July 1, 2012

Make or Break

“The Air Force has arrived at a make-or-break moment. The past 10 years have seen the service’s share of the defense budget decline to record lows—hovering around 20 percent of the total—while 90 percent of the Fiscal 2013 defense budget cuts were levied on the Air Force. In fact, the 2013 budget marks the fewest number of Air Force aircraft purchased in a given year since 1916, when the aviation section of the Army Signal Corps was buying Curtiss JN4 Jenny biplanes. The country actually managed to buy more aircraft in the midst of the Great Depression than it will next year.”—Former Secretaries of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters and Michael W. Wynne, Washington Times, June 1.

It’s a Global Thing

“The AirSea Battle concept … is a genuinely global concept, consistent with the globalized environment in which we operate. It is not the design for any particular region of the world, but rather it is to ensure that US forces remain able to project power to support combatant command requirements worldwide. Simply put: AirSea Battle is agnostic with regard to specific regions of the world, and is intended to assure access wherever our wide-ranging strategic interests are located.”—Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, remarks at the Brookings Institution, May 16.

Slow Reader

“AirSea Battle is demonizing China. That’s not in anybody’s interest.”—Retired USMC Gen. James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Financial Times, June 1.


“In order to be a credible military threat, we must be super-ready—and as far as I’m concerned, we’re super-ready. There is a lot of chatter and public debate on this matter. The Iranian issue—capabilities or lack thereof, how things are developing and where it’s going—is very dynamic, and very few people know what is possible or impossible.”—Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff of Israeli Defense Forces, on preparations for Iran operation, remarks to the Knesset, June 5.

How Cyberwar Looks

“The plant operators were clueless. There were no warning lights, no alarm bells, no dials gyrating wildly. But anyone down in the plant would have felt, and heard, that the centrifuges were suddenly going haywire. First came a rumble, then an explosion.”—David E. Sanger, from his book Confront and Conceal, regarding use of the Stuxnet cyber weapon to attack Iran’s uranium centrifuges at Natanz, quoted in New York Times, June 5.

Hail, Caesar 2.0

“Previous cyber attacks had effects limited to other computers. This is the first attack of a major nature in which a cyber attack was used to effect physical destruction. Somebody crossed the Rubicon.”—Retired USAF Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of the CIA, on use of the Stuxnet virus against Iran’s nuclear facilities, New York Times, June 1.

I, Ethical Robot

“As human operators struggle to assimilate the information collected by robotic sensors, decision-making by robots seems likely to increase. This might be a good thing, says Ronald Arkin, a roboticist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who is developing ‘ethics software’ for armed robots. By crunching data from drone sensors and military databases, it might be possible to predict, for example, that a strike from a missile could damage a nearby religious building. Clever software might be used to call off attacks as well as initiate them.”—From “March of the Robots, The Economist, June 2.

To the Finland Station

“After four years of Dmitry Medvedev keeping the czar’s throne warm, Vladimir Putin is once again Russia’s President. There were no public celebrations to accompany Mr. Putin’s inauguration on May 7. Quite the opposite. Moscow’s streets had been cleared by a huge security presence; the city turned into a ghost town. This scene came the day after massive protests showed that the Russian middle class rejects Mr. Putin’s bid to become their President for life. With no independent legislature or judiciary at our disposal, Mr. Putin’s impeachment will have to take place in the streets.”—Garry Kasparov, leader of Russian pro-democracy group United Civil Front (and former world chess champion), Wall Street Journal, May 21.

Paper Tiger

“I do not see the Chinese strategic deterrent as a direct threat to the United States. We are not enemies. Could it be [a threat]? I suppose if we were enemies it could be, and therefore we at least have to be aware of that.”—USAF Gen. C. Robert Kehler, US Strategic Command, remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, May 30.

Except for Osama

“There was nothing, frankly, overly sensitive about the raid. We did 11 other raids much like that in Afghanistan that night. From a military standpoint, this was a standard raid and really not very sexy.”—Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the SEAL mission against Osama bin Laden,, May 24.

Trials of a Veteran

“To be honest, I think being a veteran makes it harder to find work, not easier. People thank us for our service but are so worried that we’re unstable or have mental problems that they pass over us for jobs. I’m willing to come in on the ground floor, but even that doesn’t work.”—Former Marine Corps corporal Moses Maddox, an Iraq veteran, on the difficulty of finding work, National Journal, May 26.

On Vietnam Service

“You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. … It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.”—President Barack Obama, address to veterans at the Vietnam War Memorial, May 28.