25th Eaker Lecture
The New American Way of War
Keynote Speaker: GEN. RICHARD B. MYERS
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
1 May 2003
It's really a pleasure to be with you tonight. I can't think of a place I'd rather be tonight than right here. It was good to come back to Colorado Springs, breathe in the fresh air, come up to the academy as I had done on many occasions when I was stationed at Peterson in the space business. It was always a pleasure to come up here and be with the future of our Air Force. It was just always thrilling, whether or not people were trying to steal my rank, which I was always promised I would get back. There ought to be a person around here that still has some of my rank. I had his name written down for the longest time. It probably went the way of the buffalo, so somebody is pretty lucky out here.It's really good to be back. This is obviously not where I went to school, but you can't be in the United States Air Force for any length of time without having a great affinity for this great institution, and I'm certainly one of those people and I appreciate the work that goes on out here and I appreciate the cadets. They will lead our Air Force into this 21st century and set the stage for beyond that.I know some of you are going to graduate here in a few weeks. A few exams to go, a few projects left. We were talking about that in the back, so it's not that it's completely over. I checked the authorities that I have from the president, from the Congress, and it turns out that waiving final exams is not one of the authorities that I have, but I gave it a shot. So good luck with your exams and pass them. I know you want to pass them. But, I want you to pass them, too. Because, what you're about to do—for those of you who are about to graduate and the rest of you in a little bit of time—you're going to join our nation's armed forces and our Air Force in what I think is a very exciting time in our history. And the plain fact is that we need you very badly.But whether you graduate from here in the next few weeks or the next few years, you're going to join a lot of really dedicated airmen who make up the world's best Air Force. And don't be surprised when you find yourself working closely with folks from other services because that's just the way we do it today. And you won't just be part of the Air Force. You're going to be part of a larger joint team, and you saw some of that in action in Iraq as a matter of fact. And it also includes folks from other U.S. government departments and agencies, and for that matter, our Allies and some of their civilian agencies and departments. It's a very dynamic world, and I don't think it's obvious at first blush the kind of people you're going to have to work with in your Air Force career. It's going to be a lot of relationships that you probably can't imagine yet, as we transition and transform ourselves to deal with the security threats in this 21st century. Now, the dean has asked me to speak about something significant to mark the 25th anniversary of the Eaker lecture series. He promised it wouldn't be on any test, so we're all for that. It's supposed to be a lecture, so I thought I'd start out with a little bit of military history.I know full well that you've at least studied a little Clausewitz in your professional military studies courses here. He's definitely the captain of the Old Dead Theorists Club, for sure.There are a couple of other guys you might want to think about. We use Clausewitz as a backdrop and go forward. One is Hans Delbrück. About a hundred years after Clausewitz, Delbrück argued that there were two types of warfare: War by annihilation and war by attrition. He said that annihilation was going to war to crush an enemy's army, and then you conquer the country. Attrition, on the other hand, was the slow erosion of the enemy's army until they became too weak to fight.And the second historian is Russell Weigley. Weigley built on Delbrück's example and said that the American way of war, in his book, The American Way of War, has traditionally been to fight wars of annihilation. He suggested that that's what we did in World War II and that's what we did in Korea and that's what we did in Vietnam. I think the theories of classical warfare and Weigley's assessment are valid for how we fought in the past.I would put forth a different notion now that you ought to consider, that I believe was in some measure proven out in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's that we've departed from that tradition of old theorists.Now, you might challenge me on this point because after all, what you saw on TV last month was a lot like what you perhaps saw 12 years ago. You saw laser-guided bombs hitting buildings, Tomahawks launching from ships. You saw tanks going across the desert floor. I know there are many Doolies here that might not remember Desert Storm. You probably spent 1991 watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles … I hope there are some persons here that will back me up. [Laughter] The point is that behind the similar TV image of war, much has really changed, and that's what I'd like to talk about.I think what made Iraqi Freedom different from past wars is how the joint team came together, how the different services came together with improved combat power, better intelligence, and certainly more responsive command and control.Let's start by looking at the combat power. Some equate combat power to lethality. I think it's that, but it's a lot more. I for one think that it includes speed, brains, survivability and precision. More importantly, combat power also includes how you combine these qualities to create a faster decision cycle; and I'll talk about that in a moment. As future air and space warriors, one thing for sure is that you'll become well aware of all of these, and particularly our precision capability. Those who came before you pioneered our quest in this area. One of those pioneers was the fellow that