American Can Win

AMERICA CAN WIN. By Gary Hart and William S. Lind. Adler and Adler, Bethesda, MD, 1986, 301pp., plus index, $17.95 (Member $16.15)

reviewed by Maj R.C. Funk

Recently, a new book has been published entitled America Can Win. Written by Senator Gary Hart and William Lind, it outlines in detail the military reform movement and its goals. After reading the book, I thought that its message was important enough to warrant a review. Many of the points made by the authors have been made before, some in the GAZETTE, and some in other military and civilian publications. But I felt that the compilation of their ideas and criticism into one book was particularly effective in focusing the debate on military reform.

The twin problems of our record of military failures since World War II and our inability to spend ourselves strong, say Hart and Lind, require fundamental changes in our defense policy. The authors believe that our long string of military failures is the most important reason we need new defense policies, because a military system that fails in combat endangers our existence as a nation. Huge increases in the defense budget have also failed to produce any real improvement in our military strength. Despite a 33 percent increase in the trillion dollar defense budget since 1980, the authors contend that not a single unfavorable element of the U.S.-Soviet military balance has been reversed. In 1980, NATO was inferior on the ground and still is, and, in the authors’ opinion, the balances at sea in submarines and in the air in tactical fighter aircraft are still unfavorable.

The military reform movement is basically comprised of two wings, one civilian and one military. The civilian wing is headed by a core group of five individuals who provide much of the substance for the reform movement in the creation and formulation of ideas. The other important element of the civilian wing is the Congressional Military Reform Caucus. It is a bipartisan organization in Congress, composed of both liberals and conservatives, that has had some limited success in amending legislation on defense matters. The authors make the point that the caucus’ most important function, however, is to educate the members of Congress on defense matters and to change the terms of the congressional defense debate from “spend more to spend less” to “what do we need to do differently to restore the combat effectiveness of our Armed Services.”

The second wing of the reform movement is composed of active duty officers of all Services and ranks, although most are younger officers. The authors state that the officer reformers’ motivation is simple-if they are sent into combat, they want to win, and they recognize that many of our current practices and policies undermine what is required to win in combat.

The authors define military reform as an effort to make all our defense policies and practices, from the infantry squad to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Congress, serve the purpose of winning in combat. The authors take great care to explain what the reform movement is not because they feel it is often misrepresented. To summarize their views, the reform movement is not an effort to reduce or increase the size of the defense budget. Instead, its goal is to reduce the amount of attention the defense budget receives in Congress and the press, and to give more attention to whether we are buying and doing the right kinds of things-right for what is required in combat. It is not an effort to buy large quantities of inferior weapons rather than smaller numbers of superior weapons. They do not advocate quantity over quality, but they feel that weapons should be smaller, less complex, and less expensive, the characteristics that lead to true quality in combat. And last, the reform movement does not call for more centralized management at the Pentagon in search of more efficiency. The reform movement has effectiveness as its goal. Effectiveness means the ability to win in combat, while efficiency means winning at minimal cost. The authors believe that both are important, but effectiveness is the most important.

Most of America Can Win is a provocative, but comprehensive, critique of the Military Establishment. The authors accuse the military of designing weapons that belong in museums rather than on battlefields, asking the wrong questions, teaching the wrong courses, emphasizing the wrong doctrine, and preparing to fight the last war. The book is certain to be controversial because of the emotional issues it raises and the recommendations made by the authors to make our military more effective. Are the authors right in their criticisms? In my opinion, yes, on most issues. Do I agree with their recommendations? Yes, most of them. Some are idealistic and easier said than done; others would take decades to correct, and the cost would be exorbitant.

I was very fortunate to be in the 2d Marine Division in 1982 when maneuver warfare, which is nothing new, was proclaimed as doctrine. I participated in two combined arms exercises at Fort Pickett, VA, and I saw the value of a totally new type of training, that of freeplay exercises conducted with force-on-force maneuver. I saw the value of mission-type orders issued just hours before the start of the exercise, and especially the value of the critiques. It was not uncommon to see platoon commanders and even squad leaders called upon by the commanding general to stand up and explain what the regimental or battalion commander’s intent was, where the point of main effort was, how they accomplished their mission, or why they did not. The zero defects mentality was absent, and the training made people think. Most participants were enthusiastic about its results. That type of training marked real progress. There is good progress and bad progress, and sometimes it may be hard to tell the difference. But we should not reflexively cringe from progress because it is something new. Some in the military have made that a habit.

The reform movement and the issues advocated by the authors, Senator Nunn, Jeffrey Record, Edward Luttwak, Richard Gabriel, and others should be welcomed by the military. Constructive criticism never hurt anyone. Unfortunately, the Defense Establishment is the largest bureaucracy in the country where milicrats exist who passionately believe that business as usual is the plan of the day and resist all change. Even though many officers believe that reforms must be made, the responsibility for military reform lies squarely with our civilian leadership, and it is our duty to give our candid advice.

