By Dick Pelletier
In The American Way of War, historian Russell Weigley
describes a grinding strategy of destruction employed by the US
military over the last 150 years. To end the Civil War, Grant
felt he had to completely destroy Lee
soldiers. In World War I, Pershing
relentlessly bombarded and wore down Germany’s proud fighting
machine. And the Army Air Corps pulverized major German and
Japanese cities to win World War II.
These wars were not won by tactical or strategic brilliance but
by the sheer weight of numbers – the awesome destructive power that
only a fully mobilized and highly industrialized democracy can
bring to bear. In these conflicts, US armies suffered and inflicted
massive casualties. Our ability to both inflict and endure such
casualties more effectively than could our adversaries ultimately
resulted in victory.
However, this strategy is no longer effective. Inspired by
latest information technologies, the US military has adopted new
warfare tactics that eliminate the bloody matches of old. The new
style seeks quick victory with minimal casualties on both sides and
utilizes speed, flexibility, and surprise. It relies on precision
firepower and integrates naval, air, and land forces into a
seamless whole. This technique was clearly demonstrated in the 2003
invasion of Iraq.
But experts predict that even this latest approach must change.
Today, we experience conflict that includes warfare in which
dominant military powers are confronted by a wide range of
adversaries – from non-state radical ideologies (al Qaeda), to
transnational criminal elements (Russian Mafia), to rogue states
(N. Korea, Iran) – all employing unconventional tactics.
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey says he
quite surprised by the vast number of potential terrorist
threats facing our nation.
In a closed session with reporters last Friday, the leader of
the country’s Justice Department stepped up to the plate,
exclaiming, “I’m surprised by how surprised I am.”
“It’s surprising how varied [the threat] is, how many directions
it comes from, how geographically spread out it is,” he said.
My first reaction to this went something like: “Are you kidding
me? Have you never heard of accelerating change, discussed the
concept of a flattening world, or noticed how quickly technology is
letting people all over the globe do more with limited
Of course, such statements are likely nothing more than
political hyperbole intended to drum-up public support for the big
telecom immunity battle currently shaping-up in Washington, in
which case it’s at least something I can comprehend and chalk up to
politics. But if Mukasey, the Attorney General, is being remotely
serious, it indicates a frightening blind spot for accelerating
change and possibly a deeper lack of strategic thinking throughout
our government, which would not altogether come as a surprise.
Human progress is a double-edged sword. Social evolution
constantly allows us to “do more, better, with less”, as systems
John Smart puts it. We can direct these new capabilities at
improving our economy, finding new cures for new illnesses,
improving the quality of human life, or use them to plot more
effective terrorism, more quickly destabilize systems, or hoard
more resources. The sword can cut both ways.
By Dick Pelletier
The world faces an estimated 70 percent chance of a nuclear,
biological or chemical attack in the next decade, according to
national security analysts surveyed for a recent Senate Foreign
Relations Committee study.
More than half of the 85 analysts contacted believed one or two
new countries would acquire nuclear weapons within five years, and
five more will obtain them in ten. They counted technology sharing
between terrorist groups among activities that posed the greatest
dangers, and attacks by terrorists as more likely than those posed
by rogue states.
Committee Chair Senator Richard Lugar said that though the U.S.
may be successful in building new democracies, we are not safe from
small, fanatical terrorist cells that could possibly get their
hands on nuclear materials.
How great is this risk? During the Cold War, the possibility of
a nuclear war that could kill every American made it imperative to
do anything possible to avoid conflict. Today, the consequence of
even a single nuclear weapon exploding in a U.S. city is almost
Terrorist’s armed with one nuclear bomb could murder a million
people – killing in one day nearly twice as many Americans as died
in both twentieth century World Wars combined.
A WMD attack on the U.S. would have
catastrophic consequences for other countries too. Researchers at
RAND, a government think tank, estimated
that a nuclear explosion at the Port of Long Beach in California
would cause immediate indirect costs worldwide of more than $3
trillion and, the shutting down of U.S. ports would cut world trade
by 10 percent. (cont.)