Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Kagan on Rumsfield

Following porphyrogenitus's lead, read this long article by Fred Kagan on the military transformation and his extraordinary strong dislike of Donald Rumsfield. The article is a nice overview of the current operational capabilities by some parts of the armed forces, and of the current US Military doctrine. The latter is really primarily an overview of the doctrine as Fred kagan sees Rumsfield understand it. It is not entirely clear that this is really what either the Pentagon, DoD, Chiefs of Staff, White House, or even Rumsfield himself see, only what Kagan thinks they see. Some of his thoughts definitely struck a cord with me, as they mirror my own concerns and I have not yet seen anyone address them publicly

The problem with the current program is that it relies on maintaining an overwhelming advantage in a single area of military performance indefinitely. The failure to contemplate having to fight creditable opponents and the imbalance of the effort to transform the military both create serious risks and vulnerabilities for American armed forces in the future.

Indeed. When a couple of M1 tansk were destroyed by russian-made anti-tank missiles, an cry of exasperation seems to have gone up from the observers and the DoD itself. "Iraqis are not supposed to have these weapons. Thus they should not be using them - we did not plan on it." The solution -- threaten Russia to stop supplying such missiles to Iraqis. How exactly were we planning on fighting the Soviet Union then? How do we plan to contain China or N.Korea when both of them undoubetdly have similar weapons? What was the plan?

American desire to preserve lives of its personnel is admirable. I am of drafting age and certainly appreciate a doctrine that would take care not to sacrifice me needlessly. However, precisely because I would be fighting for this country, I would like to know that the General Staff and the Pentagon Procurement offices are not going to just throw their arms up in the air when an inevitable Russian or Chinese weapon makes an appearance.

Having said that, I have to submit that the quest for effeciency Kagan deplores is not by itself at all bad. While Kagan would bemoan the disappearance of redundancy, I would welcome more accountability for taxpayer's money. The real key to everything is planning [ed -- real profound]. The reason Soviet Union was able to produce great tanks and planes in large quantities during WWII was not simply because they matched Germans after 1941. Quite the contrary. They matched Germans before that -- they just did not produce enough of the right kind of equipment and did not train the right strategies and tactics. If USSR had to invent, design, and test the T34 during the war it would have never gotten to that point. Ditto for the Americans. I think the transformation of the military needs to center around more planning and preparedness for all eventualities rather than less. Being able to ramp up production of a any specific munition or armament quickly is incredibly important, and I do not feel that this kind of flexible manufacturing is receving the attention and research it needs. If we have a tested small-scale deployment of a measure or counter-measure for any situation and the ability to quickly create a large number of these armaments and a dispersed group of personnel trained in using these tools and skilled in tactics that apply to using them then we would have achieved a real unified command with a versatile and inherently adoptable Defense Force.

Certainly I am glossing over really huge potholes and I do not mean to imply that the DoD is not currently pursuing these strategies, or that they have not found them useless and therefore discarded them. But Kagan seems to say that they did, and while his sources are definitely better than mine, I think it is a really large statement to make.


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