'Victory At Risk' Offers A Plan For The Pentagon One of the unintended consequences of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan is that the U.S. may not be prepared to fight another one. According to retired Army Major General Mike Davidson, history teaches that there will be another one — and he's got a plan to prepare for it.
NPR logo

'Victory At Risk' Offers A Plan For The Pentagon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/101922496/101922476" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Victory At Risk' Offers A Plan For The Pentagon

'Victory At Risk' Offers A Plan For The Pentagon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/101922496/101922476" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

One of the unintended consequences of both wars is that the U.S. may not be prepared to fight another one. And according to retired Army Major General Mike Davidson, history teaches that there will be another one. He suggests a new war plan for the Pentagon in his new book, "Victory at Risk." And he's in the studio. Welcome.

MIKE DAVIDSON: Well, thank you for having me, Liane.

HANSEN: What do you think the appetite is for Americans to get involved in a war, given what has been going on for the last eight years?

DAVIDSON: The appetite is not where it needs to be and it's not where it should be. And we have to address some things that don't relate to budgets, tanks, airplanes and warships. We have to address things like strategic visionary leadership by our senior military officials. We have to address things like, will Americans believe a president when he or she says something?

HANSEN: There seems to be a shift to more diplomatic activity, certainly with the new administration. There's been a reaching out and offering to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example. Can that change things?

DAVIDSON: I think that the pendulum is swinging back to where it ought to be. We have militarized our diplomacy and now we're using diplomatic overtures where we would default into military responses, and that's a good thing. Military action has a role to play in diplomacy and in counterterrorism. But it's a very focused role. It has to be highly targetable and highly targeted. I think this is a move in the right direction.

HANSEN: Where do you see threats to the United States' existence coming from now?

DAVIDSON: That takes an enormously larger, better equipped, more mobile military than we have today. If al-Qaida's going to do that, there's not a whole lot we can do to deter them. We can defend against them, as far forward as possible in Afghanistan - the near battle with our homeland security programs. There are some agencies and groups that cannot be deterred, but we have to be able to respond.

HANSEN: You say the Pentagon isn't working, and you have worked inside the Pentagon. What does it have to do to start working again?

DAVIDSON: We have to get out of this bureaucratic minuet that we now mistake for defense policymaking. We need to get presidents face-to-face with admirals and generals. They need to develop the mutual respect and confidence in one another. And we need to replace this committee of committees. We have hierarchies of bureaucrats trying to make go-to-war-decisions, and we do it very badly.

HANSEN: How do you define victory?

DAVIDSON: That's a wonderful question. I would define victory as being able to dictate the terms at the end of the exercise. And we're not in any war, nor have we been, for 60 years, where we could do that.

HANSEN: How would you wage peace?

DAVIDSON: Peace can be as compelling a goal as is war. And to get there, you need to understand that we are a global power, not because of our warships, our warplanes, our formations of soldiers and Marines. We are a global power because of our commitment to freedom. That's why we have succeeded for 250 years as a nation. And from that platform, I think you can wage peace very effectively by way of example, by way of economic assistance and by way of an insightful diplomacy.

HANSEN: Retired Army Major General Mike Davidson. His new book is called "Victory at Risk," and is published by Zenith Press. Thanks for coming in.

DAVIDSON: Thank you for having me, Liane.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.