World
1:48 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

What Does Dwight D. Eisenhower Have To Do With 2013 Sequestration?

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson discusses Iran and U.S. foreign policy at the University of Oklahoma.
Credit Jacque Braun / tumblr
Suzette Grillot's interview with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

As Congress tries to avoid a looming set of sharp, across-the-board spending cuts that would strike the Pentagon and domestic agencies in just two weeks, a former State Department official says the Department of Defense could avoid “clumsy” automatic cuts by starting with personnel.

“In World War II, we had fewer flag and general officers than we do now,” said retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. “Wow. People are anywhere from 50-60 percent, depending on whose records and analysis, of the DoD budget. They are so expensive.”

Wilkerson served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff from 2002-2005. 

He helped prepare Gen. Powell’s February 2003 presentation before the United Nations that argued for the urgency of invading Iraq. He later called his participation in that U.N. speech the “lowest point in his professional career,” and told the television program Democracy Now! he regrets not resigning over it.

"Colin Powell doubted [the evidence of nuclear weapons] so much that John McLaughlin actually brought one of them in and rolled it around on the [Director of Central Intelligence's] conference table and explained to the Secretary of State how the metal in that tube was so expensive that it was impossible to believe that Saddam Hussein would be spending that much money on tubes that were simply for rocket shielding, which was the other explanation of what the tubes were for. So, the DCI and the deputy DCI spent a lot of time and effort trying to convince the Secretary of State not to throw things out of the presentation. Unfortunately, we left enough in that made us really sort of the laughing stock of the world afterward."

Wilkerson retired from active duty in 1997, and now teaches courses on U.S. national security at the College of William and Mary. He argues what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” now requires so many resources to maintain a state of military readiness, that it affects the amount of money that can be devoted to founding ideals such as life, liberty, and property.

“It's a wonderful manifestation, or sad manifestation, of what Benjamin Franklin allegedly said when he said, ‘People who will give up their liberty for security deserve neither.’,” Wilkerson says. "Since the Cold War, we've been experimenting with this concept of giving up our liberty for our security. It's no longer "Give me liberty or give me death," it's "Give me my security at any cost, including my liberty.”

Even though Wilkerson praised the Defense Department’s recent decision to allow women to serve in combat roles, he said it’s driven by practical reasons, rather than a desire for equality.

“We can’t recruit sufficient good soldiers and Marines, and so we're going to open everything up possible to women,” Wilkerson said. “They don't go absent without leave. They are less promiscuous. They don't start bar room brawls, and so forth. They are our best soldiers.”

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On the definition of a “National Security State”

It's a state that devotes so much of its revenues to the military instrument, to security in general, that it really begins to impact the amount of revenue you have to devote to what our founders would call "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It becomes not a state aimed at the betterment of the people, and the raising of their standard of living, and the freer enterprise that constitutes, but a state that's more interested in its own security than anything else. It's a wonderful manifestation, or sad manifestation, of what Benjamin Franklin allegedly said when he said, "People who will give up their liberty for security deserve neither." Well essentially, ever since the end of the Cold War - arguably building all during the Cold War - we've been experimenting with this concept of giving up our liberty for our security. It's no longer "Give me liberty or give me death," it's "Give me my security at any cost, including my liberty.”

On sequestration, and how the modern military became so costly

Just out of the Pentagon, you can take $50 billion in FY 2013, which only has a few months left, and you would only increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Armed Forces of the United States. It's doable. You don't want to do it by automatic cuts, so-called sequestration, because that's stupid. That's clumsy. What you want to do is do it wisely. One of the things you could do, for example, and this is just one example, I could probably run through a hundred. We had something like 12-16 million men and women - civilian and military - under arms, so to speak, in World War II, we had fewer flag and general officers then than we do now. Wow. Let's get to cutting some of those people. There are other examples that are just as glaring and perhaps even more money-saving in the long run, and they involve, to a large extent, what we're doing with people now. People are anywhere from 50-60 percent, depending on whose records and analysis of the DOD budget. They are so expensive.

