When Luttwak, a senior fellow at Georgetown U.'s Center for Strategic and International Studies, looks at the recent record...


THE PENTAGON AND THE ART OF WAR: The Question of Military Reform

When Luttwak, a senior fellow at Georgetown U.'s Center for Strategic and International Studies, looks at the recent record of the US military he sees a succession of failures: Vietnam, the Mayaguez raid (""in which forty-one died to save forty""), the aborted Iranian rescue mission, the Marine episode in Beirut, and even Grenada. Analyzing this record, Luttwak notes the high proportion of officers and other factors, but centers on the unintegrated structure of the armed forces. Each service is a mammoth bureaucracy in its own right, and the nature of interservice rivalry is such that each branch protects its own prerogatives, pursues self-aggran-dizement, and keeps a wary eye on the competition. The results are several. First, budgets are bloated as each service duplicates the military potential of the others and seeks parity in defense outlays. This Luttwak considers lunacy: money is spent lavishly on surface ships for the Navy, for instance, while the overwhelming military need is for ground forces. Second, military strategy does not cohere. In Vietnam, we had artillery, fighter-bombers, B-52s, and battleships all poised to obliterate the same village since each service wanted a piece of the action. Luttwak also notes Israeli and European bewilderment at the American inability to learn the lessons of contemporary commando tactics; this, too, is the outcome of a divided military, since US forces are thrown together haphazardly to form special mission units. In Grenada, the lack of interservice training and coordination resulted in unnecessary loss of life. Indeed, our system of ""unified"" commands is really no unification at all, Luttwak points out; each service is still free to go its own way--just as the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet weekly and then go back to their own services. The Secretary of Defense, furthermore, does not have his own source of military advice, relying instead on the fractured Joint Chiefs. Luttwak proposes a National Defense Staff made up of specially chosen and trained national-defense officers who would not represent any particular service and could thereby serve as a true advisory group for the executive branch; these officers would also head up the geographical commands (Europe, Latin America, etc.). This ""one great reform"" would help to get control of the military budget, reduce superfluous officers, and revive the lost art of strategy. It would also be almost impossible to bring about, Luttwak admits, given entrenched interests; but he deems it fundamentally necessary. Whatever the prospects of the cure (or the drawbacks of further centralization of power), the analysis of the current state of the military is coherent and telling.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 1984


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1984