Cover image for Private warriors
Private warriors
Silverstein, Ken.
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Publication Information:
New York : Verso, 2000.
Physical Description:
xvii, 268 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
Based on the author's original research.

Includes index.
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HD9743.U6 S54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In offering explanations for the US's enormous post-Cold War military budget--nearly $280 billion for the year 2000--most defense critics point to the influence of weapon makers pork-barrel politics. Those are certainly factors.

But in this eye-opening book, Ken Silverstein looks at another, all but unexamined force: private warriors, the generals, gunrunners and national security staffers who were cast adrift by the end of the Cold War and are now continuing business in the private sector. Private Warriors moves from an arms dealer's estate in Vienna to a weapons show in Rio de Janeiro to a Soldier of Fortune convention in Las Vegas. It introduces little known figures such as Ernst Werner Glatt, a right-wing German who for many years was the Pentagon's preferred gunrunner, and Andrew Marshall, an aging but still sprightly Cold Warrior who ardently promotes the development of needless new weapons systems.

Other encounters are with more recognizable names such as General Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State who now lobbies for China and sells weapons to Turkey, and Frank Gaffney, an ex-Pentagon official who has grown rich by promoting the biggest boondoggle of them all, Star Wars. Today's private warriors have one thing in common: a financial interest in war, and the connections to push for a continuation of Cold War military policy.

Author Notes

Ken Silverstein is a writer based in Washington, DC. He is a contributing editor to Harper's and Mother Jones magazines, as well as a regular contributor to The Nation and Salon, among others.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A book needs to be written on the relationship between retired military officers and the defense industries of their respective countries. A book needs to be written on think tank intellectuals who are for sale to the highest bidder when it comes to describing alarming future military scenarios and their expensive material requirements. A book needs to be written on the post-Cold War diffusion across the globe of sophisticated military technology. For some, this will be that book; others may feel it sacrifices these opportunities in favor of vignettes and frissons. Silverstein, a regular contributor to the Nation, among other journals, documents a shadowy community of freelance individuals and nongovernmental agencies that he thinks is attempting to sustain the high-profit days of the international arms market by propping up Cold War antagonism; by fomenting new tensions, in particular with China; and by insisting on "military revolutions" that Silverstein dismisses as exercises in marketing armaments by generating anxieties. To make his case, he casts a wide, often ragged, net, here equating government support for arms export with private gunrunning, there reaching into the 1950s and '60s for material on former Nazi soldiers who made postwar careers as arms brokers. The best chapter addresses the growing "privatization" of conflict by the emergence of "security consultants," firms willing to provide training, technical expertise and sometimes fighting men to government and businesses. To some readers, Silverstein's criticism of this manifestation will take too much precedence over the reasons for its appearance and its appeal. For others, merely raising the issue and provoking discussion will give this volume value enough. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One ARMS AND THE STATE The Clinton administration "accepts the premise that conventional arms sales by American suppliers are a legitimate and important business." --Frank Wisner, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy RUTH HARKIN, a senior vice president for the defense manufacturer United Technologies and the wife of Senator Tom Harkin, kicks off the blue pumps that accessorize her matching business suit and climbs into the cockpit of a F-16 fighter plane. Wearing a look somewhere between grim determination and mild embarrassment, she heads the plane down the runway and takes off to do battle with two enemy jets. With a flick of her hand, she fires a pair of sidewinder missiles from the F-16's wing. As the enemy planes erupt in flames, Harkin coolly returns to base.     Harkin's display of Top Gun prowess came in the spring of 1999, as NATO planes were bombing Yugoslavia. Harkin's bombing run, though, was not in the skies above Belgrade, but aboard a flight simulator built by F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which was on display at the Latin American Defentech 99, an arms show held for four days in Rio de Janeiro. About 200 firms from around the world came to Rio in hopes of drumming up business with Brazil, the region's biggest arms importer, as well as other Latin nations.     