On the integration of women into combat roles

My daughter was an Army officer. She got her education at Georgetown through an ROTC scholarship. My daughter was able to do push-ups with any man run with any man, she beat most of the men, - if they don't relax standards, then women will enter the combat arms in limited numbers because you've got to have a, probably generational change if you're going to get the biological and physiological component of the kind of strength it takes alone to tote a 180 pound man who's wounded 100 meters across the battlefield. Not that some women can’t do that already, my daughter one of them, but it's going to be limited, at first. So what’s going to happen? It, I've been there, I've done this, what happens is you lower standards. You lower standards in order to make the political goal of having more women in this rank or that rank. And so that is probably a danger to the Armed Forces and their ability to carry out their mission. But that's a failure of leadership, again, my daughter and I had this discussion at my granddaughter's soccer game the other day. As long as they don't relax the standards, as long as they only take women like me, who are capable of beating men at their own task, that's wonderful. And this is my daughter talking, if they lower the standards, shame on them.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

SUZETTE GRILLOT, HOST: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, welcome to World Views.

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

GRILLOT: So, given your background as a security specialist, and as somebody whose served our country for many years. You've practiced security affairs for many years. Can we just begin by thinking about some of the most important security concerns we face today? You've mentioned before, for example, that we've built this "national security state" in the United States. What do you mean by that, and what are those specific concerns that we're really facing?

WILKERSON: By "national security state" I take my education, if you will, from Michael Hogan. He wrote a book called A Cross of Iron. That, of course, is a passage from Eisenhower.

PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: "This world in arms is not spending money alone."

WILKERSON: And in that speech, Eisenhower talks about the cost of a single bomber.

EISENHOWER: "We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat."

WILKERSON: The cost of a ship.

EISENHOWER: "We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."

WILKERSON: And then he says at the end of his remarks, or at least at the end of this segment, he says...

EISENHOWER: "This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

WILKERSON: That's what a national security state is. It's a state that devotes so much of its revenues to the military instrument, to security in general, that it really begins to impact the amount of revenue you have to devote to what our founders would call "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It becomes not a state aimed at the betterment of the people, and the raising of their standard of living, and the freer enterprise that constitutes, but a state that's more interested in its own security than anything else. It's a wonderful manifestation, or sad manifestation, of what Benjamin Franklin allegedly said when he said, "People who will give up their liberty for security deserve neither." Well essentially, ever since the end of the Cold War - arguably building all during the Cold War - we've been experimenting with this concept of giving up our liberty for our security. It's no longer "Give me liberty or give me death," it's "Give me my security at any cost, including my liberty.”

GRILLOT: So does that mean then, that it's the enormous amount of money we're committing to this enterprise that then drives what our security interests are, and our security concerns are, and the fact that we are implementing, or we're facing these challenges of all sorts today with our military? Like crime? Or drug trafficking? Immigration? Other kinds of issues that may be peripheral to the real strategic interests of the state?

WILKERSON: I think you're right in the sense that it does have a direct impact on some of those things, and even an indirect impact on almost all of them. Whether you're talking about the so-called "drug war," which the military's been heavily involved in since 1988 - which, in effect, is murdering or imprisoning a good percentage of our population - to moving into the whole realm of how easy it is for the president to launch wars now. When war becomes something that you do routinely, you need to examine the very fabric of your republic. Recently the House conducted a hearing that's title was something like, "Have we Militarized Our Foreign Policy?" Welcome to the real world, House of Representatives. This has been going on for some time. If you give the military the predominant share of the federal budget, they're going to be the most powerful entity in that budget, and you say, "Well, that's the way it should be, because I want my security." Well, you better start examining what really gives you your security. I would argue the first thing that gives us our security is our liberty. That's the essence of our security. The second one is our economic power. You do not build ships, planes, tanks, or any other paraphernalia of war, without a very strong robust economic base. We do not have a very strong robust economic base right now. So, in many ways you're right. This militarization of foreign policy and of life really affects the whole republic.

