A MILITARY MAKEOVER: Transforming the Military

Monday, December 15, 2003

Despite overwhelming victories by our armed forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States military establishment is caught up in a major debate on the structure of the military. On one side are traditionalists who emphasize the importance of large ground forces. On the other side are reformers who want our forces to be lighter, smaller, faster, and more high-tech. What are the lessons of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Who's right, the traditionalists or the reformers?

Recorded on Monday, December 15, 2003

Peter Robinson: Today on Uncommon Knowledge: the shape of war to come.

Announcer: Funding for this program is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation.


Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today: how and why we need to transform the military forces of the United States. This century began with a bang, so to speak, for the United States armed forces. In 2001, an overwhelmingly victory in Afghanistan. In 2003, just the same kind of victory in Iraq. All would seem to be well for our armed forces. And yet The United States' military establishment and those who observe and advise it are instead caught up in a major debate. On one side, traditionalists who want to preserve much of the status quo. On the other side, reformers who want our forces to be lighter, smaller, faster and more high tech. Our program today, the lessons that both sides draw from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Joining us two guests. James Wirtz is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. Williamson Murray is a military historian and the co-author of The Iraq War: A Military History.

Title: David or Goliath

Peter Robinson: Journalist Jason Vest writing in The Atlantic, I quote him, "In one corner stand advocates for something along the lines of the status quo. In the opposing corner are champions of reforms who consider large, expensive systems--weapons systems that take forever to produce as much of an enemy as hostile foreign powers. Among the reforms they advocate are adaptability and agility as the driving forces of combat, weapons that are dependable, simple and cheap and de-centralization of command and communications." Something like the status quo or dramatic reforms. If you had to choose which would you say the armed forces of The United States need most, Jim?

James Wirtz: Something in between.

Williamson Murray: I'd say something towards the latter, but it's…

Peter Robinson: Reform, you're on the reform side?

Williamson Murray: I'm on the reform side, but it's much more complex than he suggests.

Peter Robinson: Ah, complexity. Well it's television; I better offer an opening apology there. We'll do our best with the complexity. What did we learn from Afghanistan as relates to this question of status quo versus transformation? Let me quote your colleague John Arquilla, Naval Postgraduate School. "After a month of unsuccessful strategic bombing of Kabul, Kandahar and other fixed targets, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compelled military officials to unleash small teams of Special Forces, highly networked with aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. In a few weeks, just over three hundred special forces operators toppled the Taliban from power." Now there are two fundamental assertions in there, let's take the first one. The old fashion part of the campaign, the strategic bombing failed. Wick, is that--that's a correct reading?

Williamson Murray: Ah, yes, I think that's absolutely right and it failed because it in fact it did not address, if you will the realities of war, which is--and realities of war in a place like Afghanistan if you don't have boots on the ground, bombs dropping from the air aren't going to persuade the locals to do anything. They want to see you face to face.

Peter Robinson: You'll grant that, strategic bombing was absolutely a failure.

James Wirtz: Yes, sure and if you think about it the Taliban don't really have any sort of strategic assets in Kabul. There's really not too much there to bomb.

Peter Robinson: Now the second assertion that Arquilla makes which is that the modern, the new, the reformist part of the campaign, small packets of highly networked special forces, that proved successful and that was what gave us our victory in Afghanistan.

James Wirtz: That's true, but it's not a blanket assertion to say this will work everywhere all the time. You always have to take into account the terrain you're fighting on, the opponent you're fighting on and what works in one sitting or one strategic situation might fail miserably in another one.

Peter Robinson: But there were plans to go in with heavier forces on the ground and they proved unnecessary, isn't that--that's wrong?

Williamson Murray: No, the additional factor though was that those network forces understood the locals. A knowledge, if you will, the special forces have a--of all the American military forces have a knowledge of the cultural entities and historical entities that they're dealing with so that they could establish a relationship with the locals which we have not seen or very rarely seen in Iraq.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so we were sending--when he talks about these three hundred special ops guys, he's talking about guys with a lot of hand held technology, but also these are guys who speak the languages. They're--they understand the tribal differences.