Defentech is one of several dozen annual stops on the international arms circuit, with exhibition sites on every continent outside of Antarctica. Though largely a mixture of hype and machismo---at the mammoth International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, there's a live-fire range where attendees can sip umbrella drinks while observing surgical strikes on dummy targets--arms shows provide industry sales personnel with the opportunity to make the hard sell to potential clients. "A friend of mine sells medical supplies and goes out door to door," Sherry Butcher of a US defense company called Merex explained to me. "There are a lot of military people coming through here so this gives us a chance to interface with the end-users."     Thousands of people milled through the invitation-only Defentech, including members of eighteen official delegations stuffed with high-ranking defense officials from as far away as Saudi Arabia and Mozambique. At booths spread across a vast 30,000-square foot exhibit hall, would-be buyers perused displays trumpeting the virtues of a vast array of weapons: British tanks, Finnish armored vehicles, South African attack helicopters, German air defense electronics, Dutch howitzers, American planes, Swedish torpedoes, and Spanish warheads.     The equipment on display is top-of-the line, and just about anything is available short of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Sales reps from Seattle-based Boeing were talking up the company's Super Hornet fighter, a plane that's still in production and that won't be fully deployed in the US military for the better part of another decade. The craft is so new that the company hasn't even received permission from the government to sell it abroad. But Boeing is wasting no time in drumming up interest since, as one salesman told me, authorization of foreign sales down the road is a "slam dunk."     (Boeing's promotional material for the plane raved about its super-capacities, but salesmen were no doubt tight-lipped about an array of problems surrounding it. In 1996, pilots flying pre-production models reported that when maneuvering in combat simulation, they found the craft flipping suddenly on its side, a problem known as "wing drop." Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has charged that the plane is only marginally better than an earlier version, which costs $50 million--$20 million less than the Super Hornet. In response to complaints from Feingold, the Navy appointed a three-member "independent" investigating panel. In addition to two retired generals, the panel included Carl Smith, a defense industry consultant. Smith's clients included Boeing---one of his jobs was to promote the Super Hornet on Capitol Hill--with which he cut ties only after being named to the Pentagon review. Predictably, the panel came back with a report highly favorable to the fighter. A June 1999 report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress's watchdog agency, was far more critical. It identified eighty-four deficiencies with the plane and suggested that the Pentagon slow the program until Boeing corrected them.)     As Defentech got underway, industry representatives were heartened when Brazilian Air Force Minister Walter Werner Brauer confirmed that his country was planning to spend several billion dollars to buy a new fleet of fighter planes. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Army and Navy are drawing up expensive modernization plans of their own. "That's why you see these companies here marketing like hell," said a defense staffer from the US consulate. "There's a lot of money at stake."     Overall, though, the relatively depressed state of the post-Cold War global arms market produced a decidedly melancholy atmosphere. "When the Berlin Wall came down there just wasn't an enemy any longer," Jan Olierook, a manager for the Dutch firm RDM, said disconsolately. I inquired if the war in Yugoslavia had a beneficial effect on the market, a hope I had heard expressed by several other Defentech attendees. "No, I'm afraid not," Olierook replied with a shake of the head, before quickly adding, "Actually, I probably shouldn't say that." WAR AND MILITARY tension is good for weapons makers and, as Olierook's comment indicates, the collapse of the Soviet Union has put arms merchants in a tough position. That's especially true in the US, where during the Cold War, the Pentagon needed only to point to the rampaging Russian Bear to get Congress to pass yet another expensive defense program. The Defense Department still has plenty of friends on Capitol Hill, but it's become hard to justify Cold War levels of military spending when the enemy you've been touting for the past half-century has suddenly disappeared from the map.     In the early 1990s, industry trade magazines were nervously reporting that the Pentagon's budget could fall as low as $150 billion by 1996, about half of its average during the Cold War. Government funding for domestic weapons procurement had already fallen dramatically. Between 1987 and 1994, the Pentagon's budget for new weapons fell by fifty-six percent. In 1986, at the height of Reagan's arms build-up, the military bought 387 warplanes. By 1998, that figure had plunged to thirty-three.     