To: Donald Rumsfeld
From: Steven Clemons, New America Foundation and Cem Oezdemir, German Marshall Fund
Subject: Global War on Terrorism Memo
In your memo of 16 October, you posed several basic questions to Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Meyers, Doug Feith, and Pete Pace. You asked if we are winning or losing the Global War on Terror. You asked if the Department of Defense and the U.S. government are changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment and, furthermore, if a big institution like DoD is indeed capable of effective transformation.
We have compiled the following response.
The results are not yet in on the war against terror. There are terrorists-important ones-imprisoned around the world, many in the purgatory of Guantanamo Bay. But Osama bin Laden remains at large, continuing to inspire countless anti-modern, anti-American groups and individuals all over the world. Others not particularly inspired by bin Laden are radicalized by the harsh realities of occupation. America is held responsible for everything from power outages and unsanitary water to the deaths of innocents caught between a sustained insurgency and young American soldiers who face the ubiquitous difficulty of discerning Islamic enemies from Islamic friends. These realities erode confidence in the notion that American stewardship of Iraq will actually initiate an improvement in the general welfare of people.
The Department of Defense is clearly the world's biggest and richest institutional relic. Obviously, DoD is poorly equipped for the 21st century security environment: 5% of the world's population pays for more than 50% of global expenditure on defense, yet it does not feel secure. While smart soldiers, smart bombs, smart weapons, sensors and drones may be good investments to extend America's lead in the revolution in military affairs, the armed services are bloated and still organized around threats that either have collapsed or have been subordinated by the first priority of transnational terrorism. We have more than 700 publicly acknowledged military installations external to the United States and another 100 to 150 covert operations installations and listening posts. Is this network well designed to roll back the axis of evil? To contain China and a resurgent Russia? To assure America's access to the Caspian oil region? How are our objectives compromised by an institution shackled with Cold War inertia and suffering from the failure to dismantle its empire superstructure after the Soviet empire collapsed? Before 9-11, you were keen on weaning generals off of their Cold War era toys. You were on the right track: demonstrating that civilian authority over the military continues to function while realigning the services and their assets to meet real-not imagined-emerging threats. Does it really make sense to spend a trillion dollars on missile defense over the next thirty years when American civil infrastructure remains dangerously vulnerable to low tech terror? You must get back on track. Begin by questioning those Project for a New American Century memos that demand doubling the defense budget. Then start pursuing American security through smart choices about realignment and withdrawal from parts of the globe where American presence may actually be a greater source of instability than stability.
Big institutions can change, but only when they have no choice. The Department of Defense has a booming budget and is thriving in bad times. Should we not worry about the moral hazard of throwing money at institutions that do well during crisis and shrivel during stable times? Get a hold of the budgetary choke points for the DoD and strangle to death everything that you wouldn't build to meet threats today, and treat the resources that Americans allocate to defense as a scarce treasure that has to be spent wisely and well.
In light of DoD being the most expensive irrelevancy in fighting the kind of combat generated by the War on Terror, you ask if a new institution is needed. If America continues the business of unilaterally toppling the world's thugs, no structural approach could produce long-run success. Consider that multilateral collaborations against the world's worst dictators might not only be more rational, but also more legitimate. For example, last year the Bush administration, in return for a military base in Uzbekistan, gave $500 million to a government whose president has killed opponents by boiling them alive in water. When the world worries about America's flexible moral consciousness and asks if the U.S. is planting the seeds of future instability, consider listening.
With respect to your acknowledgement of the mixed results in confronting al Qaeda and the Taliban, you seem to conflate in your memo the war in Iraq with the war against transnational terrorism. There was a time when they were not the same thing, though now your policies are merging (and therefore growing) them clumsily. From a remote cave, one enemy controlled a network of operatives speaking thirty languages in sixty nations. The other enemy was a head of state with a visible army-the kind of threat your DoD loves to engage. In Bush at War, Bob Woodward describes how Dick Cheney identified the differences between the wars and determined that a war against Iraq would be more sustainable and attractive. Therein lies the answer to the deepest question in your memo: the U.S. government elected to take on Iraq and distract itself from the War on Terror. This is not only a problem of powerful institutional interests, but also a problem of attitude. This war has punctured the mystique of American power and will hinder America's influence in many other arenas where military forces would otherwise have been unnecessary. The world can now see America's limits all too clearly-a high price to pay for such meager results.
"Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the U.S.?" you ask. America has an enormous
Copyright 2003, China Economic Times