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Neocons: The men behind the curtain


Undeterred by their encounters with reality, the strategists who pushed for war in Iraq believed then, and still believe, that their moment has come.

By Khurram Husain November/December 2003 pp. 62-71 (vol. 59, no. 06) 2003 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists eading the calls to war with Iraq, one was reminded of Cato the Elder, who spent his retirement urging the Roman generals to remove the thorn of Carthage permanently from Rome's side so it could never again defy Roman might. The United States has had its share of Catos--the American quest for an impregnable defense and military supremacy has a long and distinguished history. Today the effort is embodied by Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld in the Defense Department, key players in the Bush administration. To understand what appears to many as a revolutionary shift in U.S. foreign policy, it is useful to realize that a large part of their thinking derives from concerns with threats from weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Deterrence: The minimalist school


Bernard Brodie, the pioneer strategist of nuclear war, was among the first to consider the complexities of war-fighting strategy in the nuclear age. Looking into World War II strategic bombing campaigns for lessons, Brodie glimpsed an iron law of nuclear war: A good defense is not good enough. British defenses against German V-1 rocket attacks had been remarkably successful. Close to 2,300 rockets were reported to have targeted the city of London in a period of 81 days. At their peak, British air defenses shot down 97 of 101 approaching V-1 rockets, a truly impressive number. But, Brodie noted, "If those four had been atomic bombs, London survivors would not have considered the record good." In the nuclear age, defenses need to have zero margin of error. This realization helped forge a consensus about the futility of surprise attack or total victory between nuclear-armed adversaries. Brodie argued that no victory in a nuclear conflict could be worth the price, because retaliation in kind would be assured. In such a world, the primary purpose of the American defense establishment would be to survive a nuclear attack and preserve the capacity to retaliate--thus instilling in the enemy the same realization of the futility of conflict. "Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them." [1] The foundations of deterrence as the strategic doctrine guiding America's deployment and treatment of nuclear weapons were laid. Deterrence in the early years of the Cold War had to operate on three levels: There was the pressing obligation to deter the enemy from thinking about attacking American territory with nuclear weapons. There was the need to deter friends and allies from pursuing nuclear weapons programs of their own by extending the American nuclear umbrella over them. And there was the continuing relevance of conventional forces, which had to be maintained to prevent military adventures from escalating into nuclear exchanges. What combination of these three different elements, with what mix of hardware and deployment posture, would most effectively do the job at the least cost?

Enter the specialists


Given these bewildering complexities, nuclear war-fighting doctrine began to attract the interest of specialists from outside the uniformed services. The Rand Corporation emerged as the site most suited for this type of work, and a network of analysts gravitated there. They have left an indelible stamp on America's relationship with the rest of the world. James Schlesinger, who served as defense secretary in the Nixon administration, was at Rand. So was Herman Kahn, famous for arguing that the United States could fight and win a nuclear war (and for being caricatured as Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick's film by the same name). There was Albert Wohlstetter, the Columbia-trained mathematician described by Henry Kissinger as a "brilliant strategist," and Andrew Marshall, whose network in the defense establishment reads today like a who's who of the Bush cabinet. There was Alain Enthoven, the leader of the "Whiz Kids," a team that advised Robert McNamara on the conduct of the Vietnam War. And there was Daniel Ellsberg, who broke ranks by going public about the nature of his work. Together these men introduced assumptions and techniques into the study of nuclear war that resonate to this day. Project Rand began in 1945 as a platform to connect research and development with military planning. It was conceived by Gen. H. H. "Hap" Arnold of the U.S. Army Air Force to retain the scientific experts who had worked for him during wartime. In 1948, with legal and financial help from the Ford Foundation, Rand was separated from its base in industry and incorporated as a nonprofit organization headquartered in Santa Monica, California. The other services did not lag far behind in creating think tanks. The army established the Operations Research Office at Johns Hopkins University, the navy its Operations Evaluation Group at M.I.T. The Institute of Defense Analysis and the Stanford Research

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Close Help conditions of extreme uncertainty. A network of researchers was pulled in from universities--M.I.T., Princeton, and the California Institute of Technology, for example--to work together with the most advanced labs in private industry. Rand was at the cutting edge of theories on deterrence and nuclear war-fighting in the 1950s. Leading the charge was Albert Wohlstetter.

