Transcript of the second panel from the NATO Beyond Afghanistan conference held September 27, 2010.
NATO BEYOND AFGHANISTAN:
A CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE
IN A POST-ISAF WORLD
PANEL 2: NATO BEYOND AFGHANISTAN – SHARPENING OR BREAKING
SOUTH ASIA CENTER, ATLANTIC COUNCIL
CHATHAM HOUSE, ATLANTIC COUNCIL STRATEGIC ADVISORY GROUP
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2010
Federal News Service
SHUJA NAWAZ: Good morning, everyone. I’m Shuja Nawaz. I’m the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council and I am delighted to welcome you all back to this second session. Since this is a military-related gathering, we are starting on time and ending on time. That’s the advantage. Otherwise, Washington clocks tend to run a bit slow, particularly for conferences after coffee breaks.
This is the panel that is looking at the topic of “Sharpening or Breaking? NATO Military Power Beyond Afghanistan,” and there are a number of questions that have been posed to us and I’m sure that there are many others, particularly in light of the fact that the morning session has already covered some of the crosscutting issues, recognizing that NATO is a political military alliance. So you can’t separate the political from the military and it’s sometimes a question of sequencing and sometimes a question of how you mesh the two together.
Let me first introduce my panelists. I’m delighted to have with us Julian Lindley-French. Julian is a member of our Strategic Advisors Group at the Atlantic Council. He is a professor of military art and science at the Royal Military Academy of the Netherlands, and he has held various important academic and consultancies and research appointments around the globe, also acted as a consultant to NATO in Brussels at the headquarters.
Then to his left is Col. Gian Gentile. He’s a U.S. Army officer who’s on sabbatical from West Point, where he teaches, and he is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and did his Ph.D. in history at Stanford. Quite importantly for the topic at hand, he has served two tours in Iraq, first as the executive officer of a combat brigade in the Tikrit area in 2003 and then as a commander of a battalion in a restive area of northwest Baghdad in 2006.
He is currently during his sabbatical a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. For those that are interested in an earlier kind of warfare that we won’t be talking about today, I guess, he published a book in 2001 called “How Effective is Strategic Bombing.”
COL. GIAN GENTILE: From strategic bombing to COIN.
MR. NAWAZ: Yes, so we cover the spectrum. And then to my right is Vago Muradian. Vago is the editor of Defense News, which is one of the leading defense news weeklies with correspondents in 16 countries.
Before that he had other, similar assignments. He was managing editor of Defense Daily International and also worked on the Air Force Times. He has covered global operations including in Europe, Haiti, Somalia and Zaire. Before covering the Air Force, he served as the Defense News’s land warfare reporter and he started his career inside the Army.
So going back to the topic – and I’m glad that we had the morning session precede us because I think it sort of set the ground for what we are going to be talking about today. I just want to remind the conference that a couple of years ago at the Atlantic Council – I’m glad Harlan is sitting here because he was part of that group when Gen. Jones put together a paper on Afghanistan that famously began, make no mistake, we are losing in Afghanistan. So the question now is, are we winning? And if so, has the purpose, the shared purpose of the NATO alliance been defined properly?
There’s been a lot of commentary that the operations in Afghanistan, despite the fact that we’ve been at it for eight or nine years now, were really not combined operations, that they were divided and that it was not unified command and it took us quite a while to unify that command and to centralize the military leadership.
So the question then comes up is NATO the tip of the spear, or is it the backpack for the U.S. and a handful of other allies. And if so, how is NATO’s role going to be defined or redefined, particularly in light of the question that was raised in the first panel, which is when you have already a calendar and a date by which a transition or an exit will begin? Despite all the caveats about what is meant by July 2011, the message, particularly in the region where I come from, is that the U.S. and the allies are going to be exiting.
So is this really a time for NATO to try and reorganize itself for the job in Afghanistan? And then more importantly, in light of the economic issues at home, how on Earth will NATO be able to reformulate its approach to the use of military power as an adjunct of political policy around the globe? It was mentioned that a big issue is the question of out of area of operations. That raises a question, is it out of area or is it out of NATO’s depth, and is NATO ready for these kinds of operations?
So what will happen in Afghanistan in particular once the U.S. and some of the other leading countries take off? What will NATO do? Will they merely redefine the role of their troops, as is apparently the case? The U.S. is trying to persuade them, or will they actually find a way to exit even more speedily than planned originally.
These are some of the questions. I’m sure you will have many and we hope to have a conversation with you. I propose to ask Julian to launch this discussion, if you would please, and then, as the program shows, we’ll follow with Col. Gentile and then Vago in this order. So Julian?
JULIAN LINDLEY-FRENCH: Thank you, sir. I’m a strange beast. I’m a Yorkshire optimist. There aren’t many of us around in this business. But you know, I’m attending a lot of these events, as many of my colleagues are at the moment, and too often it feels like we’re attending a wake, a wake for Afghanistan and a wake for NATO. I don’t buy either, frankly. It’s not over in the region. I think we are beginning to get a proper regional perspective about the future, an economic perspective about the future of the region. Therefore, we have gripped with certain realities we didn’t a few years ago.
But nor do I accept for a minute, which I hear often in Europe, that effectively NATO is over. There’s no real alternative. ESDP or CSDP is bubbling along, but not doing very much. But I think the problem is – and I think you in Washington in particular have to grip this – I genuinely think there is what I call the great European defense depression going on right now.
We had the Great Depression of the ’30s. There’s a defense depression in Europe, where a case for armed forces and the use of force has been damaged so profoundly by a mixture of indolent European action – very few Europeans went into Afghanistan believing that we were going to win; we did the least possible to keep you guys engaged in our security and defense and paying for much of it – and frankly, by a lot of poor American leadership.
You haven’t led very well since 2001, and you can hardly expect allies to kind of follow you unconditionally when your leadership isn’t very good. I see that there are again signs of improvement, but that is the essential contract that is at the heart of alliance and that is where we are right now.
In the next three weeks – Edgar alluded to it – we’re about to see what I’ve called the British strategic pretense and impecunity review, which could be a very, very important moment indeed. I’m hoping that it’s a bit like 1934, that it’s a chance for the Brits to retrench, to look at security in the round, to consider defense as part of their broad security effort and the British leadership role in Europe, along with France, which is critical, frankly, along with Germany, to move us forward. I fear that it’s merely a kind of function of exhaustion and financial damage, financial disarmament, even.
If that’s the case, if indeed Britain just becomes another European power, then you Americans have a problem. And you have a big problem, I would suggest. In the next three or four weeks, we need your influence. Now, I use the word influence critically here because whether it’s in Afghanistan or Afghanistan and Pakistan or indeed beyond that, we are in the influence game. It’s all about influence.
And I’m old-fashioned. I happen to believe the world is a safer place when the West is strong, and I happen to believe that the West is strong when it is militarily balanced, credible in all the key roles that we need it to be credible in, and that includes being the dominant military grouping. And the only organization that can possibly deliver that is NATO. We’re not going to reinvent it. There’s no other organization.
