Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 28, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

DON RUMSFELD AND TRANSFORMATION....Donald Rumsfeld's vision of military "transformation" is not a left-right issue. Rather, it's a technocratic issue: what's the most effective way for America to wage war? Rumsfeld believes the answer is a lighter, faster, higher-tech military that can be dispatched more quickly to the world's trouble spots and do more good when they get there than our existing military.

I don't have a problem with that. Or rather, I should say that I don't know enough about the technology of war to have an opinion one way or the other. What I do have a problem with isn't the specific program that Rumsfeld is promoting "Future Combat Systems," or FCS but with the fact that it was developed years ago and neither 9/11 nor Iraq seems to have influenced Rumsfeld's thinking about it one whit. As Fred Kaplan puts it:

If your guide to this future is the first 30 days of the war in Iraq, then the vision of transformation that underlies FCS might seem appropriate. However, if your guide is the subsequent two years of combat, then the vision seems out of whack.

It hardly seems conceivable that a military vision developed in the 90s would survive 9/11 virtually unscathed, and it seems downright lunatic that it would go on to survive our experience in postwar Iraq. FCS was designed to fight relatively conventional wars against massed troops, and while we still need that capability, there are now at least two capabilities that are rather more urgent: (a) asymmetrical warfare against stateless terrorists and (b) robust peacekeeping forces to take over after the FCS-equipped Army has routed whatever enemy it's put up against.

As it happens, the Army is distinctly unenthusiastic about becoming a peacekeeping force. But whatever else you can say about Don Rumsfeld, one of his undoubted virtues is that he possesses the kind of bullheadedness it takes to force change on a recalcitrant military bureaucracy. It's too bad he insists on using it in service of a vision that's been essentially obsolete for more than three years now.

UPDATE: Brad Plumer argues persuasively that Rumsfeld doesn't even possess the virtue of effective bullheadedness. I stand corrected. I guess he just sucks in every possible way.

Kevin Drum 11:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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