- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Military theory wonks looking for a serious discussion of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) or even an insightful discussion of the war in Iraq will want to look elsewhere when they come to this thin volume in Washington bookstores. Political wonks looking for some insights into Gen. Wesley Clark’s candidacy will be more satisfied. Make no mistake about it; “Winning Modern Wars” is a campaign primer for candidate Clark.

In the first two-thirds of the book, the retired general gives a fairly straightforward account of the war to date. He heaps lavish and well-deserved praise on the American military personnel who are fighting it. Early on, there are relatively few cheap shots at the administration or the civilian Pentagon leadership. The author obviously feels compelled to discuss the subject of the title before cutting to the chase; i.e. why he should be president and George Bush should not be.

Relatively late in the account of the war, Mr. Clark goes after the administration, but those readers who heard or saw his radio and TV commentary during the conventional phase of the war and since will not be surprised by his position on the subject. This can be summed up in two sound bites. First, the war was trumped up and unnecessary; second, the administration sent in too few troops to do the job properly: “That’s all folks.” We then move on to the Clark vision for the future.

Mr. Clark’s charges are harsh. They deserve more thorough and detailed support than they get here. The most recent footnote in the book dates to September of this year, when inquiries into the nature of the war are very much a work in progress — it smacks of a rush to publication.

Perhaps more curious is Mr. Clark’s criticism of the lack of adequate ground forces. Somehow, he neglects to mention that he is the only supreme commander in American military history who forgot to bring the Army to a war. During the campaign in Kosovo, convinced that the Serbians could be brought to their knees by air power alone, the Clinton administration began the war with no convincing ground forces in theater.

The belated attempt to bring them in striking distance of Kosovo was one of the great military embarrassments of the 20th century. Only the understanding that NATO would use ground force if necessary brought the Serbians to terms. None of this is included in the book. Mr. Clark might have had the decency to say, “don’t try this at home, kids.”

At this point, the book moves on to Mr. Clark’s view of the future of national security strategy. He makes three key points. First, we need to be more inclusive in our approach to international affairs. Second, we need to make better use of international institutions such as the United Nations Third, we need to modernize the armed forces. If this sounds familiar to the reader, it is because it is solid middle-of-the-road Democratic Party rhetoric. This is a good move on tMr. Clark’s part. After all, he has joined the Democratic pack.

At some point, Mr. Clark also mentions that the Bush tax cut favors the rich; boy, there’s another shocker.

Mr. Clark is wise in not pandering to the “democratic wing of the Democratic party.” Given his previous military affiliation, these folks will not vote for him in a primary unless he starts wearing a pin with a picture of Leon Trotsky on it and adopts the “Internationale” as his campaign song. If he gets nominated, they will likely hold their noses and vote for him unless the lefties run Howard Dean as a third party candidate; this is something over which the Republicans salivate.

At the end of the day, this is indeed a campaign book. It is as good as any, better than some. Mr. Clark lays out his positions, such as they are, for the reader. If the economy does not improve, and if the situation in Iraq does not become stable, he may be the Democratic nominee. Given those conditions, he will have a shot at the presidency. On the other hand, if the economy improves and we look to be successful in Iraq by next November, the Democrats could re-animate FDR and probably still lose the presidential election. This volume is not “Profiles in Courage,” but as a campaign book, “Winning Modern War” is a competent, if uninspired effort.

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps officer. He lectures on the Revolution in Military Affairs at George Washington University.


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