I think beyond Afghanistan, as the question suggests, we might be seeing the need for a radical reorganization of the European pillar. I think there’s going to have to be a reemergence of a European pillar – that means a pillar where Europeans organize themselves, in effect, to support both NATO and the European Union across a range of missions.
But as I said in my question this morning, I also believe, Chairman, that NATO must be allowed to grip a fundamental question, which is what is the likely nature of future war and how are we going to fight it? Because ultimately that is what NATO is for. If we talk Article V, you can talk architectures, you can talk solidarity, you can talk strategic reassurance – but it’s about the ability of the alliance to be credible and be seen to be credible in a world of uncertain change in considering the nature of future war.
Now, here is a dilemma. We will have to make some hard choices. There’s no question about that, whether they be financial or military. And here I have some sympathy with our leaders. We simply don’t want to make the wrong choices. But in our effort not to make the wrong choices, I fear we will make no choices at all. What I brought out of this morning’s session and what I’ve heard many times now is that Lisbon will not be that moment when, in fact, the bureaucracy, with partners, the member nations working together, will start to consider the environment, will start to consider creative solutions.
I’m doing a lot of work at the moment with the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps on operationalizing the comprehensive approach. There are many things we can do to use our existing resources far better. And one thing I’m absolutely convinced about is that if we don’t have a major better-spending project as the first day-after-Lisbon project, then Lisbon will have failed because it’s very clear that whatever we have to do more in the military realm, it will at the very least not have to cost any more money.
That means there needs to be a very clear mandate from Lisbon that we start to look at how we make ourselves more effective and more efficient and the two are not the same. Now, let me say a few words, if I may, on the situation, just to conclude on Afghanistan right now, as the two questions that were posed, Chairman, to us. What effect has Afghanistan had on allied military effectiveness and has the experience allowed us to refine doctrines, training, equipment, tactics, et cetera, et cetera?
My answer to that would be, not enough. Would you like to turn that off, somebody?
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: It’s Boyko? Really? (Laughter.) He always has to be present.
MR. NAWAZ: Introspection.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Introspection, there you go. I think the problem with Afghanistan is the way we’ve structured it. When I go around the world and I talk, particularly in Asia, the dangerous impression that we’ve given to allies, partners and adversaries is that we’re far weaker than we are. By the way, we’ve given that impression to ourselves as well.
I think the way we’ve organized PRTs has been far too stovepiped, back to national capitals rather than an international, multinational effort. I think the way – and part of that is due to the comprehensive approach, the civil-military side of it, which has been so complicated that by definition, it’s tended to disaggregate the multinational level and reinforce the idea of national stovepipes because that’s where the spending decisions are made.
Look at the NRF. There’s been much criticizing of the NRF, but NRF 13 had a 27-percent CJSOR – combined joint statement of requirement. In fact, the future for most Europeans will be a much better use of multinational formations. And I never understand why we spend so many years working these damned things up and the moment we go on operations, we scrap them and we go back to some very inefficient national stovepipe.
So I suppose my challenge, given the experience of the last years in Afghanistan and indeed the wider region, given the rules-of-engagement issue, given the caveats issue, is twofold. Will we have the courage to be radical post-Lisbon, to reconstruct a genuinely European pillar where some of the smaller Europeans who spend an average $4 billion a year very badly – 19 NATO Europe members, very badly – are encouraged to move even towards some limited forms of defense integration and whether the U.S. will wait for us?
Because what worries me about what I’m seeing in Afghanistan is, in fact, this is no longer a NATO operation. This is a CENTCOM operation with NATO being used as a fig leaf. The European allies will tolerate that for a time because we understand that this is the critical crunch period. The U.S. is pouring in troops, with the Brits doing our best as well, and the next two years are genuinely critical.
But what concerns me is that if CENTCOM, in a sense, becomes a precedent for the subjugation of NATO Europe to U.S. command structures, then that will accelerate the demise of the alliance. No one will want that, but it could happen by the sheer preponderance-of-force issue, that the United States is so powerful compared with the European forces that we end up with this reality. In a sense, it could become an excuse for Europeans to do even less. If that happens over the next two years, that will be far more damaging that any particular reverse on the ground.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, Julian. If I could move to Col. Gentile, one of the pointed questions that emerges is, what kind of future war are we going to be fighting?
COL. GENTILE: Right. I heard Julian say that.
MR. NAWAZ: Yes, and if so, first of all, how do you evaluate NATO’s operations within the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and what will be the nature of the future war and what lessons have we learned or are learning?
COL. GENTILE: Hopefully, I can address those excellent questions. It’s also a privilege to be on this panel with Shuja as the chair, with Vago on it as well. Anybody who pays attention to defense issues reads Defense News, so I’m operating with a fair amount of trepidation here – and also Julian as well because he’s the editor of an article that I just wrote on the history of counterinsurgency.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: And I’m tough.
COL. GENTILE: (Chuckles.) That’s right. He just sent me this list of – it’s a really good piece, you may want to look at – but no.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Five pages later.
COL. GENTILE: Yeah. So I took the train down from New York City this morning and I got in about – I don’t know, probably 30, 45 minutes into the first panel. As I was just setting my book bag down outside, I heard a question. I heard a person stand up and the person said, I’m Joe Collins, and I said, I wonder if that’s my old friend and mentor Joe Collins, and it was.
And Joe Collins brought up this question, or this term, utility of force, which I found to be a very important and absolutely critical question in how we think about what we’re doing in Afghanistan, how we think it’s going there or how we assess progress and effectiveness and also it tied to Julian’s point about how we conceive of the future of warfare, and what role does force play in that.
So for the next five or six minutes, I have a few points I want to make. I’m going to try to come at that question of utility of force and future conflict. But I’m going to come at it from a more narrow angle – I think that it might be useful for this panel, from what came before and what’s going to come after this afternoon – and that’s from the angle of the American Army.
Because let’s face it, the American Army is the key player in what we’ve been doing in Afghanistan for the last nine years and in Iraq for a few years shorter. So that is the angle that I’m going to come at this question of utility of force and the future of conflict.
I found also this question I really liked for this panel. It says “Sharpening or Breaking? NATO Military Power Beyond Afghanistan.” So I’m going to address that question from a view of the American Army. To be sure, the American Army has sharpened over the last nine years in terms of its ability to do nation-building, counterinsurgency.
Of course both of those two words are synonymous. They mean the same thing, at least how the American Army and other major armies do counterinsurgency now. It is the same thing as nation-building, nation-building at the barrel of a gun. Certainly, the American Army has been sharpened over the last nine years in its ability to do counterinsurgency.
However, this has come at a cost, which gets at this whole question – and also, Julian, you raised this – how much money are we going to spend, how we’re going to organize, all these kinds of things. It comes at a cost, and the cost of becoming sharpened at counterinsurgency is, at least for the American Army, its ability to do combined arms, combined-arms operations, the American Army’s ability to fight, to fight an enemy that fights or operates beyond the laying of IEDs on the road and then running away, but fights in a sophisticated way.