this lecture series is named for, Ira Eaker. In the 1930s, he studied at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell and helped develop the art and science of finding and striking key nodes or centers of gravity to defeat an enemy—a little different from the earlier theorists I talked about, when we talked about annihilation or attrition.Eaker and others like him were determined to use combat aircraft as something more than just long-range artillery or as aerial scouts. And to fulfill this vision, the Army Air Corps developed new technology, like Norden bombsight, and operational concepts like precision bombardment. Eaker put these ideas and equipment together to test when he led the 8th Air Force. He was instrumental in pursuing the around-the-clock bombing campaign against Germany in World War II. We conducted the daylight bombing raids. The Brits did the nighttime bombing. But at that time, the definition of precision was a little different. It certainly was relative to threat, and the cost of the daylight precision strategy was tremendously high. For example, in August 1943, the 8th Air Force attacked Schweinfurt and Regnesburg. Out of 315 bombers that went on the raid that day, 60 were lost…60 in one day. More importantly is with those 60…went 600 men. In fact, the 8th Air Force lost roughly one in three bombers during the summer and the fall of 1943. These huge losses, of course, made us rework our air doctrine. And as you all know, we made fighter escort a requirement for daylight, the long-range bombing.By Desert Storm, in contrast, our precision capability had changed. Then, one F-117 Stealth Fighter could destroy two targets on one sortie. And stealth reduced the need for air escort.That's certainly a departure from the paradigm that Eaker operated under. And we no longer needed hundreds of sorties, and we no longer risked hundreds of lives just to hit one target. But as promising as our new precision technology was, it was not widely used in Desert Storm. Only one in five fighters in Desert Storm had laser bomb capability, and only one in twenty bombs were laser guided. And people had just begun to think about this thing we now accept, satellite-guided, GPS-guided weapons … the JDAMs.Today, every fighter and bomber aircraft in our military can employ a precision weapon—every fighter in our inventory, and the Navy's inventory, and the Marine inventory. Each aircraft can destroy more than one target per mission. Our F-15E's can destroy nine targets with laser bombs on one mission, and a B-2 can destroy 16 separate targets with 16 satellite-guided weapons, in any weather condition, day or night. That will improve as we get smaller, smarter bombs than the 2,000-pound bombs that the B-2 carries today. This increased precision also translates into a reduced chance of harming civilians or other unintended consequences. By comparison, I went back and had the guys and ladies look at the civilian casualties in World War II. There's a story where Cornelius Ryan estimated that 52,000 people died as a result of the air attacks on Berlin, just one city; and think of attacks on Tokyo and other cities that came under attack … 52,000. In Baghdad recently, the loss of innocent lives was orders of magnitude less, orders of magnitude less. We will probably never know the exact number. So our precision capability means fewer bombs, fewer aircraft required, fewer crews at risk and fewer civilian casualties. All these reasons, I think, contribute to the argument that precision and stealth are force multipliers in both the military and in the political contest.But air power isn't the only type of improved combat power. Your Marine and Army counterparts have made dramatic improvements over the past decade as well. In Desert Storm, the Marines had M-60 tanks. Today they have the M-1 tank with an improved target sight and 120 millimeter gun. This gun increases their range by 50 percent, the range they can shoot. This combination gives them a first-shot first-kill capability—the armor equivalent of what the general talks about in terms of the F-22.Other improvements include the Army's king of battle, its artillery. In 1991, the Army's 155-millimeter artillery took eight minutes to set-up, and they also had to line-up six guns in a row to fire them to be effective. Today the Army has an artillery system that sets up in 30 seconds, not eight minutes. And they can fire from dispersed locations, kind of a version of stealth for the Army.My point is that all the services improved their combat power, their lethality and their survivability. But improved combat power is pretty much worthless if we don't know what to strike. And the most precise weapon in the world can be worse than useless if it hits the wrong thing. So, we realize that accurate intelligence is the key to employing a more lethal force.We've gotten better with our intelligence capability. A decade ago, our crews often stepped to their planes without target photos. Sometimes these photos were classified at a level where the pilots couldn't see them, couldn't have access to them. Can you believe that? You can go bomb a target, but they don't give you a photo of the target before you take off. [Laughter] It didn't make any sense. It's been fixed.But getting the picture was only part of the problem. We also wanted the picture to be timely, so we need responsive intelligence. Today we've added new platforms to do this … that includes commercial systems, satellites, new sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles like Global Hawk and like Predator. Combined they produced over 42,000 target photos in four weeks during the Iraqi Freedom campaign…42,000 photos in four weeks.A critical element of what our new intelligence platforms do is provide what we call persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We can't afford to have this occasionally available intelligence. Information must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Certainly space and