Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Outside View: Ticking time bombs
by Harlan Ullman
Washington (UPI) Dec 19, 2012

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

To most observers, irrespective of "sequestration" that would remove an additional $500 billion from defense spending over the next decade, the most dangerous of ticking time bombs at the Pentagon is budgetary.

The impact of any financial contraction will be magnified by the swelling retirement and medical accounts that gobble up huge proportions of the budget.

And transitioning a force at war for more than a decade to other duties can become excruciatingly difficult in the face of cuts, especially draconian ones.

If the U.S. military's vital signs were examined microscopically or subject to the equivalent of a CAT scan, however, three less visible and perhaps more dangerous time bombs would be detected.

The first is the "cost exchange" ratio comparing what the United States spends to defeat current adversaries in Iran and Afghanistan against what is spent to harm the United States.

Second is the continuing failure to understand the culture of regions where the United States is engaged.

And third are ethical, moral and legal dilemmas concerning personal conduct and, separately, the effects of war on the U.S. military from private to general from drone attacks to kill "enemy combatants" and capture or kill missions for the same purpose.

"Cost exchange" ratios measure input versus output. Simply put: What does it cost the United States to achieve its missions as opposed to what our adversaries spend?

Consider a few pertinent figures.

The United States has spent in excess of $50 billion to counter enemy improvised explosive devices. That expenditure bought everything from expensive armored vehicles to sophisticated IED detection systems. Clearly, when the costs of long-term healthcare for the thousands of wounded service personnel are included, that figure will grow.

Iraqi insurgents and Afghan Taliban collectively have spent pennies in comparison in fielding IEDs that have so hurt U.S. forces probably amounting to a few million dollars. Thus, the cost exchange ratio favors the enemy by 5,000- or 10,000-to-1.

Similarly, it costs about half a million dollars to deploy a soldier or a Marine. The cost of a Taliban or al-Qaida fighter is next to nothing.

And, as a further example of the cost exchange imbalances, the United States continues to ship bottled water to its forces in Afghanistan at about $800 a gallon, roughly the cost of a tin of caviar. Obviously, on this path, the United States is spending its way to oblivion.

Second, American cultural understanding of regions where we fight remains flawed. In some ways, the military has made significant effort for improving this appreciation and spends vast amounts of money on educating it personnel.

Unfortunately, dating back to Vietnam, the civilian leadership hasn't made this adjustment. And, unfortunately, despite lip service, the military education system has never fully embraced the need for this cultural understanding.

Last are ethical, moral and legal time bombs. The recent spate of sexual misconduct from U.S. Air Force enlisted training to flag officer dalliances forms one part of this issue.

Human nature in the age of Facebook, Twitter and the like, in which little remains secret, is further challenged by a whistle-blower mentality in which anonymous tips about possible misconduct almost automatically lead to serious inspector general investigations without the suspect knowing his or her accuser.

As a result, as many as 200 flag and general officer investigations are reportedly under way. And, if another incident of flag officer misconduct becomes public, it isn't inconceivable that all senior officers needing Senate confirmation by the Armed Service Committee could be asked: "General, have you ever...?"

War ultimately involves killing and destroying the enemy. The enemy throughout most of history had armies, navies and later air forces. But when the enemy consists of irregular forces whose identities aren't easily differentiated from non-combatants, killing is harder to justify.

That the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps have been forced by operational necessity to focus largely on "capture-and-kill missions" and not defeating enemy armies and navies can raise profound questions over moral and legal justifications. Drone warfare, without real due process, complicates the ethical, moral and legal dilemmas.

The first two time bombs can be easily defused. If a brains-based approach is used to the cost exchange ratio imbalance and think the way clear of danger, different tactics would have been considered that weren't centered on constant patrols where armored vehicles offered tempting targets and on greater use of unmanned reconnaissance. And it is high time to revolutionize the system of military education as this column has repeatedly recommended.

The moral, ethical and legal dilemmas are more vexing. The ease and antiseptic nature of drone warfare are appealing. Human nature and behavior aren't easily altered. Yet, inroads must be made and perhaps altering whistle-blower rules that protect anonymity is a first step.

(Harlan Ullman is chairman of the Killowen Group, which advises leaders of government and business, and senior adviser at Washington's Atlantic Council.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)


Related Links
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Japan's Abe voices security concerns
Tokyo (UPI) Dec 19, 2012
Pacific maritime security will be high on the agenda of Shinzo Abe, Japan's next prime minister, when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama. The two leaders, who spoke on the telephone this week for 10 minutes, are looking at a January summit in the United States, a report by The Japan Times newspaper said. The security situation in the East China Sea and South China Sea has becom ... read more

NATO to deploy Patriots in Turkey over next few weeks

U.S. seeks double Israel missile funding

NATO chief denounces Iran's allegations on Patriots

Russia shuts down Azerbaijan radar station: Baku

Raytheon awarded $254.6 million for Tomahawk missile

NATO says Syria regime firing 'Scud-style missiles'

Raytheon awarded contract for SM-2 production

Brazil invests in rocket technology

Northrop Grumman, US Navy Complete At-Sea Deck Handling Trials of X-47B Unmanned Demonstrator

Pakistani drone crashes in northwest: officials

Boeing Demos Unmanned Little Bird for Republic of Korea Army

Boeing's Reusable, Unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Begins Second Flight

Raytheon's US Navy satellite terminals reach Full Rate Production milestone

General Dynamics' 30,000th Combat Search and Rescue Radio Goes to Work for USAF

Europe launches major British military satellite

N. Korea satellite appears dead: scientist

Supacat opens Australian design facility

NGC Provides Attitude Heading Reference For Sikorsky's S-76D Helicopter

Lockheed Martin Wins Role on Army Software and Systems Engineering Contract

Integrated soldier kits for more troops

Putin signs helicopter, jet deals with Indian PM

Putin targets arms deals, doubling in trade on India trip

Putin to push for arms deals in India

Congress sends sweeping defense bill to Obama

Japan's incoming PM pledges to mend ties with China

Outside View: Ticking time bombs

China ships in disputed waters, first since Japan poll

Russia widens anti-U.S. retaliation

Synthetic and biological nanoparticles combined to produce new metamaterials

Nanocrystals Not Small Enough to Avoid Defects

Nature Materials Study: Boosting Heat Transfer With Nanoglue

New optical tweezers trap specimens just a few nanometers across

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement