The General's Folly: Old Thinking for a New Military

Courtesy Reuters

Far from a desire to transform the U.S. military, William E. Odom's comments represent a nostalgia for a Cold War military more suited to the 1950s than to the next millennium ("Transforming the Military," July/August 1997). The future will be an age of uncertainty, with rapid economic growth, increased competition for resources, massive population increases, particularly along the world's coastlines, and rising urbanization, especially in the Third World. This chaotic state will present new challenges, and will require changes in why, where, and how U.S. forces are employed.

The Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review faced the difficult task of maintaining and developing forces that could simultaneously shape the current security environment, respond rapidly to emerging threats, and prepare for the long term, which to almost everyone except Odom remains uncertain. The review upheld the Marine Corps' role as the nation's force in readiness and approved plans to sharpen this instrument of national power. The military strategy outlined in the review called for "flexible and multi-mission capable" forces to respond to a full range of crises, not just those at the high end of the conflict spectrum. Furthermore, it stressed the need for forces capable of participating in multiple small-scale operations, while retaining the ability to move rapidly from one end of the spectrum to the other. Odom's tanks and bombers cannot meet these demands.


Odom decries the Pentagon's planning efforts for not setting regional priorities, but he does not present or defend his own. In fact, he only mentions yesterday's flash points-areas of Cold War-era importance such as the Fulda Gap, northern Japan, and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Although Europe and the Middle East remain important to the United States because of its allies and energy requirements, the keys to America's future economic growth and national security lie in Asia.

Speaking before a group of Asian scholars and businessmen, Secretary of Defense William Cohen acknowledged the critical importance of this region when he noted, "The Mediterranean

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