Wohlstetter: Upping the ante


Wohlstetter joined Rand's Economics Division in 1951 and began by studying the overseas basing patterns of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), which had been tasked with maintaining the nuclear retaliatory force. Working with a small team of analysts, he challenged the prevailing conviction that fear of retaliation in kind rendered surprise attacks obsolete between nuclear-armed adversaries. [2] It was only logical to Wohlstetter that any first strike by the enemy would target the U.S. nuclear arsenal and its delivery capabilities, which at that time meant SAC. Wohlstetter closely studied what combination of strikes, by what quantity of bombers, flying along which trajectories, would most effectively cripple SAC in the opening phases of a conflict. If a first strike took out a substantial portion of SAC, the United States would be unable to deliver a sufficiently damaging retaliatory strike, particularly if the Soviet Union maintained enough reserve capability to strike again at secondary targets, such as cities. To understand the variety of ways a first strike might play itself out, Wohlstetter performed a series of labyrinthine calculations that took into account protective measures such as dispersal of bomber bases, mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), hardened targets, air defense systems that could intercept incoming bombers, and civil defense structures that might protect populations. His findings were published in a classified paper--Rand Report R-244-S--and in 1953 he began briefing the defense establishment, starting with the office of SAC Commander Gen. Curtis LeMay. Wohlstetter made a comprehensive case for the vulnerability of SAC in the event of a first strike, arguing that with 120 bombs the Soviets could destroy 75--85 percent of SAC's B-47 bomber fleet on the ground. These findings were alarming, and they were met with nervousness wherever they were presented. Over the next few years, Wohlstetter and his team made more than 90 presentations. Eventually the report was endorsed by the Air Force Council and embraced by Gen. Tommy White, acting air force chief of staff, and Jim Douglass, secretary of the air force. [3] Nuclear technology was evolving rapidly. New delivery vehicles were being developed, and more sophisticated targeting and deployment systems were in the pipeline. But the long span of time that separated a weapon system's initial design to deployment meant that waiting for the enemy to make his move before countering it would leave open a "window of vulnerability" during which there would be no deterrent. Wohlstetter argued that even the smallest chance of vulnerability was unacceptable, given the catastrophic consequences involved in nuclear war. This made it imperative to anticipate the enemy's every move. In an essay titled "Objectives of the United States Military Posture," published by Rand in May 1959, Wohlstetter projected 10 years ahead to recommend the force levels needed to maintain the deterrent against growing Soviet capabilities. This analysis blurred the firewalls separating the three levels on which deterrence had rested through the 1950s. He argued for a significant boost in nuclear capacity in anticipation of Soviet moves to deploy more missiles with greater accuracy. He also recommended a large conventional force to fight a general war against the Soviet Union alongside a full-blown nuclear conflict. On the third tier, he emphasized the capability to fight in limited-theater conflicts, stating that "we do not believe that the full variety of non-nuclear aggressions, ranging from subversion and guerrilla warfare at one end of the scale to the use of conventional, proxy, or even Russian land forces at the other end, can be met with nuclear weapons." [4] Wohlstetter also projected that in the 1960s the American nuclear capability would have to deter China as well as Russia. Grimly pointing out that the Russians had suffered 20 million dead in World War II and still emerged as a superpower, he wondered how much damage they would consider "unacceptable." Against China, he wrote, the threshold of unacceptable damage was probably significantly higher, and America's nuclear force structure would have to take that into account. These conclusions were alarming to old-school strategists like Brodie. They felt uncomfortable with the idea of preparing to fight large-scale conventional wars, or getting embroiled in "limited wars" with nuclear-armed adversaries. It would be hard, Brodie argued in a 1965 Rand memo titled "Escalation and the Nuclear Option," to maintain the distinction between large-scale conventional war and nuclear war once events began to cascade down upon each other. Brodie also felt that Wohlstetter did not consider the real nature of Soviet military thinking. As a general principle he was troubled by the turn that strategic thought had taken under Wohlstetter's influence and felt far more comfortable with a tightly controlled nuclear doctrine: "Violence between great opponents is inherently difficult to control and cannot be controlled unilaterally. . . . Once hostilities begin, the level of violence has in modern times tended to always go up." Fundamentally, what Brodie was objecting to was the growing influence of a methodology for drawing up strategic doctrine that collapsed strategic and tactical levels of engagement into each other. But Wohlstetter, through his command of detail, particularly quantitative detail, and his ability to weave elaborate numerical models out of arcane pieces of information, had changed the language of strategy. Earlier thinking had been built on an assessment of the enemy's intentions and capabilities. It relied on secret intelligence and scholarly analysis of communist ideology, Russian nationalism, and "Kremlinology"--detailed expertise on Moscow's palace intrigues. Wohlstetter's methodology, on the other hand, relied largely on probabilistic reasoning and mathematical modeling that utilized systems analysis and game theory, signature methodologies developed at Rand. The designs or intentions of the enemy were presumed, or presented as a future possibility. This methodology exploited to the hilt the iron law of zero margin of error that was the asymptotic ideal for nuclear strategy. Even a small probability of vulnerability, or a potential future vulnerability, could be presented

