Tuesday, February 24, 2004

“Rumsfeld’s War” (Regnery Publishing Inc.), the new book by Rowan Scarborough, defense and national security reporter for The Washington Times, details the defense secretary’s determination to transform the military.

“It’s a different world today,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told an audience of Marines in Okinawa.

“We have to become much more agile,” Rumsfeld said, talking with the troops about terrorism and other threats during a “town-hall” meeting in November. “We have to be able to move in hours or days instead of weeks or months or years.”

Rumsfeld’s boss, President Bush, had not singled out individual threats to national security in his inaugural address in January 2001, less than nine months before the terrorist attacks.

But even then, Rumsfeld and other Bush aides realized they needed new strategies against Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, as well as against the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

“We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge,” Bush said after his swearing-in. “We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors. The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom.”

Waiting for the new president at the Pentagon was a classified, 160-page report on future threats stretching to the year 2020. The secret report was prepared for the Clinton administration by analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s own CIA in miniature, which sends agents around the world to collect information.

The DIA report, compiled in 1999, still is used actively today by Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration with the required security clearance. I obtained a copy of the report, called “A Primer on the Future Threat” and stamped SECRET.

Among the chilling predictions:

• The radical Islamic state of Iran planned to have nuclear capability by 2008 and 10 to 20 nuclear weapons by 2020, including missiles capable of striking Europe.

• China would more than quadruple its nuclear arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States, skyrocketing from 40 to as many as 220 missiles.

• Stalinist North Korea could hold as many as 10 atomic weapons, including ICBMs.

• Israel would maintain a nuclear arsenal of about 80 warheads.

• Warring neighbors Pakistan and India would continue to entrench themselves in the nuclear club by building nuclear-tipped missiles, more than doubling their stockpiles. India would launch its first submarine that fires ballistic missiles.

• Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Indonesia were among nations in danger of economic failure and collapse, with “profound implications for the United States.”

“While the message is sobering, my intent in preparing this primer is not to instill fear or foreboding,” Army Lt. Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, then DIA director, wrote in a foreword to the secret report. “Rather, I hope that by identifying and discussing in realistic terms the emerging threat environment, such knowledge will help leadership better understand and prepare for it.”

Terrorists’ aims

The DIA report, warning of the “emergence of less predictable groups,” forecasted that international terrorism posed a growing threat.

“It is probable that terrorist organizations or individuals will employ a weapon of mass destruction [WMD] against U.S. interests by 2020,” the report says. “Heightened publicity about the vulnerability of civilian targets, an increased interest in inflicting mass casualties … and greater availability of WMD-related production knowledge and technology have already drawn the attention of some terrorist organizations.

“Additionally, the hoax or blackmail value of WMD is a potentially powerful psychological weapon in itself, and its … use can be expected to increase.”

The DIA notes that the Soviet Union developed a nerve agent that, after the communist state’s collapse, spread to other countries and cannot be controlled through the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.

Chemical weapons are easier to obtain than some terrorists might realize, the report adds.

“Many of the components needed for chemical or biological agent weaponization are used in other types of weapons systems, many of which are available in the international arms market,” it says. “Chemical and biological agents can be disseminated by tube and rocket artillery, ground and naval mines, aerial bombs … and a wide variety of spray devices.

“An increasing number of countries are also capable of employing unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles for chemical and biological attack. Terrorist use should also be anticipated, primarily in improvised devices, probably in association with an explosive.”

The DIA warns that the combination of drug trafficking and terrorism could produce more failed states, requiring U.S. intervention.

“Drug-related corruption will reach epidemic levels in certain countries,” the DIA says. “This may require a more direct response from the United States to protect our national security.”

WMD dangers

Nations deemed capable by 1999 of delivering both chemical and biological agents included Iraq, Russia, China and North Korea.

“Iran has a chemical weapons capability and probably a limited biological agent delivery means,” the DIA report says. “Libya, Egypt, India, Taiwan, Israel, South Korea and Syria have chemical weapons capabilities.

“Pakistan, Sudan, Serbia and Croatia are believed to have programs to develop [chemical weapon] capabilities. Moreover, Libya, Syria and Pakistan probably can produce biological agents on a limited scale and presumably have some means of delivery even if not by military systems.”

By 2020, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will have deployed medium-range ballistic missile systems, “and WMD payloads will be available in each of these countries,” the report says. India, China, North Korea, Indonesia and Turkey will develop or acquire short-range missile systems.

“Future conflicts,” the DIA predicts, “probably will involve the use of these weapon systems with WMD, including nuclear weapons.”

The report predicts the United States will keep its status as the world’s pre-eminent power for the next 20 years.

“The key ‘peer’ candidates all have long-term larger problems, and none has the capability or the will to usurp the U.S. over this time frame,” the report says. ” … The United States will remain the sole superpower through its economic, political, military, cultural and technological superiority for at least the first quarter of the next century.”

Still, the report says a “camp” of unaligned countries would continue to try to limit U.S. power. This group included Russia, China, France, India, Mexico, Iran and Iraq.

Strategic ambitions

The DIA report that Rumsfeld’s Pentagon inherited also made these findings and predictions as of 1999:

• Iran “is slowly but steadily building an offensive capability far in excess of its mere defensive needs” and poses the biggest threat in the Persian Gulf now that the U.S.-led coalition has ousted Saddam in Iraq.

In addition to nuclear aims, Iran was “seeking self-sufficiency” in dual-use equipment to produce biological agents for weapons, as well as protective clothing resistant to chemical or biological weapons and medical protection against biological agents.

“Iran should have a greater capability to disrupt the flow of commerce in the Gulf over the next decade, primarily through the use of mine warfare and integrated anti-ship cruise missiles. In fact, absent U.S. intervention, Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz to maritime traffic indefinitely.”

• North Korea’s communist regime, appearing firmly in control, possessed two to four nuclear weapons of limited yield and an offensive biological and chemical arsenal of uncertain size but thought to include “anthrax, plague, cholera and toxins.”

“The likelihood that North Korea will initiate a war to reunify the peninsula is diminishing, but the possibility of conflict spurred by internal instability, miscalculation or provocation is increasing.”

• China planned to reduce its People’s Liberation Army of 2.5 million by 20 percent, make big increases in strategic forces, deploy its first ballistic-missile submarine and achieve a four-fold boost in spy satellites, to 15 orbiters.

Even though the number of Chinese ICBMs capable of striking the United States will jump to 220, “Nothing indicates China will field the much larger number of missiles necessary to shift from a limited, retaliatory strategy to a first-strike, war-fighting strategy.”

Going to school’

It is not clear how much of the DIA’s report was absorbed by Rumsfeld and other key Bush administration officials before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

But it is a certainty that they have done so by now, and that Rumsfeld has his own ideas on how to meet the threats. The secretary of defense is moving to enlarge special forces, improve intelligence collection and analysis so that it is “actionable,” and streamline the military for war-fighting in the 21st century.

“We have to have a mindset that is willing to continuously go to school on the terrorists,” Rumsfeld said in October, “just as terrorists are going to school on us and watching what we do.

“And,” he said, “we’ve got to be able to move inside of their decision cycles and react sufficiently fast, given the difficulty of intelligence.”

Part I: ‘This is war,’ Rumsfeld told Bush

Part II: Rumsfeld panel caught Bush’s eye

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