unmanned aerial vehicles like the Global Hawk can help achieve that persistence. But, I'll tell you that what really drives this accurate combat power and timely intelligence is our command and control, or as we say, C2. It doesn't sound like an exciting topic or even an exciting mission. I'll tell you, for my money, there's nothing more crucial than how we command—and control—our force.Command and control gets the intelligence and the orders to execute any given plan to the warrior, the trigger-puller. So, command and control turns a plan and intelligence into action. And we're working hard to improve this capability. Now, anybody with any experience at all that you would talk to in this audience, who has done any of this before, will tell you that communications systems are really the heart of how you command and control. If you can't get the word out, you don't really have control. And we've made great strides in our capabilities to improve our communications.For example if you go back to World War II, we could send roughly 60 words per minute. By Vietnam, we could send about a hundred words per minute, to communicate to those folks in other locations. During Desert Storm, we could transmit 200,000 words per minute. That's about a dictionary every minute, so not bad in 1991. By comparison, to support our operations last month in Iraq, we had about 30 times the Desert Storm capability, about 30 times 200,000 words per minute. Obviously, there's no way any commander can ever read, or anybody can digest, that mass of data. So, the challenge is to change the data into knowledge, and then to fashion that knowledge into some kind of plan.For airmen, that all starts with our air tasking order. It's a script of the day's joint air campaign. But, a good plan is only a starting point. To understand this, let me give you a little football analogy. This story has to do with the home team. They've got the ball. They've got 80 yards to go to the end zone. There's two minutes left in the game. It's a championship game. Everything is on the line. On the first down, the star quarterback gets hurt so the coach pulls him out and puts in the guy that's been on the team four years … but hasn't played a down. And the coach says to him, Listen, all you got to do is run the ball twice, punt. We'll get out of the situation. Hopefully you can hold them off and win the game. Kid says, That's great. On the next snap, he takes the ball and he runs 40 yards. Next snap he takes the ball and runs 30 yards. He's 10 yards from the end zone. The crowd is going wild. He takes the next snap, drops back and punts. The coach runs on the field and says, What were you thinking? Are you nuts? And the quarterback said, I was just thinking the same thing about you ... You never changed the plan. [Laughter]
As you saw in Iraq, I think, hopefully what you saw in Iraq was that the plan changed almost continuously … even before combat started. And you've got to be able to communicate those changes and have ways to communicate them to the folks that are actually going to do the work. That's what command and control is all about. What also helps if you're going to have a plan that changes, and so you can change it quickly, is that everybody be on the same sheet of music … that they all have the same picture.It was not true in Afghanistan that everybody had the same command and control capability, the same picture of the battlefield. It varied widely between the Air Force, the Army, the Marines and everybody else. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was such that the picture of the battlespace was pretty common from down to fairly low tactical level unit … all the way up to the three star generals who were actually running the various components of the war. You may have had that picture out here.The picture was called the Central Command's Common Operating Picture. I had it on my desk. I didn't have much time to look at it, but it was there if I wanted to bring it up. You could see where the various units were. You could see where the enemy units were. You could see where the Allied units were.And when you have a common picture, what it allows us to do is integrate and meld operations in ways we've never been able to do before. It means that we can have a much more flexible force. And it means that we can obtain and then retain the initiative, which is really important when you're going to war.Let me give you another example of why flexible command and control is so important. If you have that flexibility, you can meet and hit fleeting targets before the opportunity is lost.Back in Vietnam, I flew the F-4, fast forward air control sort of mission. We called it the fast FAC. We'd go out and we'd look for targets. Sometimes we had aircraft that we would use on these targets, and sometimes we would spot fleeting targets, and we'd call back through the communications relays back to 7th Air Force back in Saigon. We were up in either Laos or Vietnam somewhere. We'd call back and say, Hey, we've got this target and we'd like to hit it. Often as not, by the time they would muster up some forces to come that you could control, and put weapons on target, the fleeting target had fled. They had left. We did hit some. Often as not, even if we got aircraft to hit them, if they didn't have laser-guided bombs, which were very few in those days, we'd usually miss the target anyway. On top of that, the air commanders in that day, because they didn't have a very good picture of the battlespace, were very reluctant to ever change the plan. They just didn't want to change the plan. So having us up there trying to find fleeting targets just wasn't very successful.You may remember … during the battle for Baghdad we discovered the location of a key leadership target. This was fairly late in the battle. It was an important, time-sensitive target with some of the most senior regime command control and leadership. So, for about half an hour, General Franks and his folks were discussing