Permanent War

Joseph Galloway treats us to the sobering assessment of the Army Chief of Staff:

What we have today is not your father’s Army. And that’s a good thing, because we are living in what Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker calls “the most dangerous time in my memory,” and his memory as Army brat and Army officer goes back half a century and more.

“Our past wars were like having pneumonia — you may end up with some scarring in your lungs, but you survived,” the general told a Defense Writers Group breakfast. “This one [the war on terror] is like cancer. It is never, ever going to go away. It is huge. We face a very challenging future.”

Schoomaker, a veteran of many years’ service in Special Forces and the super-secret Delta Force who was brought out of retirement to run the Army, said: “This war cannot be won militarily. The gun will not win this one. This is a clash of ideas, an information war.”

He’s right on all counts, I’m afraid. We’re fighting a large and growing civilization, not an enemy army. Short of nuclear genocide, there’s no end in sight. Which is not to say that the gun isn’t part of the solution.

He said Army culture is “very strong” and the service is filled with thoughtful people. “The Cold War — we got that right,” he said. “But 9-11 changed a lot of things.” He said that unlike the fairly predictable Soviet-era forces, today’s enemies swiftly adapt their tactics and techniques to focus on American vulnerabilities.

Asked if the Army and the U.S. military were really suited for war in Iraq, Schoomaker said: “We are getting more suited by the day. We are learning as we go, and this experience is going to be very valuable to the Army in the future. We are advancing the checkers, just not as pretty as we would like.”

Given the nature of this war, that’s about all we can do.

FILED UNDER: World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.