GRILLOT: But there's a connection here, right? I mean you're kind of alluding to this larger connection of large military budget, large defense budget and private industry, and the military-industrial complex on the one hand, but it's even broader than that, really.

WILKERSON: It's now the military-industrial-terrorist complex.

GRILLOT: Yeah, so OK. What do you mean by that exactly? Because you've commented on this connection between power and money in American politics in general, but particularly on the issue of security and defense, what do you mean by that statement?

GRILLOT: If you look at what we've done in the last ten years - Fiscal Year 2007, for example - was higher security spending then any year of the Cold War. And then you back up, and you say "Why?" During the Cold War we were faced with an existential threat. We could have had our way of life eliminated in several hours. We don't face any such threat today. Indeed, if you combine all the casualties of terrorism in our history - colonial and national - you will not find as many deaths as we kill on the highways of America in automobile accidents in an annual period. So why is it that we're spending all this money creating all this fear expanding the security complex? Let me give you an example of that, and Dana Priest and Bill Arkin in the Washington Post have highlighted this dramatically. When I was given my Top Secret security clearance some years ago, there were perhaps 30-35,000 people who joined me in those ranks. There are 840,000+ now. That's just a graphic example of the expansion of the security complex. And these people are doing everything from reading your emails; to surveying you at times you don't even know you're under surveillance, to determining whether or not you, as an American citizen, are associated with terrorism sufficiently to kill you with a Predator drone or a Reaper drone somewhere. So this is a real change, and it's mostly due to the inordinate fear we have caused, principally by 9/11. I don't understand it. I simply don't understand why it is more dangerous to live today, and therefore we need to spend much more money on the security instrument, then it was when we were truly threatened by the Soviet Union.

GRILLOT: So an overreaction?

WILKERSON: Yes. And an overreaction exploited by everyone from the defense contractors, to our congressman who are heavily indebted to those defense contractors - not just for PAC money, political action committee money, and political money in general - but also for jobs. You take my state of Virginia for example. If you want to get both of my senators and all of my representatives up in arms, start talking about closing down facilities in Norfolk where the greatest, probably, shipyards are in the United States. That will get them all going, Democrat and Republican alike, and I don't blame them, but at the same time I say we need a longer vision.

GRILLOT: But how are we to back away from this now? I mean once there is, for a lack of a better term, let’s say that gravy train of defense contracting. I mean, that's been going on for, OK, so since 9/11, but certainly before that as well. How do we get off that? How do we stop the gravy train? I mean what do we do?

WILKERSON: The first thing, Eisenhower said it so eloquently in his farewell address in January 1961.

EISENHOWER: Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

WILKERSON: And we don't have an alert citizenry. Only citizens who really care about this, and who understand that just out of the Pentagon, you can take $50 billion in FY 2013, which only has a few months left, and you would only increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Armed Forces of the United States. It's doable. You don't want to do it by automatic cuts, so-called sequestration, because that's stupid. That's clumsy. What you want to do is do it wisely. One of the things you could do, for example, and this is just one example, I could probably run through a hundred. We had something like 12-16 million men and women - civilian and military - under arms, so to speak, in World War II. We had fewer flag and general officers then than we do now. Wow. Let's get to cutting some of those people. There are other examples that are just as glaring and perhaps even more money-saving in the long run, and they involve, to a large extent, what we're doing with people now. People are anywhere from 50-60 percent, depending on whose records and analysis of the DOD budget. They are so expensive. Health care. When I came into the Army, for example, maybe 12, 15 percent of my people around me were married and had kids. Now it's something like 60-70 percent. Well, they are all on the health care bill. And the health care bill is skyrocketing. So we have to do something - not just about health care nationally to bring costs down - but we also have to do it security-wise because our Armed Forces are going to out price our ability to pay for them if we don't.

