May 1, 2010

A Day Without Space

“We actually have wargames where we have considered a day without space—in other words, intellectually trying to make sure that we understand what the puts and takes are and what the consequences [are] of losing [capability]. Let’s say you did not have GPS or it was jammed. Are our aircrews prepared to operate in a GPS-degraded environment? And that is something that we are training to do in larger measure. In other words, taking those things that we perhaps in the not too distant past have taken for granted but understand that an adversary might degrade them, and can we fight through that degradation?”—Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, House Armed Services Committee, Feb. 23.

Sanity Check

“You boys must be crazy.”—President Eisenhower on possibility, raised by Joint Chiefs of Staff, of using nuclear weapon to relieve siege of Dien Bien Phu in French Indochina in 1954, recalled in Valley of Death by Ted Morgan, published in February.

Renaming the Iraq War

“The requested operation name change [to Operation New Dawn] is approved to take effect 1 September 2010, coinciding with the change of mission for US forces in Iraq. Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation Iraqi Freedom has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission.”—Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, memo to US Central Command, Feb. 17.

Air Putin

“Certainly, we should not confine ourselves to developing just one new model. After the fifth generation fighter jet, we must think and get down to work on a next generation, long-range aviation complex—our new strategic missile carrier.”Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Reuters, March 1.

Low Ebb

“The US Air Force is at the lowest ebb in its 63-year history. Although its capabilities still far surpass those of other air services around the world, it is gradually using up the arsenal it acquired during the closing days of the Cold War. … You’d think at this point, policy-makers would be ready to train their sights on some other hapless victim of ‘rebalancing,’ but no such luck.”—Loren B. Thompson, Lexington Institute, on continuing Air Force program cuts and stretch-outs, March 1.

The Weeds Come Back

“‘Mowing the grass’ is the term frustrated soldiers use to describe the war in Afghanistan. America and its NATO allies sweep in and clear an area. But, once they leave, the Taliban creep back like weeds in the lawn, and the allies have to mow it all over again.”—H. D. S. Greenway, longtime military analyst, Boston Globe, March 2.

No Knockout Punch

“Success in these types of wars is iterative; it is not decisive. There isn’t going to be a single day when we stand up and say, ‘That’s it, it’s over, we’ve won.’ We will win, but we will do so only over time and only after near-constant reassessment and readjustment. Quite frankly, it will feel a lot less like a knockout punch and a lot more like recovering from a long illness.”—Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kansas State University, March 3.

The Demilitarization of Europe

“One of the triumphs of the last century was the pacification of Europe after ages of ruinous warfare. But as I’ve said before, I believe we have reached an inflection point, where much of the continent has gone too far in the other direction. The demilitarization of Europe—where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it—has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.”—Gates, National Defense University, Feb. 23.

Not Helping the Air Force

“My concern is that you have a service that is going through an incredible transition right now that will shape its future and national security, but the Hill is focused on specific programs that aren’t integral to that debate.”—Peter W. Singer, Brookings Institution, CQ Weekly, Feb. 15.

Where Iran Is Heading

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship.”—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Times, Feb. 16.

Defending the Sale

“We want to build a relationship of confidence and a new relationship with Russia. We cannot on the one hand enlist Russia in building that security and at the same time consider that Russia has not profoundly changed since 1991.”—French Defense Minister Herve Morin on proposed sale of one (or possibly four) ultramodern Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia, Agence France-Presse, Feb. 8.

Airpower and the Alternative

“Most unfortunately, having so often greatly overestimated airpower in the past, the United States is now disregarding its strategic potential, using it only tactically to hunt down individuals with remotely operated drones and to support ground operations, mostly with helicopters, which are the only aircraft the Taliban can shoot down. Commanding General Stanley McChrystal, understandably concerned about the political blowback from errant bombings widely condemned both inside and outside Afghanistan, has put out the word that airpower should be used solely as a last resort. He intends to defeat the Taliban by protecting Afghan civilians, providing, essential services, stimulating economic development, and ensuring good government, as the now-sacrosanct Field Manual 3-24 prescribes. Given the characteristics of Afghanistan and its rulers, this worthy endeavor might require a century or two.”—Edward Luttwak, Foreign Policy, March/April.

Changing Compartments

“On the drive out here, you get yourself ready to enter the compartment of your life that is flying combat. And on the drive home, you get ready for that part of your life that’s going to be the soccer game.”—Retired Air Force Col. Chris Chambliss on flying drones over Iraq and Afghanistan by remote control from Creech AFB, Nev., Los Angeles Times, Feb. 21.