whether or not to hit this target; whether or not the intelligence was good and so forth. And they finally decided about any potential collateral damage, because this one was the one in the restaurant, if you recall. They said, Well, this is such an important target … we think we can hold the collateral damage by using these various tactics. And they decided, We can't wait. We've got to hit the target. So, the air operations folks down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, got hold of a B-1 over Iraq, and within five minutes, that B-1 had put a precision-guided weapon on that restaurant. Altogether, from the time they got the intelligence tip-off to the time weapons were on target was 38 minutes. A lot better than my days in Vietnam where we usually didn't get there—and if we did, it was usually late.So, what's all this mean? To put it into perspective, I think it increased combat power, timely intelligence, nimble command and control means we have a deliberately decisive force. It's more capable than what fought Iraq a decade ago. And it means the American Way of War is very different. It's a New American Way of War.Let me give you three examples of what that means. First, this New American Way of War demonstrates that we can strike directly at the enemy's pillars of power. We don't have to follow Delbrück's or Weigley's models, annihilation and attrition. Our intelligence is good enough to let us find those pillars of power. And our combat power is great enough that we can destroy those pillars. Only 10 years ago, we attempted to do that … but it was as much a dream and a theory as reality. Today, it's reality.It means we can take the war to the key leaders and regime command control without annihilating an Army along the way. Without tank-by-tank fights … or fighting through a city house-by-house. A corollary benefit is we can fight a war that is less costly in treasure—and in human lives—than classical battles in the past. We've reduced the unintended consequences and civilian suffering by selecting our target with care during the Iraqi operation. Of course, as good as this sounds, I know that our success in Iraq came at the cost of over a hundred U.S. and British lives and many more wounded. I've seen many of those wounded up at Bethesda Hospital and Walter Reed Hospital in Washington.Obviously some of their lives are going to be changed forever. And, for some, the pain will probably never go away. Certainly, and obviously, there can never be any guarantee that future conflicts will have this relatively low loss of life … or will be fought in the same manner.The truth is that each loss that we experienced here in the last month or so—and the few that we're probably going to experience here in the days ahead—the truth is that each represents a searing pain for each individual family and their friends. To them, and to me, these aren't light or insignificant losses. And I'm sure they aren't to you either. Some of you in this audience probably know people who were killed or injured in that conflict.Plus, you've got to consider the other side of the battlefield, too, the Iraqis, both their soldiers and civilians. Many of them died as well. Whether civilians died by unintended action or by the Iraqi regime's deliberate design, the loss of innocent life represents a human cost that we do not accept with ease.So, this type of force, this New American Way of War that I'm talking about, does not take away from war's terrible nature. There is no such thing as an antiseptic war. War will never be, in my opinion, surgery. Certainly 2,000-pound bombs aren't scalpels. So, that's the first observation.The second observation is that what we did in Iraq, as much as anything else, was attack the enemy's strategy. You probably read Sun Tzu here during your studies. One of the statements that kind of sticks out is: What is of supreme importance in war is to attack an enemy's strategy. I think that's wise counsel from over two millenniums ago. And, in a way, it's pretty much what General Franks and his folks did.As you know, many folks expected us to start this with a long air campaign followed by some kind of ground campaign. Had we done so, my opinion is we would have given the Iraqi regime the chance to marshal world opinion against us by insuring huge numbers of civilian casualties, if not by us, by the regime; or by lobbing ballistic missiles at our troops or our allies; or to destroy Iraq's oil industry and infrastructure, creating an environmental disaster. Instead, we led with ground forces and special operators to secure the oil fields and seize the key terrain. This kept the regime from being able to range the allies with ballistic missiles.This approach also meant an increased risk for our troops, but we balanced it with the knowledge that our joint team was much more capable. In fact, what they counted on was this great coordination between land and air power. And this is important, because, before this all kicked–off, we had over 200,000 forces in the Middle East, in the vicinity of Iraq. Now, who couldn't tell we were about ready to do something? How you do it, and how you start that out, is the question. And I think the way we did it was by being unpredictable; we had some tactical surprise, maybe even strategic surprise.All that leads to the final observation on what's changed and how we fight, and that's a faster decision cycle. Let me illustrate with another story. Hopefully this will go over better than the football analogy. Somebody else made it up, but I'm going to use it.I'm told a hundred years ago on the eastern slope of the Rockies, the sheriff caught a renegade criminal in a saloon. The guy was a murderer, and they were going to have to execute him. The sheriff said, Hey, I'll give you one chance. We'll step off 10 paces, and you turn and fire on the count of three. So, the men stood outside the saloon on Main Street. They paced off, and the sheriff counted off one, two, and then turned and shot the