Williamson Murray: Absolutely.

Peter Robinson: They had a huge amount of--these are very bright, highly, highly trained guys. Is that right?

James Wirtz: That's true, but the other thing you have to keep in mind which is left out of the quote is that what they're calling in are more or less conventional, those heavy conventional forces that were supposedly left behind. Those are the forces that are actually doing most of the bombing and the strafing. I mean the attacks themselves our largely deemed…

Williamson Murray: Precision attacks came from conventional aircraft.

James Wirtz: Yeah.

Williamson Murray: Now I would argue that there is…

Peter Robinson: Right.

Williamson Murray: …one additional thing that he entirely left out which is…

Peter Robinson: Arquilla left out?

Williamson Murray: …I think--yes. We made a terrible mistake when we got Bin Laden boxed into Tora Bora. We refused to commit our conventional heavy ground forces. If there was ever going to be a chance to get him, it would've been committing those ground forces.

Peter Robinson: Wait a minute. That was terribly mountainous terrain. What were you going to send in? What would you have sent in?

Williamson Murray: Well, you had Marines and you had airborne light infantry available.

Peter Robinson: Okay so you're not talking about tanks?

Williamson Murray: No, no, no, we're talking about regular conventional infantry in large numbers to go after him because by this point in the war particularly in the south we were relying on really the local Pashtuns who were deeply in bed with the Taliban even if they were supporting them.

Peter Robinson: Okay, on to the lessons of the Iraq war, beginning with the campaign for Baghdad.

Title: The Thin Khaki Line

Peter Robinson: The traditionalist view would be that in the rapid march on Baghdad, we got very lucky. Our forces were agile, but they were thin and if the Iraqi Republican Guard had made a stand, we might have found ourselves in trouble. Retired General Barry Mccaffrey who led a mechanized infantry division in the first Gulf War, "They," the Pentagon, "They went into battle with a plan that put huge air and sea force into action with an unbalanced ground combat force." You going to buy that?

Williamson Murray: No.

Peter Robinson: Why not?

Williamson Murray: Well, because I think the forces we put in, they were more than sufficient, given the kinds of people we were fighting with and the very speed with which those ground component commanders acted created a situation sort of like France in 1940 where the Iraqis were--all--everything--every decision that they made was already overtaken by events.

Peter Robinson: You were saying that they couldn't have made a stand? We moved so fast…

Williamson Murray: Absolutely not.

Peter Robinson: …or it's not simply that they elected not to, they couldn't have done so.

James Wirtz: No, no.

Peter Robinson: You'd go with that?

James Wirtz: Yeah, they couldn't make a stand. If they would've moved out of Garrison or out of their hiding places, they would've immediately been seen and targeted by, you know, long range strike forces.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Williamson Murray: Well, but it's also a case beyond that is that our ground forces were so good in comparison. Now here's the danger of this because every war is different. We were up against guys who were--and including the Republican Guards, were hardly ever trained, hardly ever fired their guns…

Peter Robinson: And we knew that beforehand or this is what's come out since?

Williamson Murray: We knew this in--we did not know this in 1991. We knew this by now because we've been watching them for twelve years.

Peter Robinson: This was a rag tag operation…

Williamson Murray: They did not train. They did not prepare. You know the simplest thing tells you how bad they were. You look at U.S. soldiers and Marines throughout--pictures of them throughout the conflict, you will always see when they're not firing their weapons that their fingers on the trigger guard, not on the trigger. Look at pictures of Iraqis; their fingers are always on the trigger. These guys were ill disciplined, ill trained, they didn't fire their weapons. They didn't know how to hit anything. And so the issue comes down to even if they had managed to come out, we would've smashed them.

