Jewish World Review August 28, 2001 / 9 Elul, 5761
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
WHEN President Bush last Friday announced his choice of General
Richard Myers to become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he
not only selected a man with precisely the background and skills required
for the job of fixing and transforming the military. He also gave a welcome
vote of confidence in the judgment and leadership of his Secretary of
Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
The Myers nomination, of course, originated with Secretary Rumsfeld
and might be described as the first decision taken by the Pentagon chief in
which he had full latitude to act as he saw fit. The budgetary decisions
that have done much to traumatize the first months of Mr. Rumsfeld's tenure
were largely dictated by the Office of Management and Budget. The limits on
available funds have, in turn, driven the controversial Defense Planning
Guidance and Quadrennial Defense Review. These documents and the
procurement programs they will define are, moreover, being produced by a
difficult give-and-take with the armed services and the Secretary's
assortment of outside advisors and recently anointed subordinates.
But Secretary Rumsfeld had considerable, if not complete, latitude
to determine not only who he wanted to lead the armed forces for the next
few years but the direction in which he wanted them led. In picking Gen.
Myers, his priorities are clear -- and correct. They can be described as
These insights and priorities clearly track with those of Donald
Rumsfeld. By enlisting a man who shares them, the Secretary of Defense has
found a partner who should prove most helpful in articulating them publicly,
translating them into budgetary realities and enlisting the support for them
from his counterparts in the military services. [To get the maximum benefit
out of this appointment, however, the Secretary and the new Chairman should
make a first order of business seeking congressional help in reforming the
Goldwater-Nicholls Act, a well-meaning but ultimately counter-productive
piece of legislation that has had the effect of politicizing and otherwise
diminishing the senior-most ranks of the U.S. military.]
A real commitment to "transformation": By virtue of his previous tenure
as commander of U.S. Space Command, Gen. Myers has had first-hand experience
with the challenges that are likely to shape the security and economic
well-being of the United States in the 21st Century. In particular, he
appreciates: the imperatives of America exercising control of outer space
for both military and commercial reasons; the growing threats to our ability
to do so; and what this mission will require in the way of vastly improved
surveillance, access-to-space and power- projection capabilities.
It is a credit to Gen. Myers' integrity and courage that he was
willing to lay out these requirements during the Clinton Administration,
when his civilian superiors wanted to do nothing more than enunciate
rhetorical commitments to U.S. space power while eviscerating any program
that would enable the Nation to meet the stated requirement. Secretary
Rumsfeld and President Bush will need such a man to speak with equal
independence as Chairman about the inadequacies of defense funding.
- Missile defense is a transforming capability: Gen. Myers shares the
commitment felt by the President and the Secretary to end America's
vulnerability to ballistic and cruise missile attack. During his tenure at
Space Command, he witnessed visitors to its headquarters expressing
incredulity that the United States could only watch helplessly if a missile
were launched at this country, even if by accident. He has been a vigorous
advocate of developing and deploying militarily and cost-effective means to
destroy such weapons in flight. He also understands that this cannot be
done so long as the United States adheres to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty which explicitly prohibits such activities.
Importantly, Gen. Myers appreciates that without missile defenses,
in the future, it may not matter how formidable, modern and hi-tech -- or,
in the current vernacular, "transformed" -- are the Nation's conventional
forces. It is likely that even impoverished and relatively backwards
militaries will be able to deter the United States from engaging them, let
alone defeating them, if
our cities and people remain utterly vulnerable to mass destruction. As a
result, perfecting and fielding anti-missile capabilities is not an
alternative to transformation; it is an indispensable investment needed to
enable the transformation of the rest of the military.
- China is a problem: Prior to his stint at Space Command, Gen. Myers
served in the terrestrial theater most likely to cause us problems down the
road: The Pacific and its East Asian rim. As the commander of U.S. air
forces in the region, he has been acquainted with Communist China's
increasing assertiveness, its repeated characterization of the United States
as "the main enemy" and declarations by officials in Beijing that war
between the two nations is "inevitable."
Gen. Myers also appears to appreciate the danger that the PRC could
pose to American interests and military forces long before its current
modernization program translates into anything approaching comparable
conventional capabilities. He understands that the investment China is
making in "asymmetric" capabilities -- the ability, for example, to use
cyber-warfare, electro-magnetic pulse weapons and weapons of mass
destruction to neutralize or otherwise offset U.S. military advantages --
could give rise to a formidable threat, even in the near-term.
After a rough patch over the past few months and a spate of bad
press last week, Donald Rumsfeld can doubtless use a bit of good news. The
best news of all, however, is that is that not only his secretaryship but
the future security of the country stands to benefit from his decision to
JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.