I think you can make the argument – although many would not want to hear this – that the American Army, in terms of its ability to do combined-arms operations at battalion, brigade, division and even higher is not just breaking but it’s broken. I’m going to come up to that point in a few minutes. And I’m going to make a few supporting points that are going to lead to this, I think, this essential problem within the American Army of its ability to do combined-arms operations.
The first point I want to make, after nine years of doing counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, it’s a problem that we have in the United States, especially with the American Army, but I also think within policymaking circles, of strategy. You often hear the term, our counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency is not strategy. Strategy, simply defined, is the level of war that should, after assessment, asking questions, of weighing costs and benefits, should link tactical, operational methods in a military sense, other elements of national power to achieve policy objectives. That is a simple definition of strategy.
Counterinsurgency is not strategy, but we often hear this term counterinsurgency strategy. To be sure, strategy could employ the tactics and operational methods of counterinsurgency. But the problem with the term counterinsurgency strategy, as it’s used today – it implies that strategic rationale and thought have gone in to the employment of the tactics and operations of counterinsurgency, especially with Afghanistan.
One could make the argument, and I have before, although this is not, I think, necessarily a well-liked or appreciated argument, that our strategy in Afghanistan is out of balance. If the president’s political objectives are defeat, disrupt, disable al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan so that it can no longer use those places as a base to attack the United States, then as a question of strategy, I ask, why is it that the American Army, as the primary player in this, seems to be able to only offer up the maximalist approach of counterinsurgency – aka nation-building – in Afghanistan?
So in that sense, one could make the argument that our strategy in Afghanistan is broken. But the problem with the term counterinsurgency strategy is that it implies that strategic thinking has gone into it. Within the American Army, I think one of the reasons why we don’t have the ability, in terms of strategy, to be able to offer alternatives in Afghanistan is – and this is a second point I want to make – is that the American Army has been, over the last number of years – has become trapped in what I call a counterinsurgency straitjacket.
By that I mean it’s sort of an intellectual framework that is so confining that it prevents the American Army from thinking about alternatives in Afghanistan and even how it thinks about future conflict in the world. The counterinsurgency straitjacket consists of two immutable rules that are always in place.
The first immutable rule of the counterinsurgency straitjacket is that at least the American Army, but other armies too, have to start off doing counterinsurgency badly. In fact, they must start off failing at it miserably. But then, once a new doctrine is put into place, some better generals are assigned, maybe a few more brigades are put into the mix, then an army can learn and adapt and get better at counterinsurgency.
And the second immutable rule that’s a part of this counterinsurgency straitjacket is that counterinsurgency American-style, à la FM 3-24, worked in Iraq, namely during the surge in Iraq, and it was the American Army doing something different, practicing a new kind of counterinsurgency that was the fundamental cause for the lowering of violence in Iraq. So those are the two immutable rules that make up this counterinsurgency straitjacket.
But here’s the problem with this thing – it’s that an army – and this relates to Afghanistan – if we do want to seriously consider alternatives, within the counterinsurgency straitjacket, an army cannot learn and adapt its way out of doing counterinsurgency. It can only get better at it because it starts at a level of not getting it and being poor at it. It learns and adapts and it gets better at counterinsurgency. But it can’t learn and adapt its way out of counterinsurgency.
Hence, this straitjacket that prevents us from seeing alternatives, for example, in a place like Afghanistan, which leads to my final point, which is the one I started with and this problem – this serious problem I think – of combined-arms atrophy, which is also linked to this counterinsurgency straitjacket. Because we’ve become so consumed within the American Army with counterinsurgency that it has taken our eye off the ball, so to speak, of the serious problems we have within the American Army being able to do combined arms.
Combined arms, what do I mean by combined arms? At the battalion, the brigade, the division, the corps level within an army, those organizational levels and their ability to combine arms – like artillery, armor, infantry – against an enemy who fights in a sophisticated way. Think of the Israeli army in Lebanon in 2006 and the experience they had when they faced Hezbollah, who fought them differently from the way the Palestinian terrorists had fought them in the six years prior.
There’s been a number of good analyses that have shown the effects of doing really nothing but counterinsurgency on the Israeli army and what happened to them in 2006. We can see the same thing happening today within the American Army. Our artillery battalions don’t shoot like they used to. When artillery battalions, for example, go to Afghanistan or Iraq, they do other things than firing their guns. One hears reports coming out of the national training centers of, certainly, a refining of the ability to do counterinsurgency operations, but not necessarily combined-arms operations.
History shows what happens to armies when they become overly focused on counterinsurgency: the British army in the Second Boer War; a number of years previously, the French army in the Franco-Prussian War, from the colonial experience; more recently, the army of the Republic of Vietnam, who by 1973 and ’74, when they were left on their own, had become essentially a counterinsurgency army and was defeated soundly by a North Vietnamese army in 1975 who knew how to fight using combined arms.
So history shows what happens when armies spend a lot of time focusing on counterinsurgency. Now, my argument here is not that the Army has the luxury to stop preparing its units, if they’re going to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq, on counterinsurgency. My argument is that we need to be able to break out of this counterinsurgency straitjacket, look at strategy in a more creative, sort of alternative way and also appreciate what has happened to the American Army in terms of its ability to do combined-arms warfare.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, Gian. Clearly, this is a major issue, how much are we learning and how will we learn? So let me move to Vago and perhaps you can address this issue. One is the strategic shift, and the other is at the tactical level, how much of the lessons have been learned? Gian was mentioning the Boer War. The British produced a wonderful little manual called “The Defense of Duffer’s Drift”.
VAGO MURADIAN: Right. There’s a new take of that.
COL. GENTILE: Yeah, “The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa”.
MR. MURADIAN: Yeah, it was a fantastic little book.
MR. NAWAZ: Maybe that will give you the opening.
MR. MURADIAN: Well, I’m going to be neither studied nor optimistic, to counter Harlan’s studied optimism, and I don’t want to apply any kind of strategic thinking in this, and that’s kind of my joke.
I think that the big problem we have is that nobody really is thinking strategically, where sometimes tactical and doctrinal things are really construed as sort of strategic approaches, which I kind of have a problem with. There’s a friend of mine in the Pentagon who says, U.S. military people ought to stand more in front of maps and near maps to understand geography and what are sort of, again, strategic drivers.
I think the alliance is really at an inflection point. You can argue that there haven’t been as many Europeans who are as well-versed in combat operations since World War II, and in many respects that’s a very positive thing, I think, in terms of thinking your way through problems and also improving basic military expertise, being able to identify defects and certain select capability areas that have to be reconciled.
I also want to give credit where credit is due. I think that NATO has done a tremendous job. These contributions that nations have made, despite their caveats, asterisks and 21 layers of impenetrable structure, is still yielding – is still very, very expensive. It still constitutes massive national investment and, I think, is making a difference on the ground.
The problem is that we were in strategic drift for a long, long time and now all of a sudden are sort of realizing that, okay, no, no seriously this time we’re really going to get it right and do it right. So the question is whether you run out of will, steam and, more important, money.