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Widening the loop


The change in language was evident during the antiballistic missile (ABM) defense debate, which began in 1968. The debate revolved around the same theme as Wohlstetter's earlier campaigns against the vulnerability of SAC. If Soviet ICBMs were becoming more accurate and yields were improving, hardened silos could not be relied on to protect against a first strike, thus cracking America's deterrent open once again. In 1969, President Richard Nixon announced his support of the Safeguard ABM system to shore up the deterrent against a Soviet first strike or possible future nuclear blackmail from smaller nuclear powers such as China. Instead of defending cities, Safeguard would defend Minuteman silos to ensure the survival of enough retaliatory capability to deter others from thinking about a first strike. The Safeguard system was essentially an enhanced version of older systems like Nike X and Sentinel, which, although strongly opposed by Robert McNamara, the previous defense secretary, and his advisers, envisaged using a small nuclear weapon to intercept an incoming missile. In addition to the immense cost associated with missile defense, critics also judged the system to be ineffective. It also had a fatal vulnerability: If its ground radar were the first target of an enemy strike, the system would be rendered useless at the outset of hostilities. The limited level of protection Safeguard could actually deliver did not justify its costs. Wohlstetter weighed in heavily on the side of Safeguard. His skills in marshalling quantitative detail determined the nature of the debate. Instead of talking about Safeguard's strategic utility, the debate hinged on more arcane issues like the degree of hardening necessary to withstand a direct hit by an SS-9, or the "kill probability" associated with phased-array radars. (In 1972, however, the Nixon administration concluded SALT I talks with the Soviets and scrapped all plans for an ABM system.) By 1968, Wohlstetter was deeply troubled by sweeping critiques of the Vietnam War and America's global mission, both at home and abroad. In a paper titled "On Vietnam and Bureaucracy" that clarified his thoughts on the war (from which he claimed to have dissented early on), Wohlstetter argued that the war was the product of bad decision making by McNamara and Walt Rostow. They should have committed themselves to a political solution involving the reconstruction of South Vietnam through aid and democratic reform, an alternative to which he was sympathetic. Or they should have opted for a military solution, which meant weighing in with overwhelming force. The difficulty, in his view, was the product of a war strategy that did neither. [5] Wohlstetter was also troubled by anything that smacked of isolationism. He was a firm believer in a global order, underwritten by U.S. might and secured through the export of American secular and humanistic values. In his view the United States could not be a great power without a worldwide web of interests. And those interests could not be secured through military means alone.

Enter the protgs


Wohlstetter left Rand for academia in 1962, eventually settling down at the University of Chicago in 1964. It was here that he met a bright young graduate student in political science--Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz was drawn to Wohlstetter's intellect and temperament and began working under his supervision. Wolfowitz picked up where Wohlstetter left off. Where Wohlstetter had warned of preparing for a rearmed Russia and a nuclear China, Wolfowitz considered the third dimension along which nuclear strategy would evolve: proliferation. Wolfowitz wrote his dissertation on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. He argued that the United States needed to look beyond simply defending traditional allies against the communist bloc. Areas with natural resources vital to the U.S. economy ought to be as much a part of a strategic defense umbrella, and anybody with the capability to threaten those areas must be regarded with concern. In true Wohlstetter fashion, Wolfowitz argued that even the hint of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would be a matter of the gravest concern. In 1969, in the thick of the ABM debate, Wohlstetter summoned Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, another protg, to help him gather the information he needed to wage the Safeguard campaign. Housed in the offices of Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Washington State Democrat and military hawk, Wolfowitz and Perle conducted interviews and drafted a report. Wohlstetter's two young acolytes were quickly immersed in the world of Washington politics. Wolfowitz entered government service as a junior officer in the Middle East section of the Defense Department and quickly rose through the ranks to head the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Wolfowitz and the growing danger


