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The Long War - 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review

Rowan Wolf


The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report (or here) has been released. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld informs us that we are in the fifth year of what will be a long war." The focus areas of the 2006 QDR (page 8 of document) look remarkable similar to the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review. Two significant additions in this regard are:"From under-resourced, standby forces (hollow units) - to fully-equipped and fully-manned forces (combat ready units).<"/i> and "From a battle-ready force (peace) - to battlehardened forces (war).". I presume these items signal a reformulation of the Reserve and Guard mission and focus, and quicker combat activity for recruits.

The emphasis on intelligence activities (domestic and international), and special forces trained units is also stronger than in the 2001 document. There are also signals of decreasing emphasis on long term alliances with nations in favor of "dynamic partnerships," and what looks to be more military privatization and funding of other nation's militaries ("focus on building partner capabilities)."(pg. 9) None of these are any surprise as they are reflective of the increased reach and scope of the military - particularly over the last year.

Specifically, the report calls for a 15% increase in Special Forces units, and a 33% increase in Special Forces Battalions. The continued argument for a small fighting force is buttressed by increased dependence on complex technology - particularly remote controlled weapons. A new Marine Special Operations Command is being created to focus on use of these unmanned weapons systems.

"To strengthen forces to defeat terrorist networks, the Department will increase Special Operations Forces by 15% and increase the number of Special Forces Battalions by one-third. U.S. Special Operations Command (U.S. SOCOM) will establish the Marine Corps Special Operations Command. Th e Air Force will establish an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron under U.S. SOCOM. Th e Navy will support a U.S. SOCOM increase in SEAL Team manning and will develop a riverine warfare capability. The Department will also expand Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units by 3,700 personnel, a 33% increase. Multipurpose Army and Marine Corps ground forces will increase their capabilities and capacity to conduct irregular warfare missions." (Pg 17)

"Riverine" means "1 : relating to, formed by, or resembling a river; 2 : living or situated on the banks of a river" - I have no idea what it means in the context of the above quote, but elsewhere in the document it seems to refer to actual river activities.

The "new" strategies call for "new" systems. Among those are increased use of Predator type drones; placing ballistic missiles in the Trident nuclear subs; extending nuclear capabilities; and advancing long-range "strike systems" - presumably including current development of space-based weapons platforms and systems.

While the QDR, and the Administration, continue to argue that the "war on terrorism" is distinctly different from previous wars ("Since 2001 the U.S. military has been continuously at war, but fighting a conflict that is markedly different from wars of the past. The enemies we face are not nation-states but rather dispersed non-state networks."), it looks remarkably like previous wars, except now there is an aim towards "regime change" as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and perhaps soon Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. However, these are hardly clean "cut the head off the snake" engagements, but prolonged conflicts generating widening hostility against the United States. They involve U.S. troops on the ground fighting civilian populations, and struggling for the establishment of puppet governments easily controlled by the United States. If Afghanistan and Iraq are any indication, this is not an effective approach. Perhaps because this is not working so well, the QDR is shifting increasingly to "clandestine operations," and the use of existing resistance forces. A strategy which is hardly new, and smacks of the Cold War strategies that are purportedly disdained by those currently in power.

The 2006 QDR calls for many changes in military operations that should at least give people pause. The report clearly signals, and rationalizes, increasing secretiveness; engagement in domestic spying, surveillance, and intelligence operations; increasing engagement in partnerships with domestic agencies - from federal to local police forces. They call this necessary to "Defend the Homeland in depth." This includes the pre-staging of US military forces domestically.

There is also an emphasis on psychological operations to "shape" choices internationally. But we have also seen there are few concerns about the spread of such propaganda and operations to the United States, nor their direct use on the U.S. public. This use of propaganda on the public is strictly prohibited by law, but as been relatively freely engaged in by the current administration. For example, the paying of "journalists" to pitch programs such as "No Child Left Behind."

Clearly, China is seen as a current partner, but a potential enemy within the review. After briefly discussing China's increasing military capability, we are informed that the U.S. "will attempt to dissuade any military competitor from developing disruptive or other capabilities that could enable regional hegemony or hostile action against the United States or other friendly countries, and it will seek to deter aggression or coercion. Should deterrence fail, the United States would deny a hostile power its strategic and operational objectives. " (pg42) In other words, for all claims of focus on non-state-based operations, conventional nation-to-nation warfare is certainly on the table. Since, U.S. forces are not at strength for such an event (or another such event), the reliance on high tech, long range systems and space-based weaponry is certainly the plan.

