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Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist,
author and a popular speaker. Born into a military
family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East
Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces
service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation
from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both
the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive
for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work,
at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is
based in large part on his extensive experience in
Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman.
[go to Cucullu index]
a Superpower – Part
I – The Equipment
[Gordon Cucullu] 9/2/04
You can tell
the men from the boys by their kinds of toys. What a quintessentially
American expression. It equates degree of
growth, development, strength and power with material possessions.
Actually, though we may not realize it, that’s what we
mean when we refer to America as ‘the world’s only
superpower.’ Maybe we are, but then again, we might be
fooling ourselves, making a living on yesterday’s strengths.
First, let’s look at the ‘toys.’ Americans
still have a decidedly Cold War attitude toward military superiority,
basing our ‘superpowerness’ on nuclear capability.
We possess the world’s most devastating nuclear arsenal
and the means to deliver those weapons. But nuclear weapons are
intended to deter a similarly armed enemy. In the war on terror – fighting
terrorist groups and states that sponsor them – our nuclear
arsenal counts for nothing.
Let us be
brutally frank here: how likely are we to employ nuclear weapons
a terrorist enemy? We know, for example, that
al Qaeda plans to attack the US and that it operates in collusion
with Iran. If what Paul Vallely and Tom McInerney call the ‘nightmare
scenario’ happens – if suitcase nuclear weapons are
detonated in American cities – it is doubtful that we would
retaliate against Teheran with atomic weapons. We would be wracked
with anxiety to ‘prove’ the guilt of a nation-state
and we would have difficulty using WMD ourselves. Examine the
political realities of the situation: the left cannot even seem
to grasp the necessity of US leadership in eliminating a dictatorship
in Iraq that sponsored terrorists. Can we reasonably expect that
American leftists would sit still for use of nuclear weapons
even in retaliation for an attack? We must not be complacent
that mere possession of megatons of nuclear weapons alone makes
us all-powerful. We need the proper quantity ! and quality of
non-nuclear weapons and equipment to fight terrorists effectively.
We also need
to realize that all buckets have bottoms. Many non-specialists
that military resources are infinite.
We think all strategic quandaries are resolved by invoking a
technology based solution. Got to move troops to some awful,
remote place? Airlift them, we say. Drop in a Ranger battalion.
Insert the paratroops of the 82nd Airborne. Deploy Special Forces.
Make a ‘surgical’ air strike against that target.
Helo in some Marines. All sounds very easy, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately our resources for new equipment acquisition have
been cut drastically for more than a decade. What equipment remains
is worn exceedingly thin. Example: when we air-dropped the 173rd
Brigade - about three thousand troops - into the Kurdish territory
of northeastern Iraq it required almost every C-17 cargo aircraft
in the USAF inventory to carry out the mission. Recall that the
opening operation of Normandy was a three division airborne operation
that dropped more than thirty thousand troops. Perhaps the comparison
to WWII is not the most relevant, but it gives perspective. Not
only could we not do Normandy again as presently equipped, we
could not do Desert Storm again. And that ought to scare us.
When we focus
on non-nuclear weaponry we see that while America is capable – maybe better than anyone else out there – we
are not overwhelming. But we ought to be; we’re the leader
in the anti-terror fight. We are spread too thin and our gear
could be more up-to-date. From an equipment standpoint our infantry
fights with basically the same generation weapon that was used
forty years ago, an M-16 derivative. Armor vehicles haven’t
changed in fifteen years. Our air fleet is aging and relatively
small. B-52s are flown by children of the men who flew them originally.
Some of our rotary wing aircraft are Vietnam era. Good news is
that there is giant improvement in the fields of communications
and data management thanks to miniaturization and shock-proofing
of computer and signal technology. Night vision technology is
outstanding. But from a military standpoint we need to shift
our R&D and fielding of equipment from a peacetime to a wartime
mode. And we need to do it quickly.!
On the intelligence
side – finally recognized as vital
to superpower status – we face a different kind of equipment
problem. The CIA has become absolutely dependent on technology
to solve complex problems. Due to gutting of funding for human
information gathering and unrealistic restrictions placed thereon
by Congress, the CIA relies totally on information gathered by
overhead imagery, signal intercept and other technology based
systems. In contrast to the need to modernize military equipment,
improving our information-gathering capability means weaning
it away from a technology-only approach. Obviously we need the
satellites, reconnaissance flights, cryptographic analysis, signal
intercept stations and all the rest, and must make certain that
we lead in those categories, but we have seen the frustration
that utter dependence on equipment has imposed. We’re simply
not developing useful, ‘actionable’ wartime intelligence
by this process. It cries for change.
In the minds of the institutional bureaucrats the days when
a westerner could darken his face, adopt Arab dress and travel
through the backcountry are long gone. Or are they? Limitations
are dictated as much by an institutional mindset as by legislation.
How can we get back into the spy game more effectively? The answer,
as it often is in war, in both the military and intelligence
communities, may lie with people, the troops on the ground. CRO
Being a Superpower – Part II – The Troops
Gordon Cucullu 2004