Address to Alvin Bernstein Lecture Series - Johns Hopkins University
November 14, 2008
Professor Al Bernstein Lecture Series
School of Advanced International Studies
Remarks by General Peter W. Chiarelli
6 November 2008
It's great to be here this evening. Like most of you, I thought it a real pleasure to have an opportunity to vote Tuesday. The last real election I got to be a part of was in January of 2005 - in Baghdad. There, the example of our constitutionally grounded transfer of power...the idea of democracy was exercised for the first time.
The purple finger you all may remember became a symbol of respect and defiance. There were about 100 attacks in Baghdad that day - it was actually a good day. We literally locked down the city to prevent the carnage insurgents wanted to portray. But in some ways the results of the election in 2005 created the problems I would later encounter as a Corps Commander in 2006.
But earlier this week, as I drove to work traffic was great in downtown D.C. for the first time.
Everyone was at the polling sites.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening. To be asked to speak in honor of the late Professor Alvin Bernstein is flattering. His remarkable achievements in the field of academia and the Department of Defense ranked him clearly as one of the quintessential intellectuals of our trade.
I think it was Professor Cohen who wrote on the advent of Professor Bernstein's passing that it is the 'Al Bernsteins of this world who cunningly lure students down the path of conventional belief into intellectual ambushes from which they can escape only at the price of learning and growth'.
Teachership: that fine quality we want in all our leaders. Al Bernstein lived it.
In the best traditions of the intersecting worlds of academia and the military, I hope this evening that I can give you a flavor for how we...I...am thinking about the implications of the world around us to our collective future.
Now, though I am an avid student of history and politics, I do not portend to even come close to the intellectual giants we have lurking the halls of this great institution. So I will begin this evening's discussion from a position of strength by stating the obvious: The world around us is changing. The real question though... is whether or not we are keeping pace with the rate of change'
There are a few obvious trends circulating our world that have been predictions for years, yet today are revealing themselves in seemingly ominous ways. In fact, there are probably some smart guys out here in the audience, or wandering the classrooms who have written about and talked about these trends for quite some time.
Just consider the idea of population growth. We have grown as a species at an exponential rate. In fact, it a little less than 12 years time, we will move from the six billion to the seven billion mark. By 2050 the projection is that we will cross the 10 billion threshold. In the hour timeframe we have together today, there will be over 10,000 births. We are living longer.
The explosion of growth is creating world-wide industrial grade structural challenges. We see it in the change in the climate. We see it in the resource scarcity. We see it in the mass migration towards urban areas. By the end of this year, there are estimates that over 50% of the world's population will live in urban centers. Many second and third world city planners don't have the capacity to keep pace with the growth. This leads to 'super slums' where humanity is literally stacked on top of humanity.
I got to see this up front and personal in a small 6x8 kilometer stretch of real-estate on the outskirts of NorthEast Baghdad. Sadr City - 2.5 million people in a place built for just over 300,000. Small two room apartment complexes stacked four stories high. Each apartment 2-3 rooms - 12-15 people living in them.
And then we are seeing conflict start to emerge at the faultlines of resources. Water, Oil, food. Samuel Huntington touched on this in The Clash of Civiliations: where 'the fault-lines between civilizations will be the battlelines of the future'. If you ever get a chance to read or skim through Tom Friedman's latest book he talks about the growing middle class of China and India... creating another structural demand on a world with limited resources.
It is there we see a clouded future.
Another trend that is creating massive implications: Information Technology. The simple connectivity of the 'virtual domain' is creating incredible opportunities for commerce and communications... and becomes an incredible sanctuary in the battle of ideas.
There is an amazing acceleration of change that is occurring as a result of information technologies. If you take a look at patents over the last 10 years as an indicator of knowledge creation - and therefore knowledge obsolescence - you see that it has shot through the roof.
Consider tracing the evolution of technology almost parallel to the exponential nature of Moore's Law. We are creating new ideas, new technologies faster than ever before. Turning existing technology into irrelevant technology seemingly overnight.
From the position of national security, the virtual terrain of cyberspace is a new operating domain. It has to be seriously addressed if we are to maintain comparative advantage.