In the 1970s, the national security establishment was under attack from all directions. At the start of the decade, Arkansas Democrat William Fulbright led a senatorial charge to cap defense expenditures to help finance Great Society programs. In 1972, George McGovern's campaign promised to bring the troops home from Vietnam and put domestic issues back on the agenda. And a beleaguered defense establishment found its rationale for increases in funding requirements swept away with the signing of SALT I and the opening of dtente. Wohlstetter viewed all these developments with alarm and in 1974 joined forces with air force Gens. George Keegan and Daniel Graham in an ongoing campaign to obtain access to raw intelligence data regarding Soviet military rearmament. He claimed that the CIA systematically underestimated the Soviet nuclear weapons stockpile in its annual National Intelligence Estimates. In typical Wohlstetter fashion, he published a chart showing U.S. defense expenditures staying steady as a percentage of gross domestic product, with Soviet expenditures showing a marked increase. He was quickly joined by a chorus of defense-oriented right-wing bureaucrats and legislators who called for an alternative "threat assessment" to be drawn up by an ad hoc group. In 1975, CIA Director William Colby dismissed their requests for raw intelligence. But in 1976, when the senior George Bush became CIA director, a second request was approved. Three separate teams were constituted to examine raw intelligence on Soviet nuclear

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Close Help projected that by 1984 the Soviet Union would deploy about 500 Backfire bombers--more than twice as many as were actually deployed that year. They claimed that the Soviet Union was working on an anti-acoustic submarine and, failing to find any evidence of one, stated that it may already have been deployed since it appeared to have evaded detection! Their claims were all drawn from worst-case scenarios. But the Team B reports are more significant for the thinking they reveal. The authors made projections of Soviet stockpiles and built up a picture of a Soviet Union bent on dominating the world based on wild speculation, including the writings of Field Marshal A. V. Suvorov, an eighteenth-century Russian commander. When their reports were ignored by the Carter administration, Team B members took their crusade to the press, prompting calls for congressional hearings. [6] In 1979 the Carter administration was paralyzed on the foreign policy front, under siege from military hawks, and reeling from three foreign policy disasters--a revolution sweeping Iran, another in Nicaragua, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the editorial pages of the New York Times, Wohlstetter wrote a series of articles detailing the need to extend the U.S. security umbrella to the Persian Gulf, arguing that even if no Soviet hand could be seen behind the Iranian revolution, it still represented a threat to American interests in the Middle East and Pakistan. Two concerns merited this move in his opinion: the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the disintegration of state power in some parts of the world. [7] Meanwhile, Wolfowitz had teamed up with others in the Defense Department to submit a classified appraisal of American security policy in the Middle East that arrived at the same conclusion. [8] A new danger, more insidious and lethal, was beginning to arise: chaos from disintegrating states coupled with loose nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable parties. "How do we cope with instabilities in countries important to us?" Wohlstetter asked. "Are we saying we will use force only after an unambiguous massive Soviet attack?" [9] And what doctrines would guide the deployment of American forces in a world of chaos? What mix of hardware and software would be necessary? Was the Carter administration right to put so much emphasis on SALT II while the real military problems facing America were perilously neglected? When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the members of Team B were back in business. Wolfowitz was named assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs and later served as ambassador to Indonesia. Other members found positions in the defense and state departments. Reagan's "Evil Empire" rhetoric, and the Reagan defense buildup--the largest defense budget increases in peacetime history--built on the work of Team B. The years following 1979 saw a series of interventions that did not take defense against communism as their primary justification--the deployment of U.S. Marines in Beirut, the airstrikes on Libya (perhaps the first campaign of the war on terror), the invasion of Panama (an example of "regime change" of the sort the Bush administration wishes to effect in Iraq), the deployment in Somalia, and of course, both Gulf Wars. These emerged alongside covert interventions in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua that used local irregulars supplied through clandestine weapons merchants.