The treasuries run this. It really doesn’t matter if what you will save is minimal. That’s the one thing that I’ve – you could cut U.S. defense spending dramatically and you’re really doing nothing or not that much to address $13 trillion in debt, and yet, as Liam Fox always says, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Defense has to pay its fair share and is paying that fair share. Whether it’s in Germany, in France, in Britain, with the SDSR, as ill-thought-out as it may be and as scattershot as it may be, it is going to yield cuts. The British army is likely to leave Germany after seven decades of occupation. You’re going to find the RAF being much smaller.
And I think a bigger question I think that everybody has and needs to grapple with is, at what point do you get smaller – so small on national levels that your centers of gravity really start to erode and you’ve really got to think of, again, a much, much more intimate integration, whether it’s under an EU or a NATO banner or what have you where you have a couple of countries that are global still – Britain, France – still maintain sort of broad – broadish national capabilities, and then you have other nations that, literally, you tick off a box and you go into a European army and there are pools of equipment spread around the continent that would be at the disposal.
Well, look, EU has already created a diplomatic corps. So you can join the EU diplomatic corps. You’re no longer a French diplomat or a British diplomat. You’re an EU diplomat and I think it’s only a matter of time before you see that at a national European level. I think from a capability standpoint, one would assume that the alliance is going to look at this and look at this in a positive way. I mean, I think that there have been huge gains in Afghanistan. I think that now you can call somewhat more complicated than going through your national chains of command.
But you’ve got French aircraft that are supporting American troops. You’ve got American aircraft that are supporting Dutch troops, and what have you. National caveats are a way of life. It will be in any alliance and multinational operation. To assume otherwise is, I think, just naïve. We’ve got to realize that at a certain point you can try to dilute it as much as you can but that will still exist. There will be some still hard lines for folks.
But the question is – my focus is a little bit more on the future. What is your driving strategic threat? What is shaping your mindset? The Pentagon’s interest in China is growing, has grown. It is based on the intelligence and this is now – it conveniently has an administration that says, hey, wait a minute, this is a problem, as opposed to having an administration that said, whatever you do, don’t rock the boat. We have a whole series of other issues and can’t afford to tangle this.
So the lip service was better. I think there was more lip service paid, whereas now, folks are looking at this seriously from a U.S. standpoint as to what its equities are in Asia, how does that change vis-à-vis rise of China, and also what are some of the capabilities that the United States is going to need? And hence there are people who are interested in strategic bombers anew, realizing that the future is not just going to be all COIN all the time that will fit.
There are some people who make that argument within the Pentagon, by the way. That which we’ve done – Defense Secretary Gates has sort of hinted at that, that what we’re doing is what we’re going to be doing. Unlikely: That’s kind of been a historic and classic recipe for disaster each time we’ve done that. Well, if you look at it from a European perspective, which I try to do because I visit Europe often enough, it is, what are my driving strategic threats?
I don’t have a Russia now over on the other side of the border. I have economic integration, which means that the chances of Germany coming crashing across the Rhine is somewhat limited now than maybe it might have been 100 years ago. So you really start looking at it and saying what are my national militaries there for.
If you’re a former colonial empire, then you have a little bit more of an interest and have a global role, view. But otherwise, you’re looking – (audio break) – so it’s cyber, counterterrorism and then as Edgar said, I think the “big idea” idea is great because nobody – (audio break) – European militaries to at least raise their game. The question is can you get the average – (audio break) – the national leaders just do a really, really poor job.
I was going to use an expletive but I’m in a sophisticated academic environment now. I’m not going to do that. But they do sort of a poor job – (audio break) – all about and what does it mean. So they really take their cue, anticipatory cue, from what the people will do. And as anybody knows, it’s a line from “Men in Black”, people are smart – (audio break) – people are stupid sometimes. So they don’t really realize that what they’re doing is actually not in their strategic interest.
So my fear is that here we’ve built this capability, admittedly with some major capability gaps, by the way, as nations have at various levels embraced better – (audio break) – surveillance reconnaissance capabilities, UAVs, improved their special operations game. You’ve got a whole lot of guys who haven’t done that.
So you’ve got that capability gap that’s built in Afghanistan and one that is likely to widen even more rapidly as the United States, despite its – (inaudible) – drive, is still spending more than everybody else in the world combined. So even when it’s trying to save, it’s going to be spending huge amounts of money, whereas in Europe, centers of gravity are really being reduced.
So whether or not the alliance finally decides that I’m no longer an out-of-area operation, then the lesson I take from Afghanistan is, oh my God, this is too hard. It makes my brain hurt and I really want to go – (audio break) – was, which is a defensive alliance exclusively – (audio break) – defending against what? Well, I’ll dabble in cyber. I’ll do missile defense because the Americans will come in with their Aegis cruisers and their ground-based missiles – (audio break) – sit behind that because I can sell that to my people.
So I think it’s – I want to hope there’s strategic thinking. I would like to think that folks are going to say, hey, wait a minute; there are really enormous gains that we’ve made. We are making a contribution on the ground. Stan McChrystal was right. If it wasn’t for NATO troops in Afghanistan, the United States would have to cough them up and that would be a very, very – (inaudible) – given where the U.S. Army and the U.S. military is in terms of being tired.
But you really do need to, again, ditch the agenda, get people to say, okay, what’s at stake here, what are the issues and where do we need to take this. It can’t just be about efficiency and affordability. You’ve got to obviously make it better, but you’ve got to start thinking a hell of a lot bigger than anybody’s thinking.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, Vago. That’s a nicely nuanced approach. So perhaps it will counter some of the earlier wake-like atmosphere that was being created. I’m actually going to give up my prerogative as the chair, not take up time with my question because I think it’s important to get the conversation going with you, the audience. You’re the critical part of this conference. So let’s see if we can begin at the back this time. So Arnaud, you had a question and then we’ll move to the front.
Q: Yes, Arnaud de Borchgrave, CSIS. I wonder if you could apply yourself to the future of warfare, in terms of robotic warfare coming on much sooner than anyone had anticipated.
MR. NAWAZ: You want to try that?
COL. GENTILE: Vago’s probably –
MR. MURADIAN: I’ll take a stab at it. I was going to say that if you look at robotic warfare, I think it’s growing. It’s going to get better. The U.S. Air Force probably tells you that they’ve kind of been in robotic warfare since 1918, and they’re right, with the Kettering Bug and virtually unmanned systems in every war that we’ve fought, including Vietnam.
So you could argue that that’s been kind of a march of history. Wherever you can replace people to do operations – the Israelis certainly have made enormous strides both in unmanned ground systems as well. And obviously the big question that everybody’s asking is intellectually – Peter Singer at CSIS is working on these – excuse me, at Brookings, my apologies. Sorry about that.
Ten lashes, self-imposed. What are some of the moral and intellectual questions that come as weapons and systems become ever more automated? I still think that we will have humans that are actually doing the shooting. I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where they are going to start autonomously taking out targets.
But the thing is that given that we’re looking at what are euphemistically called HVTs – high value targets – you’re following them for a long time and once you figure out that, hey, this the guy I’m looking for, you need to shoot pretty quickly. Otherwise you’re going to lose him. So that’s an entirely I think different kettle of fish.