We are wrestling with a marked reality that every soldier we employ today... and every savvy terrorist we encounter knows how to use cell phone technology. In an instant they can send pictures or videos half-way around the world in the time it takes to press the send key. You've seen YouTube... or surfed iReport on CNN ... You know what I'm talking about.
The phenomenal advances in technology and communications that have become ubiquitous in ways we would have never imagined even a decade ago are being outdated almost the instant they are created.
Another manifesting trend is the rise of extremism. Both state and non-state trans-national actors. These are forces at play that leverage the demographics of the disenfranchised populations, manipulating the masses who see hope only through parceling out of goods and services. These are the strings of a shadow government.
They have figured out how to ride the backbone of the virtual domain seeking its sanctuary to proliferate ideas and actions...or using it as a weapon to shut down whole governments. I think of Al Qaeda. I think of Russia and their recent operations in Southern Ossetia.
If you want a case study in modern information operations...a clearly laid out campaign that leveraged the distraction of world events, and created chaos across the virtual domain...go back and examine what happened earlier to Estonia...then how those lessons were incorporated into Georgia. We could learn a lot.
We've known of these emerging realities: the rise in population growth; the explosion of information technology -- and trans-national actors who do not acknowledge the frameworks and bureaucratic processes of the State - yet they use those very frameworks to create an asymmetric advantage.
What emerges is an instability and sense of global turmoil.
Now add to the mix an economic meltdown like we have never seen compounding already existing challenges... and which I would argue is tied to the connectivity of information technologies... we see a world where our confidence in the future is wavering.
We are struggling with the evolution from an industrial based world to the reality of a connected, information based global society. Where the concept of an idea can be fueled through the virtual terrain to sway the opinion of the masses in ways never before conceived.
Our younger generations today live in a connected world, sharing their ideas, their lives, and existing simultaneously in many places at once.
Von Clausewitz espoused in his treatise that 'war was an extension of politics'. If you accept the premise that politics, as Theodore White once wrote, 'is about control'...it is about advocating an 'idea' to create advantage...then you can make the next logical leap that we are, and always have been, in a war of ideas.
This primacy of the 'idea'...the primacy of a cause based on an idea can only be realized through the result of action. In many ways we as the military stand as just one of the fists that can turn the idea into reality.
Years ago the idea war was Communism vs Capitalism. East vs West. The Eagle and the Bear waging a global struggle for dominance through proxies. Today, as Freidman would surmise, it is the prosperity of secular capitalism running headlong into fundamentalist ideology. Liberty vs Extremism.
A Fatwa issued over 10 years ago by the World Islamic Front best captures the tone of this war of ideas. The Fatwa pronounced: "To Kill Americans and their allies - civilians and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do". This clearly highlights how extremists have hijacked and warped a religion to incite the disenfranchised to achieve a desired result.
The trends we see impacting us everyday... the emerging strategic environment that is forming around an information-centric world demands that we take a very hard look at how we engage and adapt as a nation.
It demands that we relook the executive institutions that manage the hard and soft power of our national security policy.
In late July 1947, on board the Presidential Aircraft, the Sacred Cow, President Truman signed into law the National Security Act. It reflected the harsh lessons learned from World War II and the emerging strategic environment of the Cold War. A year earlier, in March of 1946, Winston Churchill had warned that an Iron Curtain was descending across the continent of Europe. After Britain pulled out of Greece -- and probably heavily influenced by the circulating ideas of George Keenan culminating in the Mr. X Foreign Affairs article titled The Sources of Soviet Conduct -- the Truman Doctrine was born to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures".
In other words: Containment.
Simultaneously, George Marshall was exercising the politics of Soft Power before Joe Nye made the term popular through the Marshall Plan.
The National Security Act battled its way through the halls of Congress and the bureaucratic stiff-arm tactics of careerists who saw uncertainty in the changes that were to occur. But in the end, through the hammering and compromise of our legislative process, we created the CIA, the National Security Council. Created the Air Force out of the Army Air Corps... and then created the Department of Defense which now managed under its umbrella all the Services.
It is probably time to acknowledge that after seven years of war, that after recognizing the immense changes that have defined OUR strategic environment today...we may want to take a page from history to in fact shape our future.