For arms makers, the whole affair was alarmingly similar to what occurred in the aftermath of World War II. That conflict had brought unprecedented profitability for the aircraft companies, whose sales climbed from $250 million in 1939 to $16.7 billion in 1944. When the shooting stopped, so did the companies' sales. From its Number One domestic economic ranking in 1943, the industry dropped to Forty-Four by 1947. "The situation in the aircraft industry today ... is pretty grim," Robert E. Gross, then-president of Lockheed, wrote in a letter to a friend that year. "The companies have no idea where any real business is coming from. The commercial market has proved to be far less than one would have thought, and everybody of any standing is fiercely competing to get what orders are offering. We have cut some 6,000 people out of the place in the last few weeks and are about to take at least as big a cut again." By the following year, Gross was even more despondent. In another letter, this one to former Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, he wrote: "While the problems of the war were great and the pressure upon airplane manufacturers to produce was incessant, I feel that the hazards experienced then were never comparable to the ones we have had to face up to since. We had one underlying element of comfort and reassurance in the war--we knew we would get paid for whatever we built. Today we are almost entirely on our own, the business is extremely speculative and with a narrowed market, the competition is very keen."     As the crisis dragged on, Business Week proclaimed that only the equivalent of a federal bailout could save the arms makers from financial ruin. "[T]he aircraft builders, even with tax carrybacks, are near disaster," the magazine reported. "Right now the government is their only possible savior--with orders, subsidies, or loans."     Help was not long in coming. As described by Frank Kofsky in his marvelous book Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948 , the arms industry--with help from friends at the Pentagon and other government agencies--solved its post-World War II slump by drumming up a huge and vastly exaggerated Red Scare. Never mind that the Soviet Union was still recovering from devastating wartime losses, the scare's proponents argued, Stalin was poised to roll across Western Europe at a moment's notice. The campaign worked to perfection. In mid-1948, Truman increased the Pentagon's budget by thirty percent. "No president since--not even Ronald Reagan at his most influential--has ever even come close to expanding military expenditures so spectacularly in time of peace," writes Kofsky.     (Little of the money extracted by the war lobby during the buildup to the Korean crisis was used to benefit soldiers serving in Korea. Instead the defense establishment spent heavily on weapons such as the B-47, the first nuclear bomber---of little use in Korea where fighter planes were most needed--and on vast numbers of tanks which, like the B-47, were sent off to the quiet European front. Meanwhile, ground forces in Korea were miserably equipped. Half of all US casualties--this category includes the wounded--in Korea were caused by frostbite, because troops weren't supplied with decent boots. American troops would raid Chinese trenches to strip dead peasants from the poorest nation on earth of their footwear. Soldiers desperately needed a good anti-tank weapon, but had to make do with vintage World War II arms.)     With no credible threat to national security, tackling the post-Cold War crisis has been decidedly trickier. General Colin Powell alluded to the problem when he told Congress in 1991, "I'm running out of demons. I'm down to Kim il Sung and Castro." Hence, the Pentagon and the arms makers have devoted considerable time and resources to lining up a new "threat" that can be used to bludgeon Congress and public opinion into supporting continued levels of Cold War spending.     For a time, the arms lobby conceded that the world situation had improved but argued that the United States must remain vigilant against a possible resurrection of Russian power. That position became increasingly untenable during the last decade as the Red Army entered a state of virtual collapse. By the summer of 1998, it was in such abysmal straits that Russian officers were ordering troops to gather mushrooms, berries and other foodstuffs growing in the wild. The following year, the State Department's annual report to Congress on international military expenditures stated that Russian army readiness was in a state of "rapid decay" and that the average Russian soldier is "only marginally combat capable." It said that Red Army troop strength had dropped from 3.7 million in 1989 to 1.7 million in 1998, and was expected to fall to about 1 million by 2000.     