Peter Robinson: You don't go with that?

James Wirtz: Well, in--and even some of their ways they tried to adapt to the fact they were going to be facing American forces in combat again with technicals, I mean we all saw pictures of technicals.

Peter Robinson: What's a technical?

James Wirtz: The technical was something that emerged in Somalia where you have teenagers riding around in the back of pickup trucks with an automatic weapon. Remember there were points on the march towards Baghdad where they sort of rushed armored columns, you know, they'd all pile in a jeep and...

Peter Robinson: Right, right.

Williamson Murray: That's really a good story that came out of, apparently Saddam's two sons watched Black Hawk Down, said hey, boy they--these guys in Toyota pick up trucks with machine guns did great against the Americans.

James Wirtz: This is the way so it's…

Williamson Murray: We just blew them away.

James Wirtz: …yeah, it's really sort of learning the wrong lessons from history and trying to apply them. It's worse than you imagined.

Peter Robinson: Now here's--here are the lessons--okay so that traditionalist view, which is that we got lucky and we should have gone in heavier, you guys both just reject that?

Williamson Murray: Yes.

James Wirtz: Yes.

Peter Robinson: All right here's what I take as the reformist view of what we learned in Iraq, I'm going to quote your buddy…

James Wirtz: Okay.

Peter Robinson: …Arquilla once again here. "The second cautionary lesson of the War in Iraq was highlighted by the march of Mesopotamia the tremendously rapid advance on Baghdad," which he calls another blast from the past, "Tanks and Humvees made a bee line for Baghdad and had to rely on vulnerable supply lines that stretched for hundreds of miles. The Iraqis correctly went after our logistical tail; it is high time to lose our tails." That dash to Baghdad was a mistake?

James Wirtz: No.

Peter Robinson: A blast from the past?

James Wirtz: No, I don't think so. You know, there was always, you know, there is always a logistical tail of some sort and you do--you have to get supplies to these forces one way or the other. And I don't know how much harassment that logistical tail was actually undergoing. I mean there's always--you know, the way armored warfare, mechanized warfare works is that people have this image that we clear a clean sweep of the enemy before us, everything behind is perfectly safe. It's really not true…

Peter Robinson: It doesn't look that way.

James Wirtz: No, you know, often you bypass forces, if they're bypassed or if they're isolated, if they're not operating in conjunction any longer, they're really knocked out of the battle for all intensive purposes.

Peter Robinson: So this is a kind of extremist reformer's view which is that somehow or other you could've put a bunch of special ops in Iraq and even negated the need for that drive to Baghdad?

James Wirtz: Yes, and in fact if you think about it, their armored forces did very badly against our armored forces, but if you put special operators alone out in the middle of nowhere facing an armored unit, I mean it's not--it's going to be a different story.

Peter Robinson: Yeah.

Williamson Murray: Well, this is nonsense.

Peter Robinson: So this is going too far?

James Wirtz: Yes.

Peter Robinson: So you both then, give that march on Baghdad an "A"?

James Wirtz: Yes.

Williamson Murray: Yes.

Peter Robinson: That was a brilliant operation.

Williamson Murray: Brilliant sure.

James Wirtz: In fact the only strange thing about this is people being surprised that, you know, supply lines are being harassed by forces left behind. I mean that's sort of the normal thing in war.

Peter Robinson: Supply lines are always harassed.

Peter Robinson: Let's turn now to Iraq the Occupation.

Title: Occupation GI Blues

Peter Robinson: More Americans have died in the months since the president declared that the mission---that the fundamental combat mission was accomplished than during that actual operation to take Baghdad. Again let me quote General Barry McCaffrey. "It's not enough to achieve victory, which we did, you've got to achieve a situation in which your adversary recognizes that he's been defeated and that violent resistance is futile, which we didn't. We should've front loaded our military power and withdrawn forces as things got better. Instead we went in light and augmented our power after the regime's fall." What do you make of that?