GRILLOT: So, but let's connect this to one of the other issues, the recent announcement that women can now serve in open combat. Now we know that women have really been kind of on the front lines for a while, because there really aren't defined clear front lines in today's contemporary wars. So we've lost women in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and so this perhaps a decision that was made after the fact, but what is it, is there something else going on there? In terms of making this decision now, that has to do with as you've been talking about, recruitment and getting people into the military if it’s going to be a volunteer force, with benefits in order to attract the men.

WILKERSON: Absolutely there is something else going on. Women make the best soldiers. Women are less subject to judicial and non-judicial punishment. They don't go absent without leave. They are less promiscuous. They don't start bar room brawls, and so forth. They are our best soldiers, using those metrics as a woman. Right now, this has no egalitarian spirit connected with it. It's because we can’t recruit sufficient good soldiers and Marines, and so we're going to open everything up possible to women because we can recruit, statistics at least so far show, we can recruit women. So this is a real utilitarian goal. Not a pie-in-the-sky goal, let women be totally equal, it's got another dimension to it that's really scary. We know now from studies that have been done, and this is going to break probably on a number of different TV shows in the next six months, that probably one third of the females in the military, particularly the Army and the Air Force, but particularly the Army and Marine Corps, but also the Air Force, and to a certain extent the Navy, suffer some kind of sexual assault in a three to six-year tour. Many of them suffer rape, and there's been absolutely no control of this or diminishment of it from the leadership in the Pentagon or in the uniformed services. So I think this is also a part of they're saying, "If we just put women into an equal position of men, this sexual assault business will change."

GRILLOT: Do you think that'll work?

WILKERSON: I think that's nonsense. I think it's absolute nonsense. Sexual assault does not occur because she's your equal or not your equal. When you're in a foxhole, and you've got that bond of combat, which is that thing that holds squads together in the ground forces in particular. Not Mom, and apple pie, and patriotism. It's the bond you feel for your fellow soldier, and you destroy that bond by raping, either a male - the rape for males is fairly high, it’s about 11 percent - you destroy that bond. Utterly destroy it, and talking about making them equal? In the foxhole, they are already equal. Ever been in a foxhole? They're already equal. So this is a really specious attempt to cure that problem, too. A problem they've been unable to deal with. And you've got an ingrained culture that doesn't want to deal with it, wants to shove it under the rug, so there's a lot behind this opening all ranks and all combat MOS's to women that doesn't meet the American public's eye. They simply don't know about.

GRILLOT: So those who then criticize this decision to openly, to allow women to openly serve in combat positions, there's been that criticism that this is going to be a detriment to our security rather than enhance our security in general. Would that be the position, or is it clearly something that has to do with the leadership here, and not just including women.

WILKERSON: You know I don't subscribe to that argument as long as - and my daughter was an Army officer. She got her education at Georgetown through an ROTC scholarship. My daughter was able to do push-ups with any man run with any man, she beat most of the men, - if they don't relax standards, then women will enter the combat arms in limited numbers because you've got to have a, probably generational change if you're going to get the biological and physiological component of the kind of strength it takes alone to tote a 180 pound man who's wounded 100 meters across the battlefield. Not that some women can’t do that already, my daughter one of them, but it's going to be limited, at first. So what’s going to happen? It, I've been there, I've done this, what happens is you lower standards. You lower standards in order to make the political goal of having more women in this rank or that rank. And so that is probably a danger to the Armed Forces and their ability to carry out their mission. But that's a failure of leadership, again, my daughter and I had this discussion at my granddaughter's soccer game the other day. As long as they don't relax the standards, as long as they only take women like me, who are capable of beating men at their own task, that's wonderful. And this is my daughter talking, if they lower the standards, shame on them.

GRILLOT: Well, Colonel Wilkerson, this has definitely given us something to think about thank you very much for joining us today on World Views.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

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