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[infowar.de] Bill Arkin zum neuen "Defense Planning Guidance"
LA Times, July 14, 2002
The Best Defense
A classified planning document describes bold new weapons and preemptive
strategic offensives. But will it lead to the kind of world we want to
By WILLIAM M. ARKIN
WASHINGTON -- Out of nowhere, undetected by radar until too late, a U.S.
missile flying at 10 times the speed of sound plunges into an
underground bunker and explodes with shattering force. Overhead,
unmanned fighter jets swarm in to spoof and pillory--pilotspeak for
deceive and punish--enemy air defenses so that other unmanned aircraft
can deliver lancet-like small bombs on individual targets.
Such an attack, and the advanced weapons needed to carry it off, lies at
the heart of a classified document signed by Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld on May 3--the Bush administration's latest "Defense Planning
Guidance." Distributed to senior leaders in the armed forces to shape
their planning and budgeting in the coming decade and beyond, the
document shows just how drastically Rumsfeld and other senior civilian
leaders have changed their thinking since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
on New York and the Pentagon.
Pushed aside is the earlier preoccupation with antimissile defenses,
space-based weaponry and other programs designed primarily to protect
the United States against foreign aggressors. Instead, the new emphasis
is on a far more interventionist, proactive strategy in which the United
States would stand ready to strike militarily around the world wherever
and whenever it thought its security might be threatened.
The new strategic watchword is called "forward deterrence," and the
tactical instrument of choice would be what the Defense Planning
Guidance calls "unwarned attacks." What those catch phrases mean in
practical terms is a new and expanded commitment to the creed of distant
warfare--an Afghanistan fighting force on steroids.
"Our challenge in the 21st century is to defend our cities, friends,
allies, and deployed forces--as well as our space assets and computer
networks--from new forms of attack, while projecting force over long
distances to fight new adversaries," Rumsfeld wrote in Foreign Affairs
What that means to the administration in concrete terms is spelled out
in the new document: Rumsfeld envisions the U.S. military as a global
strike force capable of unilateral action anywhere, any time, with
minimal risk to American lives.
To be sure, the plan continues to support development of antimissile
defense and means of countering so-called "asymmetric threats" posed by
foreign powers that cannot challenge the United States in conventional
military terms but may be able to inflict serious casualties through
terrorism, say, or weapons of mass destruction. It also gives rhetorical
support to homeland defense.
But these priorities have been overshadowed by more dramatic departures
from past American policies--departures that deserve more attention from
the public than they have gotten.
In his own words, what Rumsfeld wants the military to focus on is
developing weapons and forces capable of undertaking "unwarned strikes
... [to] swiftly defeat from a position of forward deterrence."
>From the air, that means development of a "high-volume precision
strike," using large quantities of smaller, more precise munitions, many
of them delivered by unmanned aircraft. For other services, the new
doctrine means greater emphasis on collecting intelligence about
possible enemies and the threats they could pose, new techniques for
waging cyber-warfare against communications and information technology
systems, and greater emphasis on the Special Forces.
During its less than two years in office, the Bush administration has
traveled several paths in its thinking about the military and national
security. First the emphasis was on missile defenses, space,
intelligence and information technology. Then came "homeland defense"
and the war in Afghanistan, followed by President Bush's State of the
Union address that focused on the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
Now, in his more recent declaration, Bush announced that the United
States would adopt a strategy for preempting, rather than deterring,
potential adversaries. It is this doctrine of preemption that Rumsfeld's
Defense Planning Guidance reflects.
The military is directed to make cyber-warfare a "core competency" and
resolve outstanding legal and interagency issues relating to offensive
computer network attack. In space, the document directs the military to
develop cyber, laser and electronic warfare capabilities to deny any
adversary use of space. Special operations, particularly covert
capabilities, are stressed. Better intelligence is called for to provide
"sufficient warning of an impending crisis" and to "identify critical
targets for an effects-based campaign."
The war in Afghanistan demonstrated the usefulness of unmanned drones,
and so the document calls for a squadron of 12 unmanned combat air
vehicles to be deployed by 2012. These unmanned armed fighters would
have the ability to fly into enemy airspace and deliver a variety of
weapons without risking American crews.