And man-machine interfaces are starting to become a bigger and bigger issue. If you consider in the U.S. Air Force’s case, the first generation of Predator required 80 man-hours of analysis per each hour of information collected. The new one collects 10 times as much information and requires 10 times as much analysis. So you do the math. You’ve got 65 orbits. Each orbit is four aircraft, up at any given time. I mean, you really have to start automating stuff. Otherwise you’re never going to be able to dig through the analysis load.
COL. GENTILE: Just a quick comment on technology and war and, again, back to my focus area on this panel and the American Army. The American Army had a bad experience with technology, so to speak, in the 1980s, but especially in the 1990s, when it came up with this idea called network-centric warfare, which also then cascaded over – as I understand these analyses of these, especially the Israeli army, which was one of the problems that they had in 2006 – this belief that information, knowledge produced through better technology would give a fighting force perfect understanding of the enemy.
This is what the American Army had come to in the 1990s. And recent experience in war of the counterinsurgency type, but still war, shows that just to be an incredibly bad fundamental premise for an army to operate on. I mean, it still involves, whether you’re doing counterinsurgency or high-end conflict, making contact either with local populations, or if you’re fighting an enemy somewhat like you, making contact with that enemy, developing the situation, producing information through fighting.
I mean, I come from the H.R. McMaster school on this, that it is those essentials that are needed in an army. Technology certainly supports and helps, but it should not replace this fundamental aspect of the nature of warfare. I also think that if the American Army had this problem in the 1990s with network-centric warfare, counterinsurgency warfare is the same problem.
It’s the same wine but it’s just in different skins. And with counterinsurgency warfare, we’ve placed our faith that the theory of counterinsurgency actually works in practice through procedures. I mean, how many times have you heard – I’m stretching it from the technology and robotics, but there’s a link here.
How many times have you heard people say as a matter of fact that in Afghanistan this brigade is going to clear, then hold, then build? The president himself, when he spoke at West Point in November, when he was talking about the additional brigades flowing into Afghanistan, said that these brigades will move in and protect the population. These are all theoretical ideas contained in the theory of counterinsurgency.
But we’ve turned them into established facts, so to speak, just like the belief we put in technology in the 1990s, that it would do these things for us. So there is a link there within the American Army and it’s not a progressive one. It’s the same problem, although in a different form.
MR. NAWAZ: Julian?
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Yeah, I’d like to come at this from the angle of a technological shared level of ambition across the alliance. I suspect that for many Europeans that robotic warfare is actually a way of marching better.
We often talk about future combat systems, but really, at the national level, it tends more to be driven by defense industries. And I think defense industries will be crucial in driving the technologies question forward for many European countries, not least because we’ll have to have more synergy across the European defense-industrial base, which will tend to drive that process forward.
But I thought by way of an answer, because it’s so critical to future combat systems and interoperability, this question – the technological level of ambition – that I’ll give you some figures. NATO Europe has a combined GDP of 124 percent that of the U.S, yet NATO Europe spends 37 percent of the U.S. in 2009 on defense.
Now, that’s still quite a lot of money. That is some U.S. $257.4 billion. But then you break that figure down. Of that $257.4 billion, France and the U.K. together represent 43 percent and France, Germany and the U.K. represent 61 percent. Now, here’s the critical figure. Those three represent 88 percent of all R&T development across NATO Europe.
Now, when you’ve got U.S. forces thinking on robotic futures in a whole range of synergistic platforms and systems and then you’ve got the bulk of NATO Europe spending such fractions on this, and even moving towards basic professionalization, I think one could talk strategy until the cows come home. And it’s a great discussion to have amongst those with a bit of money, but for many European countries, it’s a completely irrelevant question.
Therefore, I would turn the question around. What technologies would you Americans see as critical to ensure interoperability with the bulk of your NATO allies who are never going to be dreaming of this stuff?
MR. MURADIAN: Give it away.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Give what away?
MR. MURADIAN: I mean, give some of the technologies away, or at least even give some of the systems away, which we’ve done in Afghanistan in particular, to make sure that you resolve interoperability problems so when we go –
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Radios, radios.
MR. MURADIAN: Hang on a second, here you go. Just use these because really it’s just going to make life a lot easier.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: You’re absolutely right, Vego. That’s right.
MR. MURADIAN: I want to just slightly push back on the colonel, though, for a second, in terms of – and I understand the whole argument on the whole [47:02] and all the mistakes that were made. There was a whole multiplicity of other factors that were driving it.
COL. GENTILE: There were, with the Israelis.
MR. MURADIAN: It wasn’t purely that they’d become an occupation force. Their enemy really outthought them a lot of times. There was a very, very clever use of technology.
For the first time, you had commercial night-vision systems, a question which I’ve asked for a long time, that were set up on rooftops, wired to command centers, did not have any open radio communications because they know the Israelis would read them. And the thing is, they for the first time knew that there were manned shapes coming up hills at them in the night and I can open fire on them. I know those are not my guys.
So all of a sudden, the dynamic – you know, we owning the night was a different dynamic. They were now starting to own the night and we were starting to taste what that feels like. Something which is obviously going to happen as technology proliferates, if you go to Price Club and you can buy an NVG for $99, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that some Hezbollah guy or some Taliban guy is going to figure out the same thing.
I also think that there is an almost Neo-Luddism that I’m afraid is developing, in saying every single thing we’re doing is technologically driven. The man is, of course – the woman, person, human is the most important in the loop. You can’t do counterinsurgency; you can’t do even – you can’t do any form of military endeavor without people being involved in them.
The thing is, the technology, the nets and the enabling – and enable I think is a much better phrase – is critical because those COIN units are now drawing real-time full-motion video.
They have communications to – higher-echelon communications across your squad to a degree that is unprecedented. And the guys who have tasted a system like Land Warrior absolutely love it because it gets the information into the hands of the guy who needs it. Okay, wait a minute, now I’ve got that overhead and I know that it’s the second gully, not the first one. Okay, got it, I’m now oriented more properly.
So I don’t think anybody – being a very good – you know, having covered Adm. Cebrowski very closely, I don’t think he was ever arguing that it’s a replacement for the people. I think that folks consistently kind of took that message and twisted it and turned it into whatever they wanted to hear.
MR. NAWAZ: While we’re moving to the next question, if I can just add that I think it takes a certain amount of thought process to transform information into knowledge and I’d go back to Vago’s point about getting close and looking at maps. I think you need to understand the enemy and that investment is problem much less than the technological.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Absolutely right.
MR. MURADIAN: Or who might not be your friend.
MR. NAWAZ: Exactly, and so I’m struck particularly last night watching “60 Minutes” and the Lara Logan report of this firefight and the U.S. commander of this forward operating base saying that the Taliban have a ridgeline approach, going back to 1894 and 1901, the books that the British produced on Indian frontier warfare. That was the first thing that was taught, was that you take the ridgeline approach. You don’t give the ridge away to the enemy. So you’ve got to know how they fight. And it struck me that here was this base in a valley surrounded by ridges and the ridges had been left to the enemy.