From deterrence to dominance


When the Soviet Union came tumbling down in 1991, the containment system was left without the prop against which it had stood. Suddenly, talk of deterrence and Soviet intentions and military buildups was anachronistic. But the Wohlstetter-Wolfowitz team was best situated among military-minded hawks to pick up the pieces. By the first Bush administration, Wolfowitz was working for Dick Cheney, the secretary of defense. In May 1990 he delivered a briefing for Cheney recommending that the United States take steps to ensure its strategic dominance for the foreseeable future. As director of the Pentagon's Defense Planning Board, he was tasked with writing the next Defense Planning Guidance, recommending where U.S. military priorities ought to be in the post--Cold War world. What Wolfowitz produced in that document was nothing less than a blueprint for world domination. He recognized that with the Soviet collapse, no country on earth had the capability to wage large-scale conventional war against America. But that did not mean the end of threats to American power. Instead, he argued, the United States must "maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." The most immediate threat outlined in the document was the proliferation of nuclear weapons: "The actual use of weapons of mass destruction, even in conflicts that otherwise do not engage U.S. interests, could spur further proliferation, which in turn would threaten world order." Therefore, "the United States may be faced with the question whether to take military steps to prevent the development or use of weapons of mass destruction." In short, strategic decisions had to be made before the threat materialized. During the Cold War, Wohlstetter had strenuously argued for preventive deployment as the posture necessary to maintain the deterrent against a growing communist threat. Wolfowitz, his protg, in the waning days of the Cold War, argued for preemptive action as the only way to assure order in a world in which it could no longer be assumed that nuclear-armed belligerents would behave rationally. Much like the concerns with SAC's vulnerability in the 1950s, the compelling logic of this argument would spread during the 1990s and ultimately assume the highest foreign policy priority of our time. The document also asserted that "the United States should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated." [10] Leaked to the New York Times, the guidance sparked an immediate storm of controversy. Cheney insisted it was merely an exercise, not a statement of official policy, and the document was buried when the Bush administration lost the election. [11] Wolfowitz and Wohlstetter belong to that section of the American right wing that stands in opposition to the realism of Henry Kissinger. Unlike Kissinger, they see the export of American values as the main prop and justification for an American global mission.

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Andrew Marshall: Counterforce to RMA