A Mach-10 hypersonic missile is called for by 2009. Hypersonics would
truly be the next leap for airpower after the age of supersonics. Air
Force briefings have described a laser-propelled or hydrocarbon-fueled
weapon able to traverse 600 nautical miles in 15 minutes or less.
Such a weapon could be cued from space platforms to strike at mobile
missiles, such as the Iraqi Scud missiles used during the Gulf War,
within minutes of launch--before the missile launchers had a chance to
The new document calls for better American capability to strike
"hardened and deeply buried targets" in three rogue nations
simultaneously. This includes building up special operations
capabilities and cyber-warfare, as well as accelerating the development
of a "survivable" earth penetrator fitted with an existing nuclear
warhead. Laser and other "directed energy" weapons such as high-powered
microwave weapons are also called for to attack underground targets
impervious to explosive attack, troops and computer and communications
In describing the new planning document, a senior defense official
stressed that it is consistent with the transition from traditional
"attrition" warfare to an "effects-based" approach that seeks quick
paralysis instead of step-by-step destruction. "You realize your
adversary is himself a networked operation," the senior official says.
"You look for ways to break down that network and to ensure [it] can't
function. If you do it properly and if you do it well, you develop ...
battle space superiority over your adversary that is unrivaled."
It all sounds very impressive. And technologically it is. No target on
the planet or in space would be immune to American attack. The United
States could strike without warning whenever and wherever a threat was
perceived, and it would be protected by missile defenses, a new
Department of Homeland Security and a transparency in the world that
Rumsfeld and others expect to come as a result of greater investments in
space, intelligence and information technology.
And the new approach is said to carry the priceless advantage of the old
Cold War deterrence strategy: If pursued vigorously, it would never have
to be used. "We must develop new assets, the mere possession of which
discourages adversaries from competing," Rumsfeld says.
So what's the problem?
The answer has two parts.
The first is that the American military is already deep into the process
of transforming itself for the post-Cold War era. It is a slow,
difficult process that tries to balance the varied and conflicting
requirements that the future may bring. Covert Special Forces and the
quick-strike capabilities of light infantry and precision air power
working in conjunction brought quick success in Afghanistan. Heavier,
more powerfully armed and armored conventional forces might be needed
against an enemy such as North Korea or Iraq.
Though Rumsfeld's new plan nominally embraces "transformation," it may
actually complicate and impede the process. Perhaps surprisingly, after
the cool relationship that existed between President Bill Clinton and
the military, Rumsfeld's relationship with the services is not good. He
and his close advisors are seen as willfully isolated, enamored of
secret operations and decision-making, beguiled by a "painless
dentistry" approach to war and almost ideological in their attitude
toward intervention. The imbalances in the new Defense Planning
Guidance, coupled with the growing gulf between senior officers and
senior civilians--not over who should be in charge but over what the
policies should be--will make both transformation and the war on
terrorism more difficult.
The second part of the problem is that the document seems to ignore an
axiom even older than Clauswitz or Sun Tzu: It is easier to get in than
to get out. Rumsfeld's emphasis on preemptive intervention--and
acceptance of the unilateralism that tends to come with it--suggests a
belief that Afghanistan was a success and a model for wars well into the
future. This ignores the difficulties that have followed the rapid
toppling of the Taliban. An administration that came to office scorning
"nation-building" is now knee-deep in the internal quarrels and
ancestral politics of a region even imperial Britain learned to avoid.
Before rushing to embrace a new strategy, we need to think more clearly
about the problem. Even without "transformation," the U.S. military is
already so strong that no one is going to compete with it any time soon.
But then no one competed with our military on Sept. 11, either. And it
is not competition with our military that stands between us and success
in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the Philippines or Sudan.
What is needed, before we get to questions of what kinds of new
super-weapons to build, is a strategy for living in a world in which we
may be able to win every battle, yet still not win the war--much less
William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly for
Opinion. E-mail: warkin -!
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