James Wirtz: Well, that's an interesting argument, but in some ways it doesn't make sense either because when you--the reason the casualties are higher now or higher during the occupation is because you begin to lose all those wonderful technological and organizational and logistical advantages you have when it's sort of a conventional military operation. When you get into close, you know, close weapons range, small arms range with an opponent, you begin to really lose all those wonderful advantages. So in a sense what--it sort of stands on the head of what the reformers would say.

Peter Robinson: It's not numbers it's the nature of the…

James Wirtz: It's--it's--you know what it is? It's a…

Peter Robinson: …incasion.

James Wirtz: …it's the combined arms operation. It's the U.S. military is the best at the world at integrating armor, artillery, air power, command and control, reconnaissance capabilities. We put that all together, there's nobody that could stand up for that. But as you occupy a city, you begin to lose these things and now you have to go patrolling up and down some street…

Peter Robinson: Right.

James Wirtz: …and armed the same way the opponent is.

Williamson Murray: There's another issue here which McCaffrey's entirely missing which is the fact that we were simply not prepared for Phase Four.

Peter Robinson: Phase Four being the occupation.

Williamson Murray: This is the transition, the occupation. We spent a month and a half really doing nothing except watching the locals loot things. We did not close down and sort of go after the Iraqi leadership…

Peter Robinson: In their minds the guys who planned and executed this operation saw it as a military operation and they gave very little thought, in retrospect you would agree, I'm asking you, too little thought to what happened the day after?

Williamson Murray: Absolutely.

Peter Robinson: You'd agree with that?

James Wirtz: Sure.

Williamson Murray: And that's the crucial component. I would argue that in terms of the kinds of wars we're going to confront and military operations over the next fifty, maybe even seventy-five years, that is even in some ways more important than the military phase because the military phase, who's going to stand up to us?

Peter Robinson: We got that down cold.

Williamson Murray: We got that down cold. The issue is the capacity then to move in both politically, understanding the culture and the languages. Again one of the battalion commanders we interviewed had a wonderful comment on this situation. He said, when I crossed the berm on March 20th, I had perfect situation awareness of where every piece of Iraqi equipment was in front of me and zero cultural awareness.

James Wirtz: I think Wick is right on this. I think it really is the wave of the future and in fact--but see it has to reverse a long-standing trend within the U. S. military where they've moved all these jobs to the reserves and National Guard Units. So in order to go to war now, you have to mobilize large numbers of these forces who actually now have the lion's share of the job.

Peter Robinson: I have to challenge you now because…

Williamson Murray: In terms of the wars of the future I would argue that…

Peter Robinson: Right.

Williamson Murray: …these military policemen and these engineers are an integral part of a combined arms team that is political as well as military.

Peter Robinson: So, okay, but now hold on a minute now because here, Clinton goes into Bosnia and Kosovo and so forth and we end up with these peace keeping missions. And of course, he said he'd be there for a year and then the deadline evaporated and so forth and lots of people including candidate George W. Bush said, now wait a minute, let's be clear about our mission. The military is to fight wars. Nationbuilding, peacekeeping, civil affairs, all of that should reside someplace else because you don't want to cloud the mission of the United States' armed forces. And now you two are saying, well as a matter of fact we need both missions in the Pentagon, right?

James Wirtz: But the--sure, but the armed--but the military…

Peter Robinson: And that doesn't make you nervous?

James Wirtz: Well, the military doesn't want this peacekeeping mission. They've turned away from it for twenty, thirty years now…

Williamson Murray: Vietnam.

James Wirtz: …since Vietnam.

Williamson Murray: But before Vietnam we did very well at it.

Peter Robinson: We did?

Williamson Murray: Yeah, I mean we have a whole record of the places called the Philippines and…

Peter Robinson: Sure, sure, sure.

Williamson Murray: …you know, we've done--we've got -the Indian war. We've got a long history.