The Truman administration recognized the emerging global struggle between the Eagle and the Bear. Chose containment as a policy... and then restructured every facet of the National Security Structure to support that strategy to the chagrin of the bureaucracy. Hence the National Security Act of 1947.
Today, the strategic environment is demanding that we strengthen the non-military tools of National Power. An information based world that is changing at such a significant rate demands we seriously relook how we engage ALL the elements of national power at our disposal. We need to look seriously at how we bring the full measure of Diplomatic, Economic, and Information elements to the table of National Security... in line with the Military.
We need a National Security Act 2009 - or something just as equally profound.
If we do not, we will continue down the path of the Military arm - structured as a peer integrator - yet becoming the only true representation of our National Interests abroad. It will be the Military that maintains persistent engagement on behalf of the Nation to prevent the fault-lines from erupting. Strategically reactive rather than strategically proactive. Lacking (or growing out of necessity today) the critical skills nascent in places such as our Diplomatic Corps.
Information based conflicts require an ability to influence the ideology and the propaganda of those who have gained street-smarts in the information world. The Department of State needs a ten-fold increase in the number of skilled Foreign Service Officers persistently engaged abroad if we are going to ultimately nullify the impacts of extremist rhetoric.
Let the Soft Power of politics, economics and diplomacy be backed by the Hard Power of the Soldier. If we continue to ignore this strategic imperative through bureaucratic neglect, then we will ultimately fuel generations of disenfranchised who will see in the extremist alternative signs of hope.
We have to consider... as a nation, to choose engagement, much as we chose containment in 1946 as a strategy. If not, I worry about the consequences.
Within the Army we are struggling with the same levels of bureaucratic issues: how we adapt ourselves to the changing nature of war. Today, there is implicit understanding that there are polarized ways we are employed on behalf of the National Security Strategy.
On one hand, intervention into a relatively benign environment can achieve disruption of potential conflicts; stabilization. On the other hand, there is the possibility of state on state conflict where clear decisive objectives are defined by boundaries shifting and governments removed. But ultimately I believe the reality today resides somewhere between the two extremes. The probability of conflict now and for the foreseeable future includes elements of all forms of engagement. At any one time you are asking our young soldiers and their leaders to simultaneously 'close with and destroy the enemy' and at the same time achieve lasting diplomatic and economic effects.
General Charles Krulak wrote eloquently about this idea in 1999 in an article he titled "The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War". He posits that our leaders today - again, this is written in 1999 -- will be 'confronted by the entire spectrum of tactical challenges in the span of a few hours... within the space of three continuous city blocks'.
Today we call this Full Spectrum operations. It is now the cornerstone of our doctrine as an Army. It resides somewhere between the extremes of kinetic and non-kinetic. It includes elements of both - all the time - shifting constantly - sometimes... many times without warning.
If you talk to Dave Petraeus or Ray Odierno, they'd probably vehemently agree... over the years in Iraq, their Brigade Commander's have had to dance between offense, defense and stability operations as fast as the changing political winds. They created opportunities... and then quickly, decisively seized upon them.
The reality is that warfare has changed. It is fought on a global stage. The skills needed today are requiring we provide the nation with smarter, more agile, more adaptive leaders than we could have ever imagined. We are taxing the creative talents of our younger generations... and we are achieving the impossible. There has been a merging...blurring of the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of conflict lately through the advent of information technologies.
This creates a demand. The soldiers on the ground must have strategic messaging guidance or at least a framework. This allows them to adapt it to the locality of politics on the streets they patrol. Too often our soldiers are left with little guidance and are forced to ultimately wing it.
Unfortunately, our adversaries do not recognize or follow our information operations approval process. They don't ultimately care about the truth. Rather, effect is what is important.
It is why we have to examine how we combat the propaganda campaigns of our adversaries through a longer-term approach. One that recognizes our commitment to the local populace. One that recognizes that our presence is positive in nature...rather than temporary.
Unavoidably I've taken tacts this evening that are probably well outside my current position -- yet I am fascinated as a former Corps Commander and a former Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense by these subjects. It is probably in my best interest that I bring the conversation back from the bully pulpit you've given me this evening into the problem set of an Army at War in the Modern Era. The last seven years have been years of incredible stress on the A,A1/2 of 1 percent of the American populace that has been engaged on behalf of the nation in a war that straddles two theaters.