But here the authors miss the point. In their analysis of Congress, they failed to identify the most critical problem concerning our civilian leadership. That problem is the total lack of military experience of our elected representatives and a whole generation of professionals, journalists, bureaucrats, teachers, and other opinion leaders, brought about by our Nation’s policy of allowing the rich and educated, the middle and upper class, to avoid any type of military or national service. I think it would be safe to say that approximately 90 percent of our elected representatives (and their staffs), born after 1940, have never worn a uniform. A few have served with distinction in the military, some are even decorated combat veterans, Senators Dole, Inouye, and Denton, and Representative McCain to name a few. But in a few short years, the World War II and Korean War veterans will pass on, and the congressional leadership, and ultimately, thePresidency, will fall under the Vietnam-era members of Congress, most of whom have never served. Most have no firsthand, personal experience, either good or bad, with the military. Most do not understand and do not appreciate what is needed in peacetime to keep the military ready to fight and win; most tend to exaggerate what the military can do; and most believe that years of neglect can be corrected with a brief flurry of attention by spending huge sums of money. Our elected representatives are patriotic and dedicated, but we would have a better military, with a more hopeful future, if the people who lead it had also served. Sir Francis William Butler said it best:

The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards.

Our nature causes us to object to criticism from outsiders, especially when we know that those who criticize have never served and have never had to cope with the pressures of command and produce results. However, our Military Establishment needs to face these problems, not ignore them, not rationalize them away, nor dismiss the reformers as ignorant boobs, which assuredly they are not. The reform movement reminds me of the 1964 Presidential campaign, when Senator Goldwater persisted in telling the American people what they did not want to hear or believe, but that ultimately proved to be the truth. As I read America Can Win and thought about the issues and recommendations advocated by the authors, Senator Goldwater’s famous campaign slogan kept ringing in my ears-“In Your Heart You Know He’s Right.”

reviewed by Maj G.W. Anderson

A Washington acquaintance of mine once accused Senator Gary Hart (Democrat from Colorado) and William S. Lind of having a Faustian relationship. My friend said that if Hart ever gets elected President, he will have Bill Lind build a superb military machine that will not be used until the Russians get west of the Hudson River. In their book America Can Win, Hart and Lind give us blueprint for their vision of a new and improved Department of Defense.

Readers familiar with Bill Lind’s style will quickly discern that he wrote a vast majority of the book. Hart appears to have written the introduction and the last four pages. The books message will hold no surprises for anyone who has followed Lind’s writing and speaking for the past several years. America Can Win is a total indictment of the way the Pentagon does business, followed by a prescription for a sure cure.

The authors charge that the officer corps is bloated and that most of the Armed Forces still adhere to an attrition warfare mentality. They see the Navy as having made a colossal mistake in emphasizing nuclear submarines and large aircraft carriers at the expense of quiet diesel submarines and smaller carriers. They also see the current Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) structure as hopelessly cumbersome and fatally flawed. Many of these issues are being seriously discussed in the Pentagon, but this book is not a discussion guide. It’s an indictment.

Since the book is not designed for a military audience, its errors of fact, which are many, will go essentially unchallenged by the general leadership. For example, Lind and Hart drag up the notorious JCS system of flimsy, buff, green staffing as an example of the current joint system. What remains unsaid in the book is that the system has been eliminated. There are other mistakes in the volume, bit this one represents the essence of America Can Win. The entire book is a clarion call for an externally directed change of the Armed Forces. The authors believe that military leadership is too hidebound and set in its ways to change, even when change is badly needed. The demise of the flimsy-buff-green atrocity is but one minor example of the fallacy of this view. Lind and Hart are callously contemptuous of the Military Establishment’s efforts to reform itself from within and its successes in doing so are either ignored or shrugged off as being too little too late.

Lind and Hart reserve their most pointed attacks for the Marine Corps for failing to adopt Lind’s pet project “maneuver warfare” as doctrine, ans this is where the reviewer takes special issue with the authors, particularly Mr. Lind. Since the late 1970s, Lind has assiduously pursued the argument that maneuver warfare should be adopted as U.S. military doctrine. As proof of historical efficacy of maneuver, Lind has offered selective historical examples ranging from the battle of Leuctra to World War II. Lind has yet to make a cast that maneuver warfare has valid historical efficacy. In researching his on book on military theory, this reviewer found that maneuver warfare has worked only 40 percent of the time that has been attempted since Leuctra. The reasons for the failures are varied, the track record certainly begs careful review before we seriously consider adopting maneuver as doctrine.

This reviewer maintains that senior Marine Corps leaders are correct; maneuver warfare is a legitimate technique to be used withing the context of the greater whole, but it should not be adopted as doctrine. Doctrine is something that is done automatically unless there is a good reason not to do so. No doctrine should be based on an idea so complicated that is works less than half the time it is tried.

Lind and Hart are on the wrong side of history in selling maneuver warfare as a doctrine rather than a technique; despite this, their book will probably do well. “Pentagon bashing” is popular among those who have only a marginal knowledge or interest in military affairs, and that is the authors’ true target audience.

The real tragedy of Bill Lind’s relationship with the Marine Corps is that he could have a truly positive effect on the Corps if he could be satisfied with incremental change. Senior Marine Corps leaders realize maneuver warfare is but one potential technique among many in a greater scheme that this reviewer calls the “tactics of mistake.” Instead, Lind has opted to support Hart in a quick fix doctrinal employment of maneuver warfare that might as well provide us with a mobile version of Maginot Line.

Marines interested in the Lind-Hart view of the would should review old copied of the Gazette, Military Review, and the Air War College Review; $17.95 is too great a price to pay to have one’s intelligence, dedication, and professionalism insulted.