The threat inflaters also pointed to "rogue nations" such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran. This strategy never galvanized the public much, especially after American-led forces routed Saddam Hussein's troops during the Gulf War. Meanwhile, Iran, the most potent "rogue," spends only about one percent what the US does for defense while North Korea appeared to be facing mass starvation as the millenium dawned.     Next up was China, which Pentagon planners sometimes refer to as The Khan (as in Genghis). "The gradual growth of Chinese power-projection capabilities will unsettle regional security and demand US attention, even if no hostile Chinese intentions are evident," says a mid-1998 report published by the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies. "A US-China showdown over Taiwan could materialize by 2018, and it is imperative that the United States have the offensive and defensive forces that would actually be used in such a crisis." China has a horrendous human rights record and represses its own citizens, but as a military threat it, too, comes up short. China's troop strength has been cut in half to two million since the 1970s, and most of its soldiers field weapons that are a quarter-century old. Beijing's Air Force doesn't have a single long-range bomber and, according to a Time magazine story from June 1999, its entire nuclear arsenal "packs about as much explosive power as what the US stuffs into one Trident submarine. China's ballistic missile sub (singular, not plural) hasn't been to sea for a year and would be sunk in minutes in a battle with a US attack sub."     With threat options running out, the Pentagon is becoming increasingly desperate. More recently, military planners have started talking up a new danger, something they refer to as GET, Generic Emerging Threat--a menace as yet undefined but against which the US had better arm itself. Pentagon officials also allude to dangers posed by "asymmetric niche competitors." This could be an ethnic tribe, a drug lord, or an organized crime or terrorist group. "They can't come up with any big threat so now they're trying to find an itty-bitty threat," says Chuck Spinney, a thirty-year Pentagon veteran. "The point is the same: to make sure that there's no threat to the defense budget." ANDREW MARSHALL is an aging but still sprightly Cold Warrior whose work in the Pentagon is vital to lubricating the flow of funds to the defense contractors. He heads up the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, an outfit charged with projecting threats to national security decades into the future and making sure the United States is prepared to deal with them. It's a small shop by Pentagon standards--the ONA has a staff of about a dozen--but an influential one. A slew of Marshall's former staffers have moved on to senior posts in industry, academia and defense think tanks.     Marshall is the primary theorist behind the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), a doctrine which holds that high-tech weaponry--combined with strategic and organizational innovations--is transforming warfare in the same way as occurred with the advent of the musket in the 1600s or the use of atomic weapons in 1945. Hence, today's "platforms"--tanks, aircraft carriers, and manned bombers--are hopelessly outdated and must be replaced with a whole new set of immensely expensive, 21st-century "brilliant" weapons.     Marshall appears infrequently in the press, but when he does he is treated with the sort of reverence normally reserved for incoming presidents and beauty queens. A 1998 article in Defense News called his Office of Net Assessment (ONA) an agency that "funds innovative studies on futuristic threats, often ones that the rest of the Pentagon is fearful of tackling." A Wall Street Journal profile a few years earlier described Marshall as someone "struggling to save the US armed forces from becoming paralyzed by their own successes in the Cold War and Desert Storm."     More sycophantic still was an April 1999 Washingtonian article by Jay Winik (author of On the Brink , a cartoon-book history of the Cold War that argues that four caped crusaders who served in the Reagan administration, Elliot Abrams, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Richard Perle, and Max Kampelman brought down the Soviet Union). Sprawling over eleven pages, Winik's story described Marshall as "The most influential man you've never heard off," "a legend among the national security elite," "a key figure, even the central figure, in reshaping America's military for the next century," as well as "one of the towering figures in the whole story of American security and defense thinking in the last era." Not only is Marshall the foremost military genius of his time, argues Winik, but also a man so graced with powers of foresight that he was one of the first people on the planet to understand the risk posed by AIDS. "This is going to be much bigger than anyone realizes," Winik has Marshall telling his staff at the ONA in the early 1980s. "Let's do something about this." Soon Marshall's office was on the phone with the Center for Disease Control, urging the agency to devote more resources to the emerging scourge.     