HOME | READ
| PHOTO GALLERY | REPORTER'S
The Pro's and Con's of a "Revolution in Military
|LAVs will replace the larger M1 A1 tanks in the
Army's Interim Brigade Combat Unit (Photo: Joe Barrentine)
Some say the power of technology is fueling a revolution, a so-called
"Revolution in Military Affairs" or RMA. They say technology
has become so powerful that soon wars will be fought by remote control.
Space-based sensors, unmanned drones, and precision-guided weapons will
be knit together in a powerful system to give commanders the ability
to pierce the fog of war: to see, shape, and dominate any battle, anywhere.
Stephen Rosen, who directs the Olin Institute of Strategic Studies
at Harvard, says the Dutch probably waged the first modern RMA in the
17th Century. It allowed their armies to beat Spanish forces ten times
their size. It was pretty basic says Rosen, and was based on the drill.
"It was the idea that if you got people to move with synchronicity
on the battlefield and to act under discipline and act together, they
were more effective than a group of very brave but unorganized soldiers
fighting as a mob," he says.
An influential group of Pentagon strategists sometimes called the "Jedi
Warriors" believe the current RMA should dictate how they transform
the military. Their influence reaches well beyond academia to top defense
officials and the president.
President Bush spoke at the Citadel Military College in Charleston,
South Carolina, "This Revolution in our military is only beginning,
and it promises to change the face of battle. Afghanistan has been a
proving ground for this new approach. These past two months have shown
that an innovative doctrine, and hi-tech weaponry can shape and then
dominate an unconventional conflict."
To the cadets at the Citadel last December, Bush's speech was a call
to arms. To those in the know, it was the language of the Revolution
in Military Affairs. It's controversial because RMA advocates would
turn the defense establishment on its head.
When he first took over the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
talked the talk, threatening to cancel some of the military's older
programs in favor of weapons for the new world. Ashton Carter, a former
Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, says Rumsfeld
hit a wall. "Rumsfeld had difficulty getting rid of the B1 bomber,
really a 1970's technology bomber of no great utility to the U.S. military
and of great expense, and why is that? Because they had an iron triangle
of support. Contractors, their friends in Congress and their friends
in the arms services who wanted to buy them," says Carter. In fact,
when Secretary Rumsfeld issued his long-awaited quadrennial defense
review last fall, he didn't recommend canceling a single existing weapons
Critics of the RMA weren't surprised. Among them, retired Admiral
William Crowe, who says the military can't be revolutionized. "I
do not like the term RMA- Revolution in Military Affairs, mainly because
it is impossible to change military affairs that rapidly," he says.
"Secondly," he says "because I don't know if you want
to do it in a revolutionary way, you want to do it in an evolutionary
Crowe, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first Bush
administration, says the military is slow to change, and for good reason.
"The problem with being truly revolutionary is you have to be right,"
he says. "If you go wrong then you're really in trouble."
Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, and
another RMA skeptic, agrees. O'Hanlon says in the zeal to try to win
the next war, reformers shouldn't be too quick to abandon what won the
O'Hanlon argues that the old approach brought victory in Iraq and Kosovo,
and now success in Afghanistan. He says the most impressive tool in
Afghanistan is the Special Force person on the ground conducting liaison
operations with the Afghans, speaking their language, helping them with
old fashioned tactics, spotting positions for airplanes to bomb. "That's
a lot of old fashioned skill," he says.
Stephen Rosen of Harvard says Afghanistan makes a good case for R-M-A
advocates. "In fact, the use of Special Forces is very consistent
with what the advocates of Revolution in Military Affairs said would
be the future of ground warfare."
Instead of large, mechanized divisions, the U.S. has relied on small
numbers of elite troops armed with elaborate sensors and precision-guided
weapons. "A lot of people, me included, would have said Afghanistan
is the worst place in the world for the RMA to work, it's rugged, the
terrain is horrible, these guys have had years to dig tunnels and hide
themselves. Are you telling me that satellites or airplanes flying overhead
are going to find these guys hiding in the caves?" Rosen asks.
"Looks like we did, what actually affected the military balance
of power was something that looks like the RMA."
President Bush concurs: "Our intelligence professionals and Special
Forces have cooperated with battle-friendly Afghan forces, fighters
who know the terrain, who know the Taliban and who understand the local
culture. And our Special Forces have the technology to call in precision
air strikes along with the flexibility to direct those strikes from
horseback in the first cavalry charge of the 21st century."
Technology is changing warfare, and if you believe military PR, the
future is almost here. The Department of Defense is developing "The
Land Warrior System." In the future, hi-tech soldiers will carry
infrared-laser sites, global navigation systems, and portable computers
linked to aircraft, satellites and command centers that will display
an array of data right on their visors.
Next: The Price of Change