Seven years of learning and adapting brings me to another area inside our Defense establishment I think important to put under the light bulb: The Goldwater-Nichols Act. Now... you'd probably be called a pariah today if you talked negatively about Goldwater-Nichols. The reverence given to the document is almost the same given to the Declaration of Independence.
No doubt, it did accomplish what it set out to do, and is continuing to do today: shifting the services from warfighters to providers; challenging the inter-service rivalry through education and structure. It gave us incredible breakthroughs in how we do business. It also - and this is where we start to see people squirm - created another set of problems. In the interest of 'joint' we are probably going a bit too far in the purple mindset by sacrificing tacit experience.
Robert Sternberg proposed many years ago the idea that there are multiple forms of intelligence within each of us. One of those forms is called Practical Intelligence - the tacit knowledge, skills, and abilities that we grow into... what you bring to the table as an expert in your field.
Yet...if Goldwater-Nichols was taken to its ultimate end... I fear my next assignment may have me commanding a Carrier Strike Group somewhere. Well outside my practical intelligence set. And I even graduated from the Naval War College!
Now, please take that as a joke. What I truly want to get across to you this evening is that we must take a hard look at the functional alignments of domain specific skill sets to strategic and regional problem sets.
I consider myself reasonably seasoned. But put me in charge of a Carrier Strike Group is almost the same as asking me to do brain surgery. The inherent intelligence may be there, but the skills built over years and years of medical school and internships are not.
If you really look at how we've create Goldwater-Nichols... it was created at a time when Grenada and Desert One were fresh in our minds -- when the Commodore 64 was the extent of personal computer technology. Since then, the only significant adjustment has been in 2002, when Secretary Rumsfeld thought it imperative to change the title of the functional and regional commanders from Commander's in Chief (CINCS for short) - reserved for the President - to Combatant Commanders (COCOMs).
What does it need to be today' Can we improve upon Goldwater-Nichols' Do we look at it from an inter-agency perspective now that 'interagency' in the strategic environment has become a fact of life' Can this be a driver for an NSA or Goldwater-Nichols 2009.
Can we use it to perhaps update another outdated and antiquated system that has become part of the very cell structure of the defense establishment whose origin is firmly grounded in the Industrial era' I'm talking about how we as a nation program, and budget our national security.
Secretary Gates spoke about the dichotomy of our acquisition system and the reality of an information based world earlier last month. He said: "The simple reality of our strategic context is that operational needs are outstripping our current resourcing process. An incredibly fossilized systems approach built during the cold war at the height of the industrial age has now become an anchor dragging down the rapid/adaptive requirements needed for the informational age."
I can't agree more. The Programming cycle is driving strategy rather than the Strategy driving the Programming Cycle. It is a six to twelve year process that is being literally trumped by the accelerated rate of change. And as a result, we've had to bypass our own procurement systems in an effort to maintain an edge against our adversaries.
Everyone knows the cumbersome and inefficient nature of the process. Yet the problem is so big, so ingrained in our government's fabric - that much like adapting the structure of our security apparatus to the new strategic environment - no one wants to tackle it head on. We literally have to work around the very system we are supposed to use in an effort to maintain a comparative advantage against our adversaries.
The system created as a systemic approach to programming, acquisition, and budgeting by RAND in the late 1950's, and adopted in 1963 by Robert McNamara as an industrial based model is being surpassed and overtaken by the reality of the strategic environment.
It would probably be a fair statement that almost every single rapid procurement we have accelerated to the battlefield today has been financed through supplementals. Things like the MRAP are the reasons why. An un-forecasted request outstripping our 12 year projection model. If we used the traditional approach, our soldiers would still be waiting for the capability.
As the Secretary of Defense stated later in that same speech: "Our conventional modernization programs seek a 99 percent solution in years.... - the wars we are in - require 75 percent solutions in months. The challenge is whether in our bureaucracy and in our minds these two different paradigms can be made to coexist."
We've got to find a way to actually adapt the system to the new strategic environment...from an industrial based programming cycle to an information-based programming cycle.
Because it has drilled itself into DNA of the Congress, the Pentagon, and Industry... we probably need to take a Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) approach to actually adapt the system to an information based environment. The BRAC approach will help overcome the institutional antibodies that will no doubt attack the very nature of the idea.