A closer look reveals Marshall--who declined a request for a formal interview--to be one of the most effective pork-seeking missiles ever deployed by the military brass. "Andy's a one-man RAND," an ex-Pentagon staffer and long-time Marshall watcher says. "He's one of those defense intellectuals who's always there to come up with the stuff that backs the needs of industry." That, say others, is precisely what the RMA is all about--specifically, the Pentagon's desire to keep the money spigot open in the post-Cold War period. "The RMA has nothing to do with warfare and everything to do with budgets," says Pierre Sprey, a former weapons designer who quit consulting for the Pentagon during the Reagan years in disgust over pork-barreling. "It's just an excuse to funnel money to the defense contractors by funding a whole new generation of high-tech weapons."     Marshall grew up in Detroit and received a graduate degree in economics from the University of Chicago. He took a job at the RAND Corporation in 1949 and worked with nuclear intellectuals such as Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter. While there, Marshall and several colleagues played an important if hidden role in the 1960 presidential election when they served as advisors to John Kennedy and concocted the fraudulent "missile gap" which JFK used to pillory Richard Nixon.     In 1972, Henry Kissinger hired Marshall to work at the National Security Council. Two years later, he was appointed head of the Pentagon's newly created ONA, which was charged with rating the threat to national security posed by the Soviet Union. In his book The Wizards of Armageddon , Fred Kaplan writes that Marshall turned the ONA "into an intermediate contracting house that wrangled money from other divisions of the Pentagon and handed it out to consultants for studies of strategic ideas that interested Andy Marshall."     Marshall saw his mission at the ONA as drumming up timely worst-case scenarios to help out the boss. One of his earliest studies found that the CIA was seriously underestimating Soviet defense spending and power. Schlesinger promptly used the report to press Congress for more money.     Another ONA specialty was rigging the conventional balance of forces with simple bean counts of weaponry that stressed Moscow's numerical strength while ignoring the clear technological superiority of American equipment. Hence, Marshall's crew would tote-up every Russian tank ever made--possibly including those perched on World War II memorials in Siberian villages--to show that the West lay naked and exposed to a Soviet blitzkrieg across Western Europe.     (For the threat-inflation crowd, the Russian T-72 tank was a dire threat to anything in the US arsenal. In fact, the Israelis pulverized the T-72 during fighting with Syrian forces in 1982. The T-72 had a number of operational problems that greatly diminished its battlefield utility. Foremost among them was an automatic loader that was supposed to greatly increase its rate of fire. Unfortunately, a mechanical arm on the device had a tendency to load the gunner's arm or leg, as opposed to ammunition, into the breech, which slammed shut automatically. In his book The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine , Andrew Cockburn cites a US Army officer who suggested that the automatic loader was "how the Red Army Chorus gets its soprano section." Following a number of unplanned amputations, the Russians decided that manual loading had some advantages after all. As a result, the T-72's real rate of fire was less than one-third that of NATO's best tanks.)     Marshall also remained involved in the world of nuclear strategy. One of his inspirations at the ONA was to promote new technology that would make the Navy's sea-launched missiles as accurate as the Air Force's ICBMs. His efforts led directly to the Trident II nuclear-armed missiles fielded by America's submarine fleet. During the Reagan years, Marshall helped author a secret document that called for the US to develop the capability of fighting and winning a nuclear war with Russia. America should "be able to force the Soviet Union to seek earliest termination of hostilities on terms favorable to the United States," said the study. Marshall has also been an enthusiastic supporter of Star Wars and related schemes. In 1998, he was one of the experts called before the Rumsfeld Commission, which concluded that the United States could face a ballistic missile threat from countries such as Iraq or North Korea within a very short period of time. The clear if unstated conclusion was that America should speed up development of a multi-billion dollar ballistic missile shield to ward off the impending menace.     