COL. GENTILE: Why is it in the valley? It’s in the valley because that’s where the population is at. The theory of counterinsurgency says that the way you succeed is through securing the population, which means you give up the ridgeline, even though tactually that might not make sense in that given situation.
MR. NAWAZ: So the question really then comes to, how well do you know your enemy and how does he fight? So Harlan, let’s take the conversation forward.
Q: Harlan Ullman, the Atlantic Council. A question, and Shuja, I’d like to get your response to this question as well and then a comment. The white papers for Germany, Britain and France two years ago were remarkable in that they were coincident over the change of danger from national sovereignty and threats against the state to the security of individuals, writ large. Rupert Smith made this point, arguing that war was about the people.
To what degree do you agree or disagree with that sentiment, and more importantly, we talk about winning hearts and minds. Nobody is ever, ever, ever in my judgment had a good comment about what exactly whose hearts it is we are going to try and win, how we’re going to do that, whose minds we are trying to affect and how we do that.
I wonder if the panel had a couple of ideas about both that in terms of defining, with some specificity, hearts and minds. And for Gian, you talk about the U.S. Army. With due deference, I think you’d be talking about land forces or ground forces because there’s another component that has some degree of intellectual input and I think you’re ignoring that.
MR. NAWAZ: You want to be more specific?
Q: U.S. Marine Corps.
MR. MURADIAN: Thank you for holding up the Navy and Marine Corps team, Harlan.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Yeah, thank you, Harlan, one of your zinger questions. How can I put it? Those white papers – I think that they were at the end of – how can I put this – a process of strategic political correctness in Europe, where everything was disaggregated down to the individual and human rights and all this, which of course is fundamentally important and ultimately is the object of security.
But I think they all failed to basically group the reality, which is, the system is built on states and the primary relationship for the security of the individual is with the state and through the state. Now, I think Europeans by and large misunderstood that we’re actually involved in a struggle at present between the state and the anti-state, and the states never become nimble enough to deal with the anti-state.
Now, it may be in the future that we go back to the state versus the state. There’s enough friction in the system, enough competition over resources that I, for one, am pessimistic about this century. I have no reason to believe there will not be moments of deep tension and stress. Now, whose hearts and minds, therefore, do we need to win?
Well, of course it depends on the circumstance. But my first, classic response would be to say, what I want the world’s leaders to understand, first and foremost, is that the West does exist; the West is tolerant; it will guard the open trading system that it has constructed and to which others are buying into. The Chinese are not challenging it. They’re part of it. They want to beat us at it. But that there are also limits, that defense matters and that state sponsorship of terrorism, for example, will lead to responses.
As far as fighting terrorism, which is the implicit question that you had worldwide and worldwide terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, I think it’s more a lesson to us than to our adversaries, and that is to our peoples: One, that it by definition is a very long struggle. There is no evidence in history that such struggles are short. Therefore, the first hearts and minds that we have to win are our own people.
We were too soft on our own people for many years. I think Kagan may say more on this at lunchtime, that history has indeed returned post-Fukuyama. Well, history ended because we all thought they’d buy into our dream. Well, people haven’t. We have to return our people from the strategic vacation which is basically undermining the whole effort to restructure our security and defense effort in a complex environment.
But thereafter, I think it’s important as well that we recognize that we are also in an ideological struggle. That sounds a bit evangelical, and again, being a Yorskshireman, I tend to avoid such things. But we are. And we are involved in a war of ideas and a war of knowledge and we’ve ceded that to the enemy. We try to present our engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan effectively as an extension of good governance, of management, rather than the fact that we are trying to defeat an aggressive anti-Western idea with a better idea.
I think it’s a tragedy over the last few years, particularly Europeans, we’ve become so incompetent at selling what is a very good message from Europe about how to recover post-conflict and build new societies. Unless we have that envisioned implicitly in our security and defense strategies, then however technical one is, however managerial one is, one will not actually convey the fundamental reason to our publics and other peoples as to why we need to do this stuff.
MR. NAWAZ: Go ahead.
COL. GENTILE: Well, first with the Marines – I know the Army; that’s what I’ve been paying attention to. Also I think with the Marine Corps, so much of what the Marine Corps does, most of the time, is in response to where the Army is heading. I mean, you find some really – in the last five or six years in Iraq – I remember, in 2003, reading articles by Marine officers of how the American Army in the Sunni Triangle, the 4th Infantry Division was applying too hard of a hand and that they needed to apply a more adept sort of velvet glove.
So it was a counter, a response to show difference with the Army. Interestingly, a few months ago, Gen. Conway was talking about how it was time for the Marines to leave Iraq so that they could go to Afghanistan and get into the business of hard fighting in Afghanistan because that’s what the Marines do. So I focus on the Army because that’s the institution that I’ve spent my life in. That’s the institution that I fought as a part of in Iraq two times and what I’ve really been paying attention to over the last three years.
Clearly, the other services have a role in the greater defense establishment, and especially within the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and all those other things Marines have played a role as well. I like this question about hearts and minds. It comes up all the time. Dave Kilcullen in his newest book just forthrightly talks about the importance of winning hearts and minds. I question through the study of history and operational experience of trying to win hearts and minds, whether they can be won.
But hearts and minds is a term – because of the theory of counterinsurgency – that has come to be thrown out sometimes as matter of fact – that hearts and minds can be won. Then, even if they can be won, the next question I would ask would be from the lane of strategy and say, should we try to win them in Afghanistan? As an example, should we apply an operational method that tries to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan?
Is that in our interest to do so as a matter of strategy? And the last point is – you mentioned Rupert Smith and his widely influential, but, I must say, I believe deeply flawed book, “The Utility of Force,” has also come to be seen almost as a matter of fact for defining future conflict. Future conflict will be more wars amongst the people.
This has had a very pervasive effect, especially on the American Army and its stability doctrine that it’s just come out with, this whole idea that future wars will be wars amongst the people. They might be, but they might be other types of wars.
My argument has been all along that whatever kinds of wars or conflicts or operations the American Army is told to go off to do – and it’s the same with the Marines and the Air Force and the Navy – but with regard to the American Army, what it should be able to do first and foremost is to fight, using combined arms at all levels. If it can do that, it can do any other kind of operation.
Now, that is heresy for the counterinsurgency narrative, which states that no, armies that are trained to do that are predisposed to fail and fail badly at these other kinds of operations. But that should be what the American Army can do first and foremost.
MR. MURADIAN: But I think that’s actually, to make Gian’s point here, in a lot of these counterinsurgency and urban operations, they have been full-spectrum operations that have involved air. They’ve involved artillery. They’ve involved extremely nuanced combined-arms operations, just in a very, very focused way. So you’re not looking at mass tanks but selective use of tanks, for example, for exit routes and for entry and stuff like that.
But to shift to try to answer your question, Harlan, I’m going to take from the other two panelists briefly. Unless you maintain your hearts and minds, ultimately you’re not going to be able to have any policy objective at the end of the day. So you’ve got to make sure your population is being brought along and that means consistently selling a message that makes sense to people and how they go, okay, so this makes – this is why we’re spending the blood and treasure there.
