Sept. 1, 2009

Are the Thinkers Thinking

“Some of the concerns I had 20 years ago still loom large. First, are our professional military education schools creating the strategic thinkers we need? And second, are the services identifying strategic thinkers, and are these thinkers being offered the right career opportunities? We simply can’t afford to squander the talents of our strategic thinkers, and must make sure they are not discouraged in their military careers, whether serving in joint positions or in the services. Because our nation needs more strategic thinkers, we must support the war colleges and actively encourage service members who seek mastery in the art of warfare.”—Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Naval War College graduation, June 19.

Airpower Restrictions

“Airpower contains the seeds of our own destruction if we do not use it responsibly. We can lose this fight.”—Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, US commander in Afghanistan, on restricting air strikes in order to reduce civilian casualties, New York Times, June 22.

To Turn the Tide

“I believe that we have to start to turn the tide with respect to the Taliban in the next 12 to 18 months. And I believe the forces that we have and the strategy that we have and the approach that we have will allow us to do that.”—Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the outlook in Afghanistan, National Press Club, July 8.

Go for the Bomber

“The military plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on several thousand short-range strike aircraft that must operate from forward land bases or carriers, both of which are increasingly vulnerable. These programs should be scaled back in favor of greater investment in longer-range systems, such as a next generation bomber and the Navy’s long-range unmanned strike system.”—Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Foreign Affairs, July-August.

The Decapitation

“Since Gates was using the Air Force budget as a pot of money to pay other services’ bills, he had to change out the more experienced team for one that might be more accommodating.”—Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney and retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely on the firing last year of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,, June 24.

Legal Beagles Make Sure

“There are some who believe that somehow we have created this command to exercise military authority in the homeland and that is not the case. Trust me. I’ve got about 16 lawyers who follow me around every day just to make sure I don’t trip over that line.”—Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of US Northern Command, Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 16.

How Much Do We Need

“Air Force heavy-lift aircraft and tankers—enough until you can’t see the sun, if we must surge into combat.”—Ed Timperlake, former director for international technology security assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington Times, July 10.

Battle for Access

“Given the proliferation of sophisticated weapons in the world’s arms markets, potential enemies—even relatively small powers—will be able to possess and deploy an array of longer-range and more precise weapons. Thus, the projection of military power … could become hostage to the ability to counter long-range systems even as US forces begin to move into a theater of operations and against an opponent. The battle for access may prove not only the most important, but the most difficult.”—US Joint Forces Command 2008 report, quoted by Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Shawn Brimley, strategist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, US Naval Institute Proceedings, July.

Those Words Again

“One of the reasons the nomenclature is not used is that ‘war’ carries with it a relationship to nation states in conflict with each other and of course terrorism is not necessarily derived from the nation state relationship. In some respects, ‘war’ is too limiting.”—Secretary of Homeland Defense Janet A. Napolitano explaining (again) why the term “war on terrorism” has been junked, Financial Times, June 30.

Enough for One

“Would we like to have additional F-22s? Of course. … [However] I am personally convinced that 187 is enough for a single major campaign. I have no doubt that we can prevail.”—Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, Airmen’s Call at Elemendorf AFB, Alaska, July 6.

Unilateral Obsolescence

“There are some who believe that failing to invest adequately in our nuclear deterrent will move us closer to a nuclear-free world. In fact, blocking crucial modernization means unilateral disarmament by unilateral obsolescence. This unilateral disarmament will only encourage nuclear proliferation, since our allies will see the danger and our adversaries the opportunity.”—Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense, Wall Street Journal op-ed, June 29.

Airpower Realities

“Ordinarily, preplanned targets are thoroughly vetted in advance of an air strike to ensure intelligence has identified the correct target and that collateral damage will be held to a minimum. … In the 35 air strikes that caused collateral damage during 2006 and 2007, only two occurred as a result of preplanned strikes. There are several interesting aspects of this situation. First, given that there were 5,342 air strikes flown by US forces during those two years, the number causing collateral damage was a mere 0.65 percent. … Second, more than 95 percent of the 35 air strikes resulting in collateral damage were troops-in-contact situations—those instances when the rigorous safeguards taken at the air operations center to avoid just such mistakes were bypassed.”—Military analyst and historian Phillip S. Meilinger, Armed Forces Journal, July.