SCOTT SIMON, Host:
President Bush has ordered defense secretary Robert Gates to draw up a plan to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps. Mr. Bush acknowledged that the military has been stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And at a news conference this week, he said a larger military may be necessary to continue the fight against terrorism.
GEORGE W: We have an obligation to ensure our military is capable of sustaining this war over the long haul and performing the many tasks that we ask of them. I'm inclined to believe that we need to increase in the permanent size of both the United States Army and the United States Marines.
SIMON: But will increasing the size of the military help in combating terrorism? We're joined now by Major General Robert Scales, who is now president of a defense consulting company. General Scales, thank you very much for being with us.
ROBERT SCALES: It's nice to be here, Scott.
SIMON: And Bruce Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University. Professor Hoffman, thank you very much for being with us.
BRUCE HOFFMAN: You're very welcome.
SIMON: And let me ask you each in turn, gentleman, would a larger military necessarily aid in fighting terrorism? Professor Hoffman?
HOFFMAN: Well, certainly more troops would be enormously helpful, given how stretched our forces are between the deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and indeed elsewhere. And I think the key in fighting this type of warfare, whether it's counterterrorism or counterinsurgency, is that you need a prolonged presence. You have to have an area that you've not only cleared of the enemy but that you can hold and that you can sustain a period of security for the population. And that inevitably means more troops.
SIMON: General Scales?
SCALES: And it's also important to understand how difficult this mission is, and how wearing it is on both the soldiers, the Marines and also on their families. Oftentimes I'm asked, well, we have 480,000 soldiers in uniform, why can't we keep 160,000 of those in Iraq? Well, what you don't realize is that the rotation scheme is such that we now have divisions going back for their third time, some units going back for their fifth time with less than a year between tours of duty overseas. So merely having a large force doesn't mean that number of soldiers and Marines can be in the theater all the time.
SIMON: I have to ask, though, Professor Hoffman and General Scales, some people have the impression that the complication, at least in Iraq, has been that the very presence of troops seems to inspire opposition and insurgency. General Scales?
SCALES: That's true, but the importance of having a robust ability to put ground troops into affected regions is to prevent that from happening. In an insurgency, the pre-war is far more important than the war itself. It's important to be able to build a force that can do stability operations, humanitarian assistance, that could help to build allied armies or the armies of alien nations before the insurgency gets out of hand. And that is, by its very nature, a very manpower intensive endeavor.
SIMON: Professor Hoffman?
HOFFMAN: In my view, I think one of the problems that we've encountered in Iraq is in fact that we haven't had sufficient troops there, that really to secure and to stabilize the highly volatile violence environment like Iraq, you would need at least 20 security forces per thousand population. That would mean a total of about 535,000 troops there. And I think the inability to have sufficient forces there created a vacuum of authority that breathed life into the insurgency.
SIMON: So if I understand the argument that both of you are making in favor of increased Army and Marine Corps in particular is that you - you might need special forces and forward-based units to secure a target. You need an expansion of the Army and the Marine Corp to maintain whatever has been gained?
HOFFMAN: That's it exactly. And I think undeniably the 21st century is an (unintelligible) where we will face not only conventional, more traditional threats, but also chronic prolonged threats from our regular adversaries that will necessitate a very flexible and nimble and adaptive military.
SIMON: General Scales, you've suggested in the past that putting the bulk of investment in military spending in the Air Force and even the Navy is a trend that goes back to really the Cold War and the Eisenhower era.
SCALES: And so we have a strange situation here, where the strategy for fighting the conflicts during the Cold War were oftentimes driven by the availability of numbers.
SIMON: Professor Hoffman, it seems to me, though, I can remember a time a few years ago when we kept hearing that the U.S. military has to be lighter, it has to be more surgical, it has to be more reliant on technology, smart people, smart bombs, that sort of thing.
HOFFMAN: Well, I think in environments involving counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, the human dimension is so enormously important that the kinds of intelligence that our forces need to operate on isn't the kind of intelligence that's gleaned from signal intercepts necessarily or from satellite photographs, but from human intelligence. And you need, on the one hand, I think, sufficient troops that are capable of providing a level of security that engender the confidence of the population in the authorities and in the ability of the authorities to create a secure environment that lasts. But also you need to have troops that are trained to get this type of human intelligence and then to act on it very quickly. So technologies certainly can enhance that, but it's not in and of itself an answer.
SIMON: Does that mean an increased number of ground troops, Army and Marines specifically, contribute anything to try and confront the danger of nuclear proliferation? General Scales?
SCALES: Oh, I think it absolutely does. Remember, most of the states that we fear most in terms of nuclear proliferation are failed or failing states. And in order to prevent them from spreading their nuclear capabilities, these types of operations are very important. And the more we can do to build democratic, economically viable states in the region lessens the threat that the states who seek to proliferate nuclear weapons will do so.
HOFFMAN: I think it strengthens our counter-proliferation capabilities in two respects. Firstly, it give us the teeth and the manpower that we can take on multiple deployments and we can challenge rogue states' developments of these types of weapons and credibly intervene. But it also again gets back to the paucity not just of troops but of Special Forces. Our special forces are enormously overstretched now. Amongst their missions are unconventional warfare, which is training of indigenous forces, direct action, which is the door kicking, but also one of their key mission is what's called strategic reconnaissance, which is to engage in intelligence gathering against rogue states, against non-state actors that may be developing weapons of mass destruction.
SIMON: Gentleman, thank you both very much for being with us.
HOFFMAN: Thank you, Scott.
SCALES: Thank you.
SIMON: Bruce Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University and retired Major General Robert Scales who is the president of Colgen Incorporated. And this is NPR News.
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.