criminal. As the dying outlaw was lying there on the street, he gasped, That wasn't fair. You said you were going to count to three. The sheriff replied, Well, that was your number. Mine was two. [Laughter] So, the sheriff had a little faster decision cycle.That faster decision cycle—we're talking about combat power, timing, intelligence and faster decision cycle—combined in a way that leads you to be very flexible, to be unpredictable. History has shown throughout battle those who can decide and get inside an adversary's loop—and it can be on the football field, it can be a wrestling match—if you're thinking inside your adversary's decision cycle, you're probably going to win.I think, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, we confounded the enemy leadership and certainly operated inside their decision cycle. That's the way it looked when we debriefed. We'll find out more later. By putting these Iraqi decision-makers off-balance, we defeated their game plan, and we controlled the fight and we kept the initiative. So I think these are just a few things that highlight what's changed and how we fight. It's really quite dramatic. And basically, it's all happened in about the last decade really, where all this is starting to come together. But there's one thing that remains constant, and that's the dedication of those folks that are on the front line making all us generals back in Washington look good. And that's the troops. The soldiers, the sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and I include our civilian work force as well, our DOD civilian work force.You saw that one of the things the reporters did was, they really showed off the talent of these people. They showed-off their skill, their leadership, their selflessness. All that enabled our success. I'll tell you what … graduates that just sat here not too long ago exemplified those same qualities in Iraq.You probably are well aware of Capt. Kim Campbell's efforts. She's a '97 graduate, and she recovered a severely damaged A-10. She's one of the few pilots who ever landed the A-10 in the manual mode. A lot of people think that it's not worth even trying. It's just a very difficult feat of airmanship, but she did it. That's a credit to her skill, her training, her dedication and leadership. And then there's Col. Bob Allardice, an '80 grad. He led the C-17 in an historic drop of the Army's 173rd brigade into northern Iraq. Our problem in northern Iraq was that we couldn't get ground transportation through Turkey, and we needed to get forces up there very quickly. The only way we could do that was to airlift them in, and so we airlifted in the 173rd. About half of the 2,000 troops jumped in. The other half were air landed. We had a very primitive airfield where the C-17s went in. I said he was an 1980 graduate. I don't think you're going to have 23 years to make your contributions and to demonstrate your leadership. It's already started here at the academy. It's definitely going to start for the folks that are going to graduate in a few weeks when you put on your bars. There's also Capt. Eric Das, who sat in this room in 1995. As you probably know, he gave his life in an F-15E mission. In his case, his sacrifice wasn't for his kids because he didn't have any children. Instead, he sacrificed for our nation, for our families, and I think for the millions of Iraqi citizens who are going to come to enjoy the freedom that they've never had. What's remarkable is that he never met them, but their future is already better for his service. I think that's something we need to think about.So as new Air Force officers, for you that are going to graduate, and those that are going to graduate next year, and those that graduate in the next couple years, you've got a lot to live up to. You've got a legacy that is a very proud legacy, but a lot to live up to. You'll do it by adapting our nation's combat power, this timing of intelligence we talked about, our command and control. You'll take all that and with your ingenuity, you'll make it all better. You'll do it by embracing the leadership and developing the skills as an Air Force officer and a member of the joint team. And you'll make that team better by your presence and by your perseverance.What I said tonight isn't going to be on any test that the dean is going to give you, but it's going to be on a test. It's going to be on a test that our adversaries will give us. Although we've had some success in Afghanistan and we've had some success in Iraq, I still think we're living in one of the most dangerous periods of this country's existence.I suspect right now that there are plans in place, just waiting to be executed, where they're going to try to kill Americans, or some of our friends and allies around the world. It's just as certain as we're all here. They'll come after us in non-traditional and unpredictable ways. But I'll tell you: whatever they try, as we move into this 21st century, we will try to protect the kind of life that you and I think is important for our families. The kind of thing that you're going to be about is trying to preserve that way of life.There's nothing more important that you could be about. I'll just close by saying God bless our men and women in uniform that have done us so proud. And God bless you all as you head out and join our Air Force—for those thousand or so that are going to do that shortly. And for the rest of you, for being here at the Air Force Academy, for studying hard, and for trying to make this new American way of war even better, and make our nation even more secure in the future. Thank you.
MODERATOR: I wish to thank General Myers for his insights which are certain to have a lasting impact on each of us as we proceed in our careers as professional military officers. Thank you very much. As a symbol of our appreciation, please accept this gift.
Please rise and remain standing while Colonel Murray, General Wagie, General Wieda, General Myers and our distinguished guests depart.