The QDR lays out two operational postures: "steady state," and "surge" (see chart below from the 2006 QDR)

What exactly "steady state" and "surge" mean seems to change and intertwine depending on which arena one is in. Generally, the "surge" is an increased or immediate response operation, or adding a conventional war to an "irregular" war, or "irregular" operations into, or in addition to other "irregular" or conventional situations.

Amazingly, Department of Defense continues to claim in the QDR that: "Department concluded
that the size of today's forces - both the Active and Reserve Components across the Military Departments - is appropriate to meet current and projected operational demands.
" ((pg 53) Given the extraordinary measures that have been taken in the current operations - stop loss programs, increasing enlistment age, decreasing recruitment standards, calling back veterans who were previously discharged, and $20,000 signing bonuses - such a claim seems an outright deception.

While there is little that is totally new in the 2006 QDR, there are two trends that are clear. First is the movement towards a much more corporately oriented Defense Department, and a much more embedded one - a military that is everywhere with eyes in the sky and data plugs into every global data system. The theater of operations now clearly includes an active deployment and involvement inside the United States. There also seems to be fighting factions within the Department of Defense, and that is clear in the back and forth presentation of "conventional" vs "irregular;" state enemies (like China) versus threatening regimes, and non-state actors. In this regard, I agree with Noah Shachtman. These issues combine into one very expensive military, and one where conventional weapons systems and news weapons systems compete with remote operators with joysticks playing deadly video games a world away.

The QDR continually utilizes the word "focus," but it is the "focus" of a many-eyed beast who sees no boundaries to its operations or interests. Within this do everything, everywhere - including internal operations - is the overriding mark of Rumsfeld. That mark is the outsourcing of military functions to private corporations; the small force with rapid deployment capabilities and (apparently) no need for supply lines), run it like a business mentality. That vision, quite simply does not play well if current experience is anything to go on. The U.S. was not able to "shock and awe" its way into "success" in either Afghanistan or Iraq. The Rumsfeld plan has been a miserable failure in that regard. A clear example of "surge" using "irregular" warfare, that has transformed into a remarkably "conventional" engagement. Further, given the definitions of the potential "enemies," it is highly unlikely that the military will be in anything other than "surge" beyond the foreseeable future.

The testimony of Colonel Douglas Macgregor before the Armed Services Committee (7/15/04):

"Current Army transformation programs are not informed by the realities of modern combat or rigorous testing and experimentation. While it is gratifying to see interest in the concepts of rotational readiness and unit cohesion, the disastrous decision to keep American soldiers and units in Iraq for 12 months at a time reinforces my broader reservations about Army transformation. Today, our ground force is apparently exhausted and incapable of securing the stretch of road from downtown Baghdad to Iraq's international airport. Thus, my greatest concern is that the current thrust of Army transformation may actually reduce the Army's fighting power and operational flexibility just as the international environment is placing greater demands on our ground forces. "

The 2006 QDR glorifies and extends what is clearly a failed strategy. It is a strategy that brought John Murtha to speak out against the continued occupation of Iraq - a John Murtha who was presumably speaking for the Military side of the DoD rather than the "Civilian" (corporate) side of the DoD. As we have seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it is a policy that verges on a pogrom (the massacre of helpless people) at times. It is a policy that has, and will continue to distance us from the rest of the international community, and paint us ever more clearly as a rogue state.

In reading the QDR and other such documents, and looking at the realities on the ground, I am having a sinking sense of de a vu. Growing up in the "Cold War" with its rhetoric and threats, what I read is strikingly similar to the accusations about the U.S.S.R. and the "threat" of global communism. As I listen to the fear mongers' presentations of the "terrorists" and "terrorism" it could well be a much earlier set of speeches. It is tempting to gauge where we are in the comparative rhetoric pattern. Are we closer to the McCarthy hearings, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the Gulf of Tonkin? I read, I listen, and I watch, and the claims against the "communists" are remarkably reflected in our own military and political realities. Have we become the "enemy" that we created? It is starting to look like that may well be the case.

Other Pertinent Documents, Articles, and Resources
2005 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America

Project on Defense Alternatives - an excellent portal of Defense information.

Defense and the National Interest

Global Security


Rowan Wolf is a columnist for Project for the Old American Century,
 and the editor of Radical Noesis and Uncommon Thought Journal .
 Her email is [email protected]


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