraq. Will there be another war that will take on that size and scope? I'm inclined to think, probably not, but I don't know. I really don't know.

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.

Getting back to this idea of the world's policeman. . . [what about] the idea that if you don't put out the brush fires they turn into big fires? Does that also have to be a part of our thinking?. . . Do we have almost an obligation to do that?

You have to think about that. Clearly, you have to evaluate a situation. You want to assess if you didn't intervene, is it going to get out of hand and expand into some larger conflict? But I think you have to evaluate that on a case-by-case basis, and not every conflict is going to ultimately emerge into a big war. Not every conflict is resolvable. And there are consequences of committing US forces as the world's policeman, if they're going to have to go stay there forever. If we're talking about a 50-year commitment, or a 100-year commitment, to separate the Serbs from the Kosovars in Kosovo, is that something we want to commit to? Should that be a US role?

Who have we got in our military who wants to go spend the rest of their career patrolling the hills of Serbia to keep the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosovo from killing each other? Not every problem is solvable. And we have to make tough choices, and we live in an imperfect world. I'm more reserved, I guess, than Mr. Kagan about the extent to which we want to embark on that kind of policy. I think we have to be careful.

I'm more skeptical about whether or not we always know what's best for everybody else. There is a bit of a temptation for us to want to come in and want to think the rest of the world wants to live like we do, and they're willing to trust us to make decisions for them. And that's clearly not the case.

Sometimes people have to be allowed to make their own mistakes. No matter how smart we think we are, we're not smart enough always to understand the other person's point of view; or to understand why some of these conflicts have lasted for centuries; or why people are killing their neighbors today over slights suffered 200 years ago by their grandparents. So we have to be a little cautious about intervening simply because we have the power to intervene. We might not always know how to intervene intelligently in a way that's going to, quote, "resolve a conflict."

The efforts to make a new army force that is quicker with combat power begs the question then of national purpose. If you have a force that can land so quickly with so much power, you're going to use it. And is that something we want? Is transformation in this direction a good idea or not?

No. Let's come back to this notion that we don't always know what's best, or even assume we have the power to intervene. Do we know what purpose we want to intervene for, or what the ultimately outcome is going to be? I think it really does go to this question of national purpose. And that's really a decision that civilians have to make.

I don't expect the chief of staff of the US Army to be charged with addressing that issue. He might have views on it. We might want to know what he thinks about it. His job is to build force, and when ordered, to deploy the force and use it. But it's up to us civilians in all walks of life, the congress, and especially the president and his national security team, to make the decisions about when it is appropriate to use the force--when it is consistent with our national purpose; what our purpose is, what our strategy is, and why we should intervene in a particular set of circumstances.

In what ways do you feel we have a military in decline that lacks readiness?

There is a lot of evidence out there. Some of it is anecdotal. I talk to a lot of people still on active duty who tell me about the state of affairs internally. When I was running Halliburton, retired senior officers came to work for the company. And I get phone calls. I had one last week from a guy who commanded one of the divisions in Desert Storm and at one point ran the National Training Center in California. He keeps up with what's going on at the National Training Center, where we train our tank crews. And they're having real trouble.

I look at the data that's produced by the Defense Department itself. The air force readiness rate went down from 85 percent down to 65 percent. An army report shows that 40 percent of our army helicopters aren't combat ready. I look at the GAO study of 1,000 young officers and enlisted men, with over half of them getting ready to get out because they don't want to stay.

The fact of the matter is that readiness has declined significantly. It's affecting everything. It's affected morale and spare parts and training, and our ability in the future to conduct future conflicts. Most of all, though, as morale declines, it's a corrosive thing in a volunteer force, because we won't be able to retain the kinds of people we have to have if we're going to have a really first-rate military. And that counts for more than money; that counts for more than weapons systems--it goes to the heart of how we defend ourselves as a democracy.

I keep coming back to this notion: people think and say, "Well, it's okay that we don't have the spare parts, because the Russians are in worse shape for spare parts." That's not the point. The point is, if you don't have the spare parts, that young mechanic out there on the flight line who's charged with maintaining that F-15 can't do his job. If you are being deployed on missions that take down the readiness because you're off doing other things, and those missions are not understandable to the troops, and they don't really understand why they're there and what they're doing, that affects morale; they won't reenlist. If you've got the pilot who's not getting the flying hours because the aircraft is not maintained, and he isn't up and ready, he's going to quit and go fly for United.

The whole readiness question isn't just a question of whether we're ready to go to war tomorrow against Russians. It is a question of whether or not you're maintaining the force in a manner that's consistent with the expectations we have for those people who are serving in it. Do they believe we care enough to give them the resources we ask them to do for us? Or are we short-changing the force so much by devoting money to other purposes? Are we misusing the force by committing it in areas where it shouldn't be committed? Eventually, will they come to question the value of their service, and decide not to serve?

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