Peter Robinson: So it's already--it already exists in the American military tradition.

Williamson Murray: Sure.

James Wirtz: Yes.

Williamson Murray: Yes if they're willing to read any history.

Peter Robinson: So why don't the generals want it?

Williamson Murray: It's difficult. It's difficult.

Peter Robinson: Because they're saying we run warriors not cops. And it's dangerous to ask us to do two different things, right?

James Wirtz: Well, you know, but--well, yes they say that, but the truth is the, you know, the shooting part of the war, the conventional operations are lasting shorter and shorter and the police function, you know, the nation building part lasts longer and longer.

Peter Robinson: So they've got to move that way.

James Wirtz: We're talking, you know, here we're talking about taking countries over, changing governments, regime change, putting in place, you know, institutions and services that have been neglected for twenty, thirty years.

Peter Robinson: All right. On to a not-so-hypothetical problem: North Korea.

Title: Dark Night of the Seoul

Peter Robinson: The president of the United States has stated that the possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be unacceptable and the North Koreans have said the heck with you, we're going ahead with our nuclear program. This is trouble. North Korea has an army of about a million, most of which is deployed south on the border with South Korea in positions they've had half a century to fortify. Facing the North Koreans, a South Korean army of about six hundred thousand and American troops numbering thirty-seven thousand, all of which again are mostly, not all of which, but most of which are deployed near the border, the Demilitarized Zone. The question then is how should planners in the Pentagon be approaching this problem? And let me start with a very specific question which is, don't those thirty-seven thousand American troops right up there near the Demilitarized Zone present just the sort of big, fat, juicy, slow moving target that we ought to be trying to avoid?

Williamson Murray: Well, no but I would argue--I would argue that of all the countries in the world, the North Koreans in terms of sort of, if you will, the sort of myths of history influencing them, understand that if you kick the United States too hard, the result is something called 1950 to 1953, which is that we have the power, the will and the capability to wreck them from one end to the other. So I think in the back of their minds is a sense…

Peter Robinson: They've been through it.

Williamson Murray: …of caution. They've been through it in a way that no Iraqi, no Arab has ever been through and a war by the way…

Peter Robinson: Why are they behaving so defiantly?

Williamson Murray: Well, because, look, they're terrified. They're terrified at the fact that they are alone in the world. Everyone of their neighbor hates them.

James Wirtz: But some ways they've done it to themselves by cutting themselves off, but Wick's right, they're completely isolated. In fact what I worry about is that the isolation could lead to all sorts of bizarre behavior, miscalculation. So it's--we could see countries stumbling into war and when we find out what the reason was, we'd all be surprised, I mean…

Peter Robinson: But what about the--that specific question, what about these thirty-seven, I mean I read the reformers literature, Arquilla, I'm not going to quote Arquilla, but he's the kind of person who he keeps saying, don't present a big, fat, juicy target. Smaller packets, more agility, faster moving…

James Wirtz: Sure.

Peter Robinson: …more high tech and there we've got those thirty-seven thousand troops just sitting there.

James Wirtz: Well, you know, during the Cold War sometimes people made the argument U. S. forces were there as a trip wire that you can't invade South--North can't invade South Korea without killing Americans, they're going to kill them right away, so that says…

Peter Robinson: That's sensible?

James Wirtz: Well, there's a deterring effect there, I mean you can't just get away with…

Williamson Murray: Yeah, I think definitely.

James Wirtz: …you can't--you just can't get away with this and maybe the Americans won't come and be involved. They will be involved. That said, there is talk though of moving those forces farther south now redeploying them so I guess you could have a easier time finding your way back up the peninsula as opposed to being…

Peter Robinson: What are you--you're advising Rumsfeld, what do you tell him to do? Keep them on the--keep them in South Korea…

James Wirtz: You know…

Peter Robinson: …but move a hundred--move them south of Seoul.

