Defense review

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(H0ST) The Pentagon has just issued a new review of American defense systems, and commentator Bill Seamans says that military and policy analysts are busy reading between the lines.

(SEAMANS) Every four years the Pentagon must come up with one of the most significant documents produced by the Washington bureaucracy – it’s called the Quadrennial Defense Review. The so-called QDR issued this month is a projection by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of how he would like to reorganize our military forces to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. It’s a report critically analyzed by the White House and State Department to see how the Pentagon plans to support their activities and to maintain our national security. Meanwhile, despite it’s significance, the Quadrennial Defense Review is hardly noticed by the general public which is directly affected by its proposals.

Out of the news media coverage of this year’s QDR, the analysis that that caught my particular attention was in the Washington Post which offered the suggestion that this year’s QDR signals that the Rumsfeld era is over. It was said that Rumsfeld staked his tenure on two ideas – that he wanted to change the Pentagon culture, that is outflank the influence of the old guard generals and admirals – and that he wanted the Pentagon to drive American foreign policy. The nuance of the QDR suggests that Rumsfeld has failed to achieve both his objectives.

Rumsfeld envisioned transforming our ponderous post Cold War heavy tank and artillery army into a more flexible lighter force that could quickly respond to flash-fire terrorism crises. But what is called the “iron triangle” of defense contractors, influential Congresspersons and entrenched top military brass apparently has outmaneuvered Rumsfeld and pressured him to back off and to maintain our conventional weapons systems. While Rumsfeld has succeeded in pushing some controversial base closings and reducing our garrisons in Germany and South Korea what remains in the QDR of his desire to transform the army are changes like the more flexible combat brigade reorganization that were planned before his appointment as Defense Secretary.

In a talk at the National Press Club Rumsfeld gave the global terrorism threat a new dimension – he called it “the Long War” – and he likened Osama bin Laden to Hitler and to Lenin. If, indeed, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld troika say we are now engaged in an Orwellian “Long War” my immediate question is whether our already stressed-out volunteer military services can carry such a burden.

If we are now in an indefinite “long war” reality would call for the whole nation to share the burden not just our volunteer servicepersons and their families – and we could not escape the reality that to fight an indefinite “long war” against global terrorism means that resuming the military draft would be inevitable.

This is Bill Seamans.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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