If Wohlstetter was a moralist who believed that power had a higher purpose, Andrew Marshall, his contemporary and peer at Rand, is a purist. For Marshall there are no lessons to draw from Vietnam except military lessons, and power is its own justification. In 21 years at Rand, Marshall left virtually no paper trail. Most of what we know of him is what we are told by those who have known him. He is a man of few words, rarely ever speaking before large gatherings. He meticulously avoids leaving behind a record, has been described as "Delphic" in his manner of speech, prefers to speak through others, and has a taste for ideas that upset the mainstream. Marshall had done some work on early warning at Rand and became interested in intelligence issues. Soon he became involved with a group whose primary concern was not deterring, but actually fighting, nuclear war. They called their idea "counterforce." At the conceptual level, it was about targeting Soviet bombers on the ground. Such a mission would rely heavily on intelligence--knowing the precise locations of Soviet retaliatory assets, the preparation time to get a Soviet bomber in the air, the air defenses to be encountered along an attack trajectory, and being able to accurately assess the success of the mission. Any such mission would depend on speed and surprise. The calculations involved in counterforce were doing in reverse what Wohlstetter had done in his study on SAC's vulnerability. The idea was to knock out a significant portion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal on the ground in the opening phases of an attack while retaining a reserve capability to deliver a second attack. This strategy appeared, superficially, to have the benefit of avoiding cities as primary targets. In theory, the strike would send a powerful signal to the enemy to restrain its actions before population centers were attacked and destroyed. Counterforce was one of the more daring ideas to emerge from Rand. To those interested in pursuing American supremacy through nuclear weapons, it offered a glimpse of how a phased nuclear conflict might be conducted. To those interested in restraining the suicidal implications of "massive retaliation," it seemed to offer a way to keep the genie of nuclear conflagration under control, even in times of extreme uncertainty, by replacing the nuclear trip wire with a graduated ascent to full-scale hostilities that could be stopped midway. But most saw it as a dangerous avenue to pursue because it placed the enemy in a "use-it-or-lose-it" dilemma at the outset of a crisis. Further, any war plan built on counterforce assumptions would have to be tightly calibrated and depend heavily on quality intelligence about the enemy's nuclear forces and decision making. The technical difficulties involved made the concept impractical in the eyes of the Rand mainstream. But Marshall was determined. He took his ideas to others who were working on different problems and might find some concepts from counterforce useful for their purposes. In the end, counterforce found its place when an air force and navy rivalry grew as a result of the introduction of the Polaris submarine-launched missile. The navy wanted to present Polaris as the alternative to SAC, and the air force feared that would put the navy in competition for the big money that came with nuclear command. Counterforce would be useful to the air force--Polaris lacked the necessary yield and accuracy. Only the air force could execute a counterforce plan. Counterforce entered the mainstream of nuclear strategy, and Marshall persuaded William Kaufman, a young and articulate Rand recruit, to become its spokesman. Younger talents began paying attention to their ideas and developing them further. But the biggest test of counterforce concepts came unexpectedly during the Vietnam War. When Robert McNamara entered the Pentagon as defense secretary, he brought with him a clutch of youthful Rand analysts deeply steeped in studies of SAC vulnerability and counterforce. They came to be called the "Whiz Kids" for their penchant for numbers, models, and systems analysis. The Whiz Kids clashed routinely with senior uniformed officers, yet nobody could outdo them in an argument. Once their thinking began to determine defense allocations, force commanders found that the survival of their pet weapons systems depended on their ability to speak the Whiz Kids's language, and they moved to learn the techniques of systems analysis and game theory to avoid becoming irrelevant. In this way, the methodologies and language of strategic analysis developed at Rand seeped into the Pentagon and became the ubiquitous language in which military matters were going to be discussed. The growing influence of Rand was apparent in the plans drawn up to counter the insurgency in Vietnam. Operation Rolling Thunder was conceived as an exercise in deterrence, not victory. The idea was to choose sites for heavy bombing for their political and psychological effect rather than for any actual military advantage. Pushing for victory would have the effect of forcing the enemy to fight harder, and possibly pull bigger powers into the war. Instead, the signal being sent was "desist, or your population is next"--classic counterforce. The premise of counterforce is to bring a conflict to a halt before it turns into full-blown hostilities by convincing the enemy that withdrawal from hostilities is in its interests. The purpose of Rolling Thunder was to convince the Vietcong to halt their attacks on the South since the bombing could target them and their families next. But the Vietcong did not desist, even when the scale of the bombing reached mammoth proportions. Lyndon Johnson had to order a halt to the bombing, realizing its futility. The assumptions behind counterforce thinking did not apply in a guerrilla war where the enemy was unafraid to die--or was "determined," in the parlance of strategy. Even if America bellowed her message from the bellies of her B-52 bomber fleet, the Vietcong weren't listening, and counterforce offered no useful pointers about what to do. Rand thinking, when taken out of the rarefied air of nuclear war-fighting strategy, coupled with President John F. Kennedy's commitment to "go anywhere, fight any foe in the cause of freedom," led America into a quagmire of astonishing proportions. In 1971, Nixon, dissatisfied with the quality of the intelligence he was receiving, ordered a comprehensive restructuring of the intelligence community. As part of the shake-up, a new "net assessment group" was created in the National Security Council, with the director reporting to Henry Kissinger. The job of the office would be to evaluate the intelligence from the various agencies about Soviet and Chinese nuclear capabilities, and compile it all in one place. Marshall, having been deeply immersed in intelligence issues during his early years at Rand, had the right credentials for the job. He was appointed as the group's first director.