James Wirtz: …you know, I don't think thirty-seven thousand is going to make one--a major difference one way or the other to the war, but the deterrent effect might have that difference. So it's not the military effect.

Peter Robinson: So keep them close.

Williamson Murray: Yeah, it's a warning. The North Koreans understand one thing and that is that if you kill a lot of Americans that our response could really be unbelievable from their point of view.

Peter Robinson: Next, is Donald Rumsfeld putting the military on the right track?

Title: Phantom Menace

Peter Robinson: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, I quote him, "Our challenge in this new century is to defend our nation against the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen and the unexpected." First question here is doctrine. Cold War doctrine called for us to maintain forces at capable of winning two wars in two major theaters at the same time. Rumsfeld once again, "Instead of maintaining two occupation forces we, me and my planners at the Pentagon, we decided to place greater emphasis on deterrence in for critical theaters back by the ability to swiftly defeat two aggressors at the same time while preserving the option for one massive counter offensive to occupy an aggressor's capital and replace its regime." Now that sounds like five gold rings, three lords a leaping and a partridge in a pear tree, but it also sounds like smaller, faster moving. Is that right? Is that what he has in mind?

Williamson Murray: I think that's what he has in mind.

Peter Robinson: Is that correct?

Williamson Murray: Yeah, well there are two elements to it. First of all I would say that recent experience in Iraq will suggest to virtually everybody in the third world and most of those in the second world, we don't want to mess with the United States. I think--I think what people have seen in terms of what we did graphically and in terms of the reports that have come out; nobody's going to mess with us. I think the other element which he is missing is that there was a real intellectual component in terms of the officers that fought this war were educated at places at like the Naval Postgraduate School, the Naval War College, the various other war colleges in the '80s and early '90s and there was a real emphasis at that time on the intellectual part of preparing soldiers and sailors and Marines. And the American military is losing that and Rumsfeld simply doesn't care about that element of it.

Peter Robinson: Jim, what do you think about Rumsfeld and his doctrine here?

James Wirtz: Well, I mean, it's a pretty a pretty broad agenda, there's a lot on that list and the forces are shrinking. In theory faster and lighter you could do all these things. I think it'll be a challenge in the years ahead especially if more forces do get bogged down, maybe that's not the right word, but you know, do more peace keeping, you know, operations.

Peter Robinson: Okay, which leads to my second question. During the Cold War, the United States devoted on average, goes up and down, especially up during Vietnam, but on average, eight percent of GDP to defense. Defense spending in real terms is right now almost up to, but not quite at where it was at--where it was during the height of the Reagan rebuilding, but in terms of proportion, we're still spending only about four percent of GDP on defense. Are we spending enough? Jim?

James Wirtz: I think we're spending enough.

Peter Robinson: You do?

James Wirtz: Oh sure.

Peter Robinson: That doesn't give you any qualms?

James Wirtz: No, I mean if you look at how much we spend compared to the rest of the world, our defense spending is about the same as the rest of the world combined.

Williamson Murray: Look the real issue is what are we spending it on. I think there I have some real doubts. It's are the weapons that we're and the technologies that we are buying a substantial number of those things like the F22 are aimed at a world and opponents did not--no longer exist.

Peter Robinson: So you think Rumsfeld needs to move more quickly?

Williamson Murray: He needs to make, look whoever is the Secretary of Defense in the next four or five years is going to have to make some real hard decisions because we can't afford what's on the books now. And I don't see the American people willing to spend much more than the four percent we've got now.

James Wirtz: Yes, in fact the transformation argument really is a budgetary argument because where is the money going to come from to do the transformation? It's got to come from traditional forces so you go to the Air Force and you say, look you don't need the F22 or you go to the Navy and you say, you don't need so many carrier battle groups or you go to the Army and you say, you don't need…

Peter Robinson: Wait a minute; you don't want to decrease battle carrier groups.