Finally this evening I'd like to address a topic that commands my attention on a daily basis. It is the health and vitality of the All Volunteer Force.
For many young folks in this room, the idea of an All Volunteer Force is as normal as the cell phones you carry, the connectivity afforded by the internet, and the 500 channels you get to choose from. It's just there...always has been. Yet there was a time where 'just there' meant 3 channels you changed with a knob that showed news once a day at about 6:30. 'Just there' meant connectivity was a pre-arranged exercise that took planning and contingencies. 'Just there' meant selective service - conscription - when we pulled from cross-sections of the nation to serve a nation at war.
Some today believe that we should re-examine the utility of conscription. Some have stated that it is far too expensive for our Nation to continue to fund an All Volunteer Force. I would strongly suggest the opposite. That in fact we are not spending enough on the All Volunteer Force.
Information based conflicts demand soldiers and leaders who are motivated and can clearly understand the reality of Krulak's three-block war. Who can balance the strategic implications of their tactical actions without prejudice. The training and investment of the current strategic environment demand volunteers.
Yet there are incredible strains on the vitality and health of the all volunteer force. If you really want to understand what we are doing these days to our soldiers and our families... and I get a bit passionate about this...is to look at the return we are getting for the investment.
In World War II, the percentage of GDP invested in defense hovered somewhere near 35 to 36%. Vietnam: 8.9% Phenomenal numbers when you compare it to what we are spending today as a percentage of GDP. Somewhere between 4 and 5%.
We have young Captains and Sergeants, who have 4 to 5 years of service who have accumulated over half of that time - or more -- in service of the Nation in combat zones around the world. We are asking for an extraordinary level of sacrifice yet we are debating the utility of paying for it. We're not paying enough.
This is a people business. The Army is people...it's Boots on the Ground. Spend one week with a unit who has returned from a 15 month deployment...where they have slogged through the heat moving tactical chess pieces across the strategic chessboard. They know that in a little over 12 months they will be deployed again - doing it again.
You would be absolutely amazed by the stress we are putting on this group of young Americans and their families. Their lives and their families are put on hold. Some have gone as many as 4 Christmas's without their family.
The requirements of preparing for war being as equally taxing as the war itself. The spin of the demand is outstripping the resources that have been given to us. Yet even with this incredible strain: a combination of demand and limited supply... you would be equally dumbfounded by the dedication and motivation they display. They have a resiliency unlike I have ever seen.
I would go so far as to take a position that our All Volunteer Force, and the families that support them are a living example of a National Treasure...and for the past seven years we have been asking ordinary Americans to be extraordinary. The overwhelming psychological support of the American populace has been staggering - something we did not see in the last extended conflict.
What concerns me is that there is a level of awareness missing in the National psyche of the strain and sacrifice military families are dealing with day after day, year after year, deployment after deployment.
What will ultimately prove the resilience of the All Volunteer Force - which again, I am amazed at how they have adapted to the current strain of the last seven years - is in how decisions will be made by families to leave or stay. Ultimately it is their decision to volunteer no matter how many incentives we create.
One of the factors in their decision - as they contemplate deployment after deployment -- is whether or not they believe they are part of an Army at War, or a Nation at War. As we think about our National Security Strategy - as we engage in the primacy of an idea - it would be a great exercise as a Nation to look at how we think about sacrifice.
I truly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you this evening on behalf of the Al Bernstein lecture series. We are at a critical time in the history of our country. Mid-stride of two wars we have validated our constitutional right to put in play a peaceful transfer of power.
The next few months will be critical to how we move beyond the rhetoric of the national debate to executing the hard business of governance in an uncertain, ambiguous world that is hurtling headlong into a future fraught with pitfalls that we can only start to imagine.
Examining how we adapt our security institutions to the emerging strategic context is a critical step to maintaining or creating primacy in the war of ideas. We must engage, we must take a long view. And though I know it is counter to the political process - it is doable.
The idea of Containment transcended Truman. It was a generational conflict. Today we sit at the same crossroads. 2008 looks similar to 1947. The question is - are we going to do anything about it.
Thank you again. Army Strong.