In the case of hearts and minds on the ground over there, it’s not that you want them to love you. I think virtually every poll that you’ve seen, the vast majority of Afghans don’t want the Taliban to come back. That’s the end of the story. For them, it’s a basic security thing and as long as I know that a handful of these guys can come back and kill me somehow or terrorize my village, I can’t really be fully with you because I’m not sure you’re going to be here long enough to make sure that happens.
So now there are other sorts of issues on how do you empower those guys to take a bigger interest in there. Iraq succeeded in large part because we got Sunnis to be like, hey, look, you have a vested interest in this. This isn’t about you just starting trouble. You can be part of the solution here. I think that hearts and minds is applied as though people are going to just love us and have a portrait of Petraeus in their house or anything. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but you never know.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: I just want to make a quick statement, if I may.
MR. MURADIAN: Rent with option to buy.
MR. NAWAZ: Julian has a quick word and then I think Harlan wanted me to say a couple of words and I will. Then we have two questions. I’ll take two questions – one from Sebastian and then one up front here – because we are going to be running out of time and I don’t want to keep you from your lunch.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Just the inability to answer your question, Harlan, for me demonstrates the vacuum created by a lack of leadership. It’s almost a tyranny of public opinion and we seem to be swinging from a kind of strategic political correctness, which was meaningless in the early part of the last decade, to a kind of fundamentalist accountancy approach now. There’s simply no balance. And we have to go back to balance, to explaining to publics why we have to do this stuff.
MR. NAWAZ: I think, Harlan, you were posing the question to me also about winning hearts and minds. I agree. You can’t win hearts and minds, particularly over the kind of short timeframe that politics dictates for what will be deemed to be success or failure in Afghanistan.
But I think it’s very critical to widen the aperture and to go beyond Afghanistan, to Pakistan, to India, to Iran and see if the U.S.’s rhetoric can be matched over a long time by its actions, and particularly on the economic side. Picking up on Vago’s point, the Pakistanis overwhelmingly have voted against the Taliban inside their own borders. So it would make no sense for them to support the Taliban in Kabul because of the contagion effect across the border.
But tactically, of course, they will play whatever cards they have and take advantage of links or past links with some of the afghan Taliban and they will do that in their national interest. But both Europe and North America really have an opportunity to open up economic ties with the region and with Pakistan – between India and Pakistan and Afghanistan and that’s probably the best way of strengthening against insurgencies and militancies, rather than simply the use of military power. So that would be my response. You want to add something?
MR. MURADIAN: Well, I was going to say a great opportunity I think was lost when the NATO C-17 capability was not deployed in the assistance of the Pakistan floods and that was, I’m told, a financial concern. What better would have been to have those aircraft landing with NATO written on the side of it, disgorging supplies, and trying to show I can outdo everybody else in the C-17 relay race?
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: But isn’t the real issue, if I may, Chairman, that we are in fact competing for the large pool of unemployed, under 25-year-olds, with the Taliban and al-Qaida? And what frightens me is we have no creative thinking here, because we look at history, what were the Brits doing in the 19th century? They built railways, partly to ensure that they sucked up that pool of unemployed dangerous young men. Those are the kind of game-changing ideas we need now.
MR. MURADIAN: Popes launched the Crusades to get rid of them.
MR. NAWAZ: Yes. Sebastian, sorry to keep you waiting.
Q: I’m Sebastian Gorka, the Atlantic Council. If I, with your permission –
MR. NAWAZ: Is the microphone on? Okay.
Q: If I can take you back to the wonkish strategy question, the “so what?” of strategy, it’s pretty obvious why broke governments in Europe don’t do strategy in a time of peace, or perceived peace. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to understand that. But could I get Col. Gentile’s and the other panelists’ comments on, why is a hyperpower that has said for eight years it’s at war incapable of doing strategy?
We have a QDR that says – that goes against the basic fundamental rules of strategy, which is prioritization, the QDR says we will do IW, COIN and everything else just in case China gets meddlesome. So we’re going to do the whole panoply. We’re not going to choose or prioritize. Whose responsibility is that? How did we get where we are today, please?
COL. GENTILE: Right. Again I’ll tackle this from an American military, specifically an American Army perspective – (audio break) – comment on the inner workings of American policymakers. But one of the problems, again, that I see within the American Army, as I argued before, is we’re doing the same mistakes. We’re actually making the same mistakes that we did in Vietnam.
The United States lost the Vietnam War not because it didn’t develop an effective counterinsurgency approach. That is just a wrongheaded interpretation of the war in Vietnam. The United States lost the war in Vietnam because it failed at strategy and policy. And in the 1980s, in trying to recover from Vietnam, the American Army did, in a sense, at least tactically and operationally, but it continued to move away from a broader understanding of war and how strategy uses national power to achieve aims in war.
The same thing – it’s the same progression in the 1990s and again it’s the same thing today with this hyper-focus and emphasis on the tactics and operations of counterinsurgency. So there are no alternatives presented to how to achieve policy aims in Afghanistan and potentially other threats and security problems in the world.
At least within the American Army and, I think, within the greater parts of the defense establishment, we talk a lot about the doing of operations. We talk a little bit about strategy, but we don’t talk about war in a holistic sense, and the doing of war, and what it takes to achieve policy aims in war.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Was it the British scientist Ernest Rutherford who said famously that, gentlemen, we have no money. Now is the time to think. It’s actually not – I actually challenge your basic thesis, Seb, because a hyperpower, by definition, does not have to do strategy because it is a hyperpower.
In fact, strategy is the preserve of secondary powers that have to use all means to achieve ends. When I think of how the U.S. was perceived on September 10, 2001, and how the U.S. is perceived on September 27, 2010, I think it’s only now that you realize that in realistic strategic terms you are not the hyperpower you thought you were and therefore you are beginning to do strategy.
Having said that, the ability of the United States to actually adapt in any given circumstance is unrivaled. I’m not just flattering you. As I say, I don’t flatter Americans. I’m a Brit. We don’t do that. But you do have this ability – and what I see now, it’s actually – it’s a bad moment, but you are beginning to grip the reality as it is.
And I’m pretty confident that over the next decade, the way you will deal with that reality, now that you’ve accepted that you haven’t got this unipolar moment anymore, or never did indeed have it, will be much more creative and much more impressive. I just hope the people across the road here on the Hill get that as well.
MR. MURADIAN: I also think, in response to your QDR question, the timing of the QDR was bad in that the administration came into office, regarding China in particular, to try to take a much more – engagement and we can work with them and everything and then that was rapidly seen, especially with Secretary Clinton’s comments in August, being like, that’s just a bunch of bunk. These guys are up to something. We’ve got to man up.
So that’s basically the change that’s happened in the intellectual process. And China’s belligerence, which from its own strategic standpoint is kind of amazing that they keep making that mistake, and thank God for us they keep making that mistake: It gives us all sorts of opportunities to get in there with Vietnam, for example, and with a bunch of other countries in the region, Japan in particular, although it did climb down on the fisherman – coast guard captain or whoever they had in their possession.
