Oct. 1, 2009

No Long Slog

“After the Iraq experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway. The troops are tired; the American people are pretty tired.”—Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Los Angeles Times, July 19.

That Would Be a Slog

“The Army’s role [in Afghanistan] will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years.”—Gen. David Richards, new chief of the British Army, whose comment aroused immediate furor in Parliament, Times of London, Aug. 8.

Tea With the Taliban

“Strangely, our military leaders rarely talk about the battles here [in Afghanistan].They urge shooting less and drinking more cups of tea with village elders. This is the new face of war—counterinsurgency defined as nation building, an idealistic blend of development aid and John Locke philosophy. Our generals say that the war is ‘80 percent nonkinetic.’ … War is not complicated. You have to separate the guerrilla forces from the population and kill them until they no longer want to continue.”—Francis J. West, former assistant secretary of defense and combat marine, Wall Street Journal, July 29.

Good for Paul and Silas

“In the F-18, we can also produce front-line fighters that are more than capable of addressing any threat that we’ll face for the next five to 10 years.”—Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senate Armed Services Committee, July 9.

The Gates Legacy

“Taken in totality, the decisions Secretary Gates has made—and those he is expected to make in the near future—will bequeath to his successors a military that will be older and more costly to operate, have fewer technological advantages over potential adversaries, and be less able to deal with high-end threats. Almost without exception, it has been the most advanced US weapons programs [that] have been targeted for termination, reduction, or delay. The only solace we can take is in the Secretary’s judgment that we can take risk in the medium term. However long that lasts.”—Daniel Gouré, Lexington Institute, National Journal Online, July 27.

Fraud on the Moon

“In the United States, more than anywhere else, they are sure of the believability of the steps on the moon.”—Russian state TV channel Rossiya, giving some credence to conspiracy theories that the US landing on the moon 40 years ago was faked, Associated Press, July 19.

Wright Flyer of UAVs

“You can’t judge UAVs by what you see today. That would be like judging all aircraft by looking at the Wright Flyer.”—Col. Eric Mathewson, head of USAF’s unmanned aerial vehicle task force, Arizona Daily Star, July 26.

Bases Make Us Less Secure

“The Pentagon has been ringing the world with US bases, meant to make the US secure and able to strike down any threat to American interests, anywhere. There are currently more than 800 manned US foreign military bases. Taken all together, they make up a formidable global array of power. But practically every one of them could be picked off by a hostile military operation. Are they keeping America secure? I would argue that every one of them is an American vulnerability.”—William Pfaff, acclaimed columnist and international prognosticator,, Aug. 4.

Where the Russians Are

“The reality is, the Russians are where they are. They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”—Vice President Joe Biden, Wall Street Journal, July 25.

What the Veep Meant To Say

“We view Russia as a great power. Every country faces challenges. We have our challenges. Russia has their challenges. There are certain issues that Russia has to deal with on its own.”—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, responding to Russian concern about Biden’s remarks and reassuring Russia that the US is committed to a “reset” of relations, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” July 26.

War Got in Rumsfeld’s Way

“It’s my belief that he had an expectation of what his job would be as Secretary of Defense and it probably centered around transformation. … And then a war got in the way. Transformation had been a labor of love for him. The war became a labor of responsibility.”—Andrew H. Card Jr., former White House chief of staff, in By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld, by Bradley Graham.

Russian Force Modernization

“We expect 70 percent of the Air Force strength to be in new and modernized aircraft by 2020. The development of the Russian Air Force will be carried out through extensive acquisition of new advanced aircraft and continuing modernization of the existing fleet.”—Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, commander of the Russian Air Force, RIA Novosti, Aug. 5.

Too Focused on Terrorism

“We have been overly counterterrorism-focused and not counterinsurgency-focused. We might still be too focused on bin Laden. We should probably reassess our priorities.”—Unnamed “top military official,” Los Angeles Times, July 30.

Generational Perspectives

“Today, Hiroshima has become a Rorschach test for Americans. We see the same pictures and we hear the same facts. But based on how we view our country, our government, and the world, we interpret these facts in very different ways. A former GI, now 90, who survived the war in Europe and was about to be sent to the Pacific understands quite clearly that the bomb saved his life. His grandchildren may see this event in a very different way.”—Author Warren Kozak, op-ed column, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 6.