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Close Help (ONA) ever since. ONA had a murky brief. Marshall's job was to imagine every kind of threat the military might ever face. He has used the ONA to assist Team B in its efforts to access raw intelligence, follow Soviet military thinking closely, run war games involving novel scenarios, and teach a summer seminar at the Naval War College. His taste for daring ideas has not abated, and his knack for cultivating eloquent spokesmen to do his talking for him helped him spin a web that would overwhelm the defense establishment 30 years later. In the 1970s, Marshall busied himself with concepts of ballistic missile defense growing out of the Safeguard debates, and closely reading Soviet literature on nuclear war. This is where he came across the writings of Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov and others on the nature of military revolutions. Soviet officers were arguing that advances in missile, communications, and sensor technologies were creating the conditions for a "military technical revolution" somewhat akin to how artillery had rendered horse-mounted cavalry obsolete. Marshall was impressed and followed the idea closely. He found that the 1920s and 1930s had been the most dynamic period in military revolutions, with new technologies like aircraft, but also new operational concepts in supply and maneuver like blitzkrieg. He became an advocate of just such a revolution, one that was operationally as well as technologically driven. He called his ideas the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA). Failing to make much headway with top-level decision-makers in replacing containment and deterrence thinking, Marshall turned his attention to the officer corps of the Pentagon. He attracted quite a following. Barry Watts, an air force pilot and graduate of the Air Force Academy, took his ideas to Northrop Grumman Corporation and, as director of their Analysis Center, persuaded the company to look away from large fighter platforms toward high-tech avionics. Grumman was the first company to bring the idea of RMA on board. Marshall's best known supporter is probably Donald Rumsfeld; their association dates from Rumsfeld's first tenure as defense secretary in the Ford administration. Rumsfeld was an early proponent of ballistic missile defense and chaired the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States in 1998. Following the Soviet collapse, Marshall had a brief period when he argued that the Soviet Union was now at its most dangerous moment--that it might lash out in one last effort to hold its empire together. In the early 1990s Marshall became a China hawk, arguing that China's growth rate meant it could become a nuclear competitor within 25 years. By 1993, the ONA was conducting a series of roundtable discussions in which all the services discussed the military impact of advances in information technology, the value of space warfare, joint operational commands, greater coordination, and the impact of declining budgets. By 1994, Marshall's 20-year efforts to convert the Pentagon officer corps were beginning to bear fruit. Deputy Defense Secretary William Perry started a project to conduct a department-wide discussion of the RMA. The project looked at future defense needs, recommended the most promising technologies and operational concepts, and conducted war games. When George W. Bush's administration came to power, the RMA was put into practice. Rumsfeld was named defense secretary, and began by naming Barry Watts to the Program Evaluation and Assessment Office and appointing James Roche as secretary of the Air Force. He created the Force Transformation Office to drive his vision of "transforming" the armed forces. Then he surprised everyone by appointing Andrew Marshall to conduct a sweeping review and make recommendations to transform the military into a twentyfirst-century fighting force. The RMA no longer belonged to the dedicated fringe, where it had originated. Its adherents were in control, and they were going to make their presence felt. The outcome was reflected in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, which called for reshaping the armed forces to make them lighter, faster, more flexible, and able to conduct multi-theater operations simultaneously. The Bush administration announced its intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and deploy a functioning ballistic missile defense before the 2004 election, much to the dismay of its allies. In January 2002, while the world was distracted by the release of the Osama bin Laden tape in which he appears to implicate himself in the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration announced its withdrawal from ABM. Rumsfeld, guided by Marshall's ideas, envisages a military that is able to run air, land, sea, and space operations with an unprecedented level of coordination. RMA concepts seek to endow the fighting forces with a level of "asymmetric advantage" on the battlefield that denies the enemy any chance of engagement. [12] Marshall is opposed to any weapons platforms that place U.S. personnel within firing range of the enemy--unlike the 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea. Through RMA and missile defense, Rumsfeld seeks to prepare U.S. military forces to fight any sort of conflict, in any terrain, while keeping the continental United States secure from retaliation. His concepts call for armed forces that can wage war from a distance that the enemy cannot cross, with an accuracy the enemy cannot evade, at a speed the enemy cannot understand. Rumsfeld's ideal war would end before the enemy had figured out it was at war.