I think that, as Julian said, we have a way of going along, not really thinking about anything and not really prioritizing anything because ultimately, you know, what are your vital national interests? And we tend not to think like that, unfortunately.
MR. NAWAZ: Thanks. Please, it’s on.
Q: Thank you very much. You are so generous. Ioan Pascu, European Parliament. I’m wondering – you know, you said correctly that you have to define the kind of future war and then rally the allies around it and then, you know, give the momentum for the alliance to overcome the current situation.
I’m wondering what war means for the Europeans because, you know, more or less, if they have an operation like Afghanistan, they will join the United States. And they will do what they are doing now and leave the United States to take care of that problem essentially because they are more capable and throw more resources at it.
Secondly, when they are alone, they are sufficiently powerful not to be challenged in a warlike manner by anybody. So there is no encouragement and I think that, in general, we have to look at how we define war under the current circumstances because I think that we are moving away from – we are moving in the direction that technology is pushing us or attracting us. But we are still working with the concepts of the Second World War, First World War and these sorts of types, which are not relevant for today.
MR. NAWAZ: If I could just add that since we are up against the clock, if in each of your interventions, you could take this question and move us to the future, how do you see NATO evolving out of the Afghan experience? So, Julian?
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Yeah, thank you. That was great. Ioan, you’re a European political leader. You’re involved in this process. You know how hard it is to get a debate inside the European Parliament on these very issues. We have the worst of all worlds in Europe right now. Quite a few of NATO’s Europe militaries are little more than armed pensions, frankly. The balance between equipment budgets – it’s true – the balance between personnel budgets and equipment budgets is so bad.
And why do they exist? They exist because these countries think it’s a down payment to keep the Americans engaged in their security and defense. Frankly, it would be better if we had a debate in Europe that said, in fact, certain countries will not do war. But they’ll do other things and they’ll invest in that effort and then we can organize this far better than we do.
Therefore, what is very clear to me is that Europeans cannot stay in the space we are. Because we might be strong enough now to be reasonably credible in our own neighborhood – and look at our neighborhood – look at North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia. It ain’t easy. But 10, 15, 20 years from now, if we are still in the same space, we’re in deep trouble.
And until we Europeans have that proper debate and people like yourself, with respect – as you know, you’re a friend and a colleague who I respect deeply – lead that process and say, we are going to have this debate in Europe, then whether it’s NATO or the EU, there simply will never be the political will because the public doesn’t get it and the public – this is not a debate among the publics.
Look at even in Britain. Defense is so far down the political agenda that unless political leaders say, look, public opinion, we understand. You voted m in to lead. This is why we’re going to be doing this and this is why our relationship with the United States is so important and this is why we must make that investment.
I hope one day before I retire, which I hope won’t be too soon, I will hear European political leaders get up and make the case for why Europe alongside the United States is the strategic cornerstone of stability in the world. Because if we Europeans don’t do that and we leave it to the Americans, then we and the Americans will suffer, which brings me to my point about NATO’s future on the military side.
I want to see, by 2020, 2025, a European effort, primarily organized through the alliance, alongside the United States, focused on the following areas: a modernized Article V architecture, which may well include missile defense, cyber defense and will work with Russia and partners to that end because it will reconceptualize what territorial defense means in the 21st century.
I want to see a genuine effort to build deployable forces because whether it’s Article V defense or security, you need deployable forces. Main defense forces are out the window. I want to see much more synergy, intense cooperation, even integration in areas of logistics and other areas of the table because that will prove value for money which will be critical.
But I also want to see that force be able to operate under a NATO or an EU flag. Why? Because as I said, if you look at Europe’s neighborhood and the basic contract between Europe and the United States will be a couple of Europeans will go with America in a small way around the world. But the basic deal, guys, is this. We all get strong enough to deal with our neighborhood credibly to take the pressure off you, so you can do things elsewhere, because we are not world powers.
But if we cannot do that – and by the way, we will need time to send a force under an EU flag because sending a force under a NATO flag or an American flag would simply complicate the political objective implied in the mission – if we can’t do that by 2020, then I don’t believe that this town in particular, for all the niceties, will really believe in the relationship anymore.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you.
COL. GENTILE: Yeah, just quickly, I’ll pick up on two terms or phrases that Julian used, looking ahead into the future, 10, 15, 20 years, the years 2020-25. Julian said deployable forces, absolutely; being able to operate synergistically with other NATO forces, within the American military being able to combine all arms from all the different services. Absolutely, I agree. That would be a good aim point.
But again, for the American military and especially the American Army and how the American Marines relate to that, those deployable forces should be built on the premises of, or the pillars of firepower, protection and mobility.
And again, the reason why I focused my talk today on the American Army, the direction that the American Army seems to be going is of a conception of future conflict that is grounded in the Rupert Smith vision of future war, which is wars amongst the people, influencing behavior, winning hearts and minds, which in an organizational way, in terms of capability, seems to be pushing the American Army, at least, towards a force that is optimized toward light infantry. And ne can see that slowly developing, at least within the American Army. So I agree with Julian.
Unfortunately, the direction, I think, that the American Army and potentially other parts of the American military are taking are not to that kind of deployable force that can deploy to parts of the world to do lots of different things. But of all the things that the American military has to be able to do – especially the American Army, as I’ve said before – is to be able to fight using combined arms. And if we’re not careful, we’re going to move away from that primary function.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Can I add one more sentence?
MR. NAWAZ: Please.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: According to the World Bank, by 2030, 80 percent of the world’s population, 10 billion strong, will live less than 100 kilometers from the sea. That should be our defining strategic reality.
MR. NAWAZ: Vago, you have the last word.
MR. MURADIAN: Oh, my. Throughout the 2000s, America forgot about Asia. It has now rediscovered Asia and it’s forgetting Europe, and I think that that can’t happen. The United States is the only country since the foundation of the alliance that’s been able to lead it, often, in some of these big questions in these moments of crisis.
It has got to – whether sitting around with a drink in everybody’s hand and figuring out, okay, what do we want to be when we grow up, or in the next stage of our lives – let’s put it that way – and then trying to drive it in that direction. I mean, I think the whole notion of that – it is an organization better than anything else to try to organize Europe around a pole.
NATO’s collapse and failure and transition back into a defensive force is also going to bring down and delay any EU effort to advance European military capabilities. The big problem is that we’ve been here before. We’ve seen this act before. Even though some of the subordinate features are different in terms of a different nature of the threat – the anti-government versus the government – I think the problem is that the United States has called on greater defense and called on greater burden sharing and it’s fallen on deaf ears and the problem now is the financial crunch is here.
So there are folks who are wrestling with fundamental trade-offs in their social and welfare programs and that is driving people to look at anyplace else that they can cut. We as Americans can look at this and say, okay, four years of unemployment insurance is a little bit too long in Denmark. Two years ought to be fine. But for a lot of Danes, it’s a passionate issue. Thank you very much.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you to the audience for your thought provoking questions and thank the panel.
MR. LINDLEY-FRENCH: Thank you.
COL. GENTILE: Thank you.
MR. MURADIAN: Thank you.