BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
03 October 2000
BULGING MUSCLES WON'T WIN THE NEXT WAR
In 1631, General Tilly's imperialist Roman Catholic army was
whipped by a significantly smaller force under the command of
King Gustavus Adolphus.
For more than 200 years, the formations Tilly fielded that day -- the Tercios -- had dominated the battlefield. But Gustavus had secretly developed a lean, agile army that struck like lightning -- employing combined-arms teams of artillery and infantry led by a new breed of leaders. Not only did Gustavus win, he revolutionized how wars were fought.
For all of its awesome power, the Tercio was an obsolete, muscle-bound organization -- no match for a more flexible opponent. Only after his butt was kicked did General Tilly realize his Tercio structure wasted manpower, was redundant and could not compete with Gustavus' streamlined killing machine.
Replace the name "Tercios" with the U.S. armed forces and you'll have a clear snapshot of our military in year 2000. An obsolete, bloated, top-heavy force still structured to fight the Cold War. An outfit that won't cut it in the totally different kinds of wars we'll be waging this century.
A truism of war is either change with the times or get whipped. Remember Kasserine Pass? Remember Vietnam?
And look at our recent track record:
* In the war with Iraq, it took the Pentagon five months to field a tank-heavy army that, once deployed, refought World War II -- mass bombing, units on line and virtually every movement controlled by the top. In the end, Saddam Hussein and his army escaped. And nine years later that unfinished war may be back on Page One tomorrow.
* In the recent dust-up with Serbia, it took the U.S. Army six weeks to move a 5,000-man force to Albania -- a force which then proved incapable of fulfilling the hype the Pentagon had put out about what was going to happen to the Serbs when it got there. The air campaign was just as ineffective. Even with smart weapons -- which missed 50 percent of their targets -- and twice as much air power than was initially tasked for the job, air power blew it. After being struck by more bomb tonnage than Ike used against the Nazis at Normandy, the third-rate Serbian army was able to withdraw from the field in fighting shape. It still remains a threat to peace in the Balkans.
Future warfare demands that to win tomorrow, we must invest today in information-age weaponry and develop flexible forces that are light and agile, lean and mean, with max muscle and minimum flab.
In short, we need a military that's as modern and mobile as an FBI SWAT squad.
But neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush has spelled out how to do what Gustavus had the smarts to do 369 years ago. Both talk about throwing more money at the Pentagon but give few concrete details about how they'll reshape the nation's military for future battles.
Both presidential candidates need to know that money isn't the answer, even though it's pure heroin to their porker supporters. Instead, they need to come up with a bold, clear vision to rid the Pentagon of the blubber and bureaucracy and get our defenses ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
What's needed is to execute ideas that have been floating around for decades, ideas such as:
* Consolidating our ground forces.
* Getting rid of the Air Force, returning tactical air to the ground and Naval commanders.
* Reorganizing the Reserves.
* Reducing the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1,000 self-perpetuating bureaucrats to no more than 10 aides.
* Replacing the highly political Joint Chiefs of Staff with a permanent General Staff of seasoned professionals from all services who would deal with all strategic planning and operations.
* Cutting the officer corps by at least 50 percent.
* Consolidating all intelligence services.
* Forming functional forces to handle administration, training, logistics, support, tactical and strategic tasks.
The Pentagon spends more than the rest of the world combined on our military -- preparing for the wrong war and in the process taking care of the porkers and the generals' retirement jobs.
Reforming the Defense Department should have at least the same priority as cleaning up Social Security, education and the environment. If we're whipped on the battlefield, those programs won't mean zilch to the victors. Or to us.