James Wirtz: Well, you know, I mean I don't, but the money has to come from...

Peter Robinson: But I thought that was part of the transformation argument. We need fewer bases in the Philippines and on land if we have more carrier groups, right?

James Wirtz: Well, well, I don't know if the aircraft carriers are sort of the cutting edge of transformation…

Peter Robinson: Separate argument. The aircraft carrier argument.

James Wirtz: Well, well, well, no, but--but no see the money's got to come from somewhere…

Williamson Murray: You've got to make some hard decisions and this administration…

Peterson Robinson: And they have to be made when?

Williamson Murray: …no more than the Clinton, have not been making the hard decisions.

Peter Robinson: Rumsfeld himself has not faced up to them?

Williamson Murray: You got it.

Peter Robinson: And when do they have to be made?

Williamson Murray: Well…

Peter Robinson: Time is running out? You've got to make them in the next…

Williamson Murray: No, no if you can keep slopping along the way we do, but every time you put off a decision, you decide to buy instead of three hundred and eighty-four F22's; you buy a hundred and eighty of them, the price per aircraft…

James Wirtz: Goes up.

Williamson Murray: …goes up enormously and you get less of them and less capability and you lose a whole bunch of other things that you could've bought.

Peter Robinson: Now closing predictions.

Title Ways and Meanies

Peter Robinson: Let me quote the same fellow I quoted at the opening of the show, journalist Jason Vest, "Asymmetric operations in which a vast mismatch exists between the resources and philosophies of the combatants are the characteristics of the new warfare. The United States will face decentralized, non state actors who understand just how big an impact attacks on markets, communications and cultural icons can have on the American psyche." Five years from now, will we have suffered another 9-11, or will our armed forces instead have made enough of an impact in the world and on specific terrorist organizations to defend us? Jim?

James Wirtz: That is the question of the day and in fact that is the question behind transformation, but is the transformed force--the transformation force that they're talking about, is that force going to be optimized to sort of go after those terrorists? I don't think so. I think what you get is--a transformation is really another word for further integration of technology into more or less conventional units so they can do high convention--high intensity, conventional combat better.

Williamson Murray: I put what we're getting is modernization rather than transformation…

James Wirtz: Yes, yes, yes.

Williamson Murray: Modernization of equipment is what is really going on right now and I think your point, you know, the issue comes down to, you can't predict whether we're going to prevent terrorist acts, but we--what we really do need, which is not being emphasized in Washington or in the services or maybe to a slight degree in the intelligence communities, is the cultural knowledge and historical knowledge, so you can understand terrorism, so you could understand the kind of threat that they pose.

Peter Robinson: General Abizaid, so far as I can tell, I've never met the man, but we know he speaks Arabic, he's highly educated, this strikes me as a brilliant guy who could've been a tenured professor at any university or a brilliant CEO of any big company. Is he the norm or is he simply an aberration in the United States military?

Williamson Murray: Well, I think you raised a--the crucial issue, which is guys like Abizaid or Tony Zinni, the Marine who was his predecessor before Franks, there are some of these guys who we should be keeping around at this four-star level for six, eight, nine years. And very clearly actually Rumsfeld said that he'd like to do that. Services absolutely don't want to do that because that's one less four-star generalship…

Peter Robinson: They want lots of people to have a turn at it.

James Wirtz: Sure, the other thing is, you know, the--whether or not, you know, officers with these qualifications are sort of a run of the mill in the military, they could be. All of--the services can educate and bring--promote people with these qualifications. They just have to give them the time and the opportunity to get them…

Williamson Murray: Unleashing them.

James Wirtz: …and to be promoted upwards.

Peter Robinson: Jim Wirtz, Wick Murray, thank you very much.

James Wirtz: Thank you.

Williamson Murray: Thank you very much.

Peter Robinson: I'm Peter Robinson for Uncommon Knowledge, thanks for joining us.