From preventive deployment to preemptive action


The war plan in Iraq was built on these concepts. Inspired by the Nazi invasion of France, Rumsfeld's war plan had three armored columns advance rapidly on Baghdad in one large maneuver. The idea was to head for the center as fast as possible and end the conflict by decapitating the enemy. The flexibility of the plan showed itself when the Fourth Infantry Division, which was supposed to move south from Turkey to Baghdad, was denied permission to operate out of Turkey--and the war moved ahead nonetheless. Speed was the other critical factor, and when intense resistance in the south, particularly at Nasiriyah, threatened to slow the pace of the advance, the units were ordered to continue northward rather than perpetuate the fight. The plan worked spectacularly, although the Iraqi army put up a much fiercer fight than the planners had imagined. Its shortcomings became apparent only in the aftermath of the war. Hundreds of thousands of militarily trained Iraqi army personnel were released into the general population. This left the occupying power with no means to control their actions, the consequences of which are now apparent. Why was the war necessary in the first place? In the eyes of those who pressed for war, the United States was already in a quagmire following the indeterminate outcome of the first Gulf War. According to Wolfowitz, leaving Saddam Hussein in power was a big

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Close Help sanctions, for their part, could not be maintained indefinitely, either. The status quo was the quagmire, and regime change was the only way out. And the sooner it was carried out, the lower the cost of the operation and rebuilding would be. The quest for an impregnable defense and military supremacy over the rest of the world has brought America to a perilous moment of truth. The war in Iraq is located where Wohlstetter and Wolfowitz's ideas of strategic supremacy intersect with the impregnable force that Marshall and Rumsfeld wish to build. The application of counterforce ideas to a guerrilla war pulled the United States into a colossal quagmire in Vietnam. But the doctrine of preemptive action turns the iron law of necessity in nuclear strategy into foreign policy. This time the quagmire will not be an unwinnable war in one country, but endless war across a vast stretch of the Earth--a war from which extrication will be next to impossible. As the lone superpower girds itself for a ruinous entanglement in an uncertain part of the world, it is well to remember that Cato the Elder, too, got his way. Rome did wage war on Carthage, in the Third Punic War. Carthage was obliterated. Rome reigned supreme over the Mediterranean, but at a price. The triumph heralded the death of the Republic. The Empire was left battling phantom enemies--inflation, disease, the decay of the civic life that had been the backbone of Roman society, and the deep disaffection of large numbers of its peripheral inhabitants who looked elsewhere for a power to obey--forces that eventually overwhelmed Rome itself.

1. Quoted in Fred M. Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), p. 31. I have relied extensively on this book for material on discussions relating to Rand. For a concise summary of Wohlstetter's thinking, see John Baylis and John Garnett, eds., The Makers of Nuclear Strategy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991). 2. Kaplan, pp. 97--110. 3. Kaplan, p. 102. See also The Delicate Balance of Terror, November 6, 1958, Rand Publication P-1472, for a declassified statement of Wohlstetter's ideas on the vulnerabilities of deterrence. 4. Albert Wohlstetter, Objectives of the United States Military Posture, Rand Publication RM-2373, May 1, 1959. 5. Albert Wohlstetter, On Vietnam and Bureaucracy, Rand Publication D-17276-1-ISA/ARPA, July 17, 1968. 6. See Anne Hessing Kahn, "Team B: The Trillion Dollar Experiment, Part One" and John Prados, "Team B: The Trillion Dollar Experiment, Part Two," both Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 1993. For Team B politics see Jerry W. Sanders, Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger and the Politics of Containment (Boston: South End Press, 1983), pp. 197--204. On the impact of the Team B reports in shaping attitudes, see David Binder, "New CIA Estimate Finds Soviet Seeks Superiority in Arms," New York Times, Dec. 26, 1976. For a summary of the resurgence of militarist factions during the 1976 election, see Anthony Lewis, "The Brooding Hawks," New York Times, Feb. 10, 1977. 7. Albert Wohlstetter, "Making Peace and Keeping It," New York Times, Jan. 29, 1979. 8. Bill Keller, "The Sunshine Warrior," New York Times Magazine, Sept. 22, 2002. 9. Albert Wohlstetter, "The Uses of Irrelevance," New York Times, Feb. 25, 1979. 10. Patrick E. Tyler, "U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop," New York Times, March 8, 1992. 11. Patrick E. Tyler, "Lone Superpower Plan: Ammunition for Critics," New York Times, March 10, 1992; "America Only," New York Times editorial, March 10, 1992. 12. For more on the revolution in military affairs, see comw.org/rma/index.html.

Until recently, Khurram Husain taught at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Lahore, Pakistan. He is also a contributor to the Pakistani press on issues connected to U.S. foreign policy. November/December 2003 pp. 62-71 (vol. 59, no. 06) 2003 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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