Marshall's admirers portray him as a man always one step ahead of the competition. "Well ahead of most Sovietologists, Mr. Marshall noticed weaknesses of Soviet society," reads the Wall Street Journal profile. "In 1977, he focused on the environmental and demographic crises that were undermining the Soviet system." Associates have no recollection of Marshall ever having expressed such views. "Until the very end he was a major promoter of the line that `The Russians are coming and they're ten feet tall,'" says the ex-Pentagon man. Eternally vigilant, Marshall in late-1989--after the fall of the Berlin Wall and shortly before Mikhail Gorbachev's ouster in the Soviet Union--was insisting that high levels of defense spending were as urgently needed as ever. "It's going to take us several years of careful watching and monitoring to see how much change takes place," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen so much uncertainty about the future as there is today."     Since the collapse of Communism, Marshall has spent much energy hunting for a suitable "threat" to replace the Russians. He first turned his attention to North Korea, with a 1991 ONA report concluding that, in the event of war, Pyongyang's troops would be rolling into Seoul within two to three days and US forces would be unable to do much to stop them.     After it became apparent that North Korea was on the verge of collapse, Marshall turned his attention to China. An ONA study from the mid-1990s stated that Beijing's military was modernizing so rapidly that the Peoples Liberation Army would soon be able to defeat the US in a regional conflict in Asia. Marshall's nightmare vision was laid out in the Journal's story, which opened with a classified Pentagon war game that pitted America versus a resurgent China in 2020. To the horror of US officials, Chinese forces pitilessly peppered American forces with high-tech weaponry while satellite-guided anti-ship missiles showered the US fleet. By sundown, the once proud American armada had sunk beneath the waves of the South China Sea and the Middle Kingdom ruled once more.     A second ONA report on China, prepared for the agency by RAND, estimated that Beijing is spending about $140 billion a year on defense. That figure is about two-and-a-half times that of other high-end estimates and seven to eight times greater than low-end ones. In 1997, yet another ONA-sponsored study concluded ominously that China viewed the US as a declining superpower and was scheming to exploit this weakness. One possibility: a Communist takeover of Taiwan. "Chinese military officers and analysts are writing very unfriendly things about the United States," Michael Pillsbury, the analyst who conducted the study, breathlessly told the Senate Intelligence Committee in reporting on his findings. (Pillsbury made his conclusions after translating hundreds of Chinese military books and journal articles that had been provided to him by authorities in Beijing. "Far from hiding these writings, Chinese authorities openly gave them to the Pentagon and promised to provide more," a baffled Associated Press reporter wrote of Pillsbury's testimony.)     Marshall's pivotal position in the defense network became clear in 1997, when incoming Defense Secretary William Cohen--apparently unaware of Marshall's years of intellectual toil on behalf of the military-industrial complex--proposed downgrading the ONA's status. Immediately, a group of Congressional hawks and defense executives led by Jim Roche, a former Marshall aide now at Northrop Grumman, mounted a fierce counterattack to preserve their man's influence. Marshall's friends in the press also weighed in, with letters and articles appearing in outlets such as the Washington Times, Aviation Week , the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal . "Americans don't go to sleep at night worrying about how we'll win the next war," Paul Gigot wrote in the latter. "Andy Marshall does, which is why Americans ought to worry that he's being banished to outer Siberia by a witless and bureaucratic Pentagon." Cohen swiftly backed off and Marshall remained fixed at his threat-inflation post.     In recent years, Marshall's primary task has been promoting the RMA and the high-tech arsenal that girds it. "Over the next twenty to fifty years a military revolution will transform the way wars are fought," Marshall told Congress in 1995. "Rather than dosing with an opponent, the major operational mode will be destroying him at a distance."     One sub-component of the RMA is something Marshall calls "Rapid Dominance." In 1998, he funded a project on the concept, with a review panel comprised of retired and active duty hawks from the defense establishment. At a conference that year sponsored by the National Defense University, one member of Marshall's study group, Harlan Ullman, defined the aim of Rapid Dominance: "to control the will and perception of adversaries, from privates to princelings, by applying a regime of shock and awe." Other panelists talked excitedly of creating "Bedlam Brigades" composed, as Defense News put it, "of highly mobile and lethal units that could be rapidly deployed and whose sole aim is to inject disarray and upheaval into an enemy's command arrangement and forces." Of course, all of this will require "a new generation of vehicles and soldier equipment," as John Foster, the former head of the Defense Science Board and another panelist, put it. One future weapon envisioned by the panel is called "very long-range global artillery," which would fire 1,000-pound warheads "with pinpoint accuracy," producing "unexplained explosions or light shows that could take place over an enemy's principle cities causing confusion and bewilderment among civilian populations."     