When he was nominated, the Media Mentionables all tut-tutted about how this guy was as old as the Cold War, and could he handle the stress of the job? His agenda was clear and vague at the same time: transform the American military into a force for the 21st century. But nobody (except him and the President) knew what that meant. When Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld began planning the transformation of the military, he excluded the Pentagon’s top generals and admirals from the project. Opposition grew, and drafts of political obits were being circulated. Then he became Secretary of War.
When the movie is made about this war, I hope it’s made by Ahnuld or Clint, and not Oliver Stone. Here’s the first half of the script. America the complacent takes an 8-year vacation from responsibility, during which we pass up not one but three chances to get bin Laden. And then comes 9-11. Soon after, American special ops troops are inserted and make contact with the Northern Alliance. In a few days, urgent calls come in, pleading for airdrops of more satellite telephones, and oats, saddles, and saddle blankets. The airdrops are made under cover of darkness. Farther south, the Pakistanis won’t let U.S. forces be seen using their land to attack a neighbor. So the Marines establish a beachhead near Karachi every night, move mountains of munitions and supplies off ships and planes, and send them into Afghanistan. When the dawn rises each morning, no mark of their presence remains save footprints and tire tracks.
On the day of the big attack, earth-shattering air strikes using precision-guided munitions turn the Taliban fort at Mazar-e-Sharif into a little corner of hell. Before the smoke clears, anti-Taliban forces, including U.S. special forces, charge the fort on horseback. Okay, James Bond already played that scene. But this is exactly what happened, oats, saddles, and all. Presiding over all this is Donald Rumsfeld.
Our European allies, who now whine that Rumsfeld and Bush aren’t consulting with them before making decisions, don’t realize that we’d welcome their help. But their forces are so depleted, they couldn’t do much even if they tried. Which most of them haven’t. If you want to join the fight, you can have a say in what is decided. If you just want to sit on the sideline and criticize, please just shut up. Better yet, study carefully how the Big Dog — Don Rumsfeld — is planning to rebuild and modernize the American military, and do the same for yourselves.
Big Dog came in planning to go slowly, and make up for the Clintonoids’ disregard of defense with some smart management and a little added money. Now, things are moving quickly. He’s faced with a war that is straining our people and our weapons to their limits. Every weapon — a ship, an aircraft, or a rifle — only has so many days of life in them, and it wears out quickly. For example, thousands of wartime hours are shortening the peacetime expected life of F-16s flying combat air patrols over New York, Washington, and the Olympics. Despite all this strain, Mr. Rumsfeld rightly recognizes that this is precisely the time to transform the military.
In the 2003 budget, Mr. Rumsfeld makes some tough tradeoffs. Old systems like F-14 Tomcat and DD-963 destroyers will be retired sooner than planned. Others, such as four Ohio-class missile subs, will be converted. The subs will lose their ICBMs and become special forces delivery vehicles. Much of the nuclear arsenal will be cut. The Navy’s DD-21 “land attack” destroyer and eighteen Army programs will be terminated.
Our Cold War strategies were based on the strengths of the enemy, and our forces were designed to defeat the other guy’s best effort. That’s “symmetric” warfare. Given our strengths, terrorists and others won’t attack in the way we can fight them most easily. They will attack “asymmetrically,” as they did on 9-11. Mr. Rumsfeld’s transformation seeks to rebuild our armed forces on the basis of how an enemy might attack us, rather than how many tanks and troops it would take to defeat a particular army in a set-piece battle. Now we will look more at our vulnerabilities, trying to figure out how an enemy might attack us.
New forces will be built to suit that new understanding. The remaining nuclear force will be one part. Ballistic missile defense and a range of other innovative, and unstated, defenses will be another. There will be defense systems we will never hear about, like cyber-war defenses. Next, advanced conventional capabilities designed around the new kinds of wars we expect to fight. The budget provides for significant growth of Special Operations forces, and purchase of a whole pile of manned and unmanned aircraft, for both reconnaissance and attack. We’ll be launching “smart satellites,” and other space-based systems, which — sooner or later — will include our own hunter-killer satellites. All of this will be in a framework of moving information from sensor to shooter almost instantaneously. The new buzzword — “jointness” — means that our new forces will be designed from the ground up to capitalize on the strengths of each other.
Rumsfeld’s plan fits the Bush Doctrine: from now on, we won’t wait for the other guy to throw the first punch. We won’t wait for another 9-11. When we see a threat coming, we’ll shoot first, and talk later. Thanks to Big Dog, we’ll be able to hit what we aim at. Anywhere, anytime, baby.
Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and now occasionally appears as a talking warhead on the Fox News Channel.