During the past few years, the RMA has become one of the hottest buzzwords at the Pentagon. Back in 1997, the Clinton administration's National Defense Panel recommended spending between $5 billion and $10 billion annually to implement the doctrine. In his report to the president and Congress the following year, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that the Pentagon's "willingness to embrace the Revolution in Military Affairs--to harness technology to ultimately bring about fundamental conceptual and organizational change---is critical" to meeting future national security challenges. The whole concept is now so sacrosanct that military commanders find that invoking the RMA is the surest way to get funding for a desired project. "Some people at the Pentagon take it very seriously as a means of planning for the future and others use it loosely to serve their bureaucratic purposes," says Professor Tom Mahnken, a former staffer at the Office of Net Assessment and an RMA expert at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. "It's become fashionable to justify your pet rock by calling it part of the RMA."     The vision of space-based surveillance systems ordering up precision strikes from "brilliant" weapons stationed far from the field of combat is dear to military planners because it suggests that future wars can be fought largely without the need for ground troops. Hence, the Pentagon can reduce overseas deployments and casualties without limiting America's ability to intervene abroad. It's a vision that also finds favor with industry officials, who understand that the Buck Rogers-type hardware favored by Marshall opens the door for especially heavy profiteering. A Pentagon official, who spoke about the RMA on condition of anonymity, concedes that weapons associated with the doctrine are pricey, but argues that it's money well spent. "Precision weapons are always going to be more costly on an individual basis than dumb bombs ... but they are significantly more effective," he said. The RMA has also been embraced by many in Congress, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Virtually every soldier in combat in 2010 will have somewhere on their body a personal telephone linked by satellite to a world telephone network," he said in a speech before he abruptly resigned in 1999. "That telephone will probably be a ... personal communication system that will also have a computer capability, faxing capability, so during lulls they can arrange a date."     Unfortunately, high-tech weapons systems seldom work as promised and can often be defeated with simple and far cheaper countermeasures. An early example came during the Vietnam War, when the Air Force dropped remote sensors by parachute into trees along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The devices were supposed to monitor Viet Cong traffic, but couldn't differentiate between human porters carrying weapons and herds of wild deer. A recording made by one of the sensors captured the sound of a North Vietnamese man walking up to the tree in which it was caught, taking it down, unzipping his pants and urinating on it. A more recent setback for the high-tech crowd came during the war in Yugoslavia, when Serb forces used a 1963 model Russian missile to shoot down the Air Force's vaunted F-II7 "stealth" fighter, a plane supposedly all but invisible to enemy radar, that carries a price tag of $45 million.     One of Marshall's ideas is that the best way to halt an Iraqi ground attack is with a submarine launching from 100 miles away "brilliant" missiles that zero in on the sound of Russian-built tank engines. Acoustic homing has been contemplated--and rejected as being too easy to fool--since World War II. A missile like the one envisioned by Marshall might work under laboratory conditions, but battlefield noises--artillery barrages, rocket blasts, gunfire--make acoustic homing impractical. Marshall's dream could be tricked with a pair of $100 speakers playing the taped sound of a Russian tank engine. "At the core of RMA is a radical hypothesis that would cause Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and George Patton to roll over in their graves," Chuck Spinney says of the doctrine. "That is, that technology will transform the fog and friction of combat--the uncertainty, fear, chaos, imperfect information which is a natural product of a clash between opposing wills--into clear, friction-free, predictable, mechanistic interaction." (Continues...) Copyright © 2000 Ken Silverstein. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. vii
1 Arms and the Statep. 1
2 Arms and the Man: The Talented Mr. Glattp. 47
3 Arms and the Man (II): The Shady Mr. Mertinsp. 109
4 Mercenary, Inc.p. 141
5 Still in Control After all these Years: Alexander Haig and the Revolving Doorp. 189
6 The Phantom Menace: Frank Gaffney and the Star Wars Crusadep. 227
Indexp. 259