Letters to the Editor
Letters from our readers
Pentagon 2.0 Reboot
There are some serious inaccuracies in T.X. Hammes’s review of my book, Worst Enemy. [“Pentagon 2.0,” Issue #9]. The most troubling is his assertion that I ignore the “people-centric” solutions to the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the Iraq case, I detail the successful social networking and negotiations with the Sunni that I began recommending four years ago. As I was the first to do so, it would be curious for me to have left it out of my book. I didn’t. With regard to Afghanistan, Hammes asserts that I do not discuss the rise of the insurgency. On the contrary, I discuss in detail the reasons why the campaign has been, even from the outset, “a flawed masterpiece.”
As to my call for sharply downsizing our active-duty forces, Hammes inaccurately contends that I provide no basis for the new unit sizes I recommend. I provide one basic rationale by relying on the traditional size of divisional structures, which has been the norm for over two centuries. But I also note that, if we were willing to depart from divisions and brigades as our fundamental organizational forms, we could create hundreds of more effective “units of action.”
Hammes devotes his sharpest criticism to the swarm tactics that my RAND colleague David Ronfeldt and I pioneered. Swarming–the ability to attack from many directions simultaneously–is the principle doctrine of network warfare. Simply put, networks swarm. Hammes allows that “netwar” is the one thing I “got right” in the book, yet he rejects the very doctrine upon which netwar has always been based.
I am long used to my new ideas being opposed, and Hammes’s criticism comes as no surprise. That a soldier-scholar of his caliber chose to make his case so inaccurately, though, is puzzling.
John Arquilla Professor Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, Calif.
T.X. Hammes responds:
The fundamental flaw in Arquilla’s book lies in its inconsistency and failure to address the details. For instance, he cites swarming as the primary tactic of a network. Yet when our enemies attempted to swarm in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, they were badly hurt by our superior combat power. Arquilla needs to elaborate on how it can work for U.S. forces. Arquilla’s prescription for simply assigning 100,000 soldiers to 10 divisions or even 100 “units of action” is likewise inadequate; he should specify what kind of capabilities he envisions, how many of such units, and what organizations would sustain and guide them. Given his past insightful work, I looked forward to reading an in-depth analysis on these subjects. This wasn’t it.
All in the Genes
Henry Greely inaccurately characterizes my organization, the Center for Genetics and Society, as “drawn to arguments against [inheritable human genetic enhancement] by the lure of naturalness” [“The Genetics of Fear,” Issue #9].
I am not sure how Greely reached this conclusion. We explicitly ground our opposition in our commitments to social justice and equality. Procedures that produce (or claim to produce) genetically superior children for those with access to expensive technologies would all too likely exacerbate inequalities and lead to new forms of discrimination.
Greely seems enthusiastic about inheritable genetic modification, but he also recognizes that significant improvements are a long way off. He therefore dismisses proposals, such as the one offered by Jamie Metzl, for international agreements to prohibit socially undesirable human biotechnologies [“Brave New World War,” Issue #8]. He disparages efforts at international regulation as “neither progressive nor wise,” without mentioning that similar regulations are already in effect, and working well, in over four dozen countries. The United States should join this growing international consensus.
Greely warns ominously that regulating biotechnology “would almost certainly mean slowing treatments.” This is baseless. We want regulation that would encourage medical research, while preventing socially pernicious applications from spiraling out of control. There is clearly a middle ground to be found.
Marcy Darnovsky Associate Executive Director Center for Genetics and Society Oakland, Calif.
Henry Greely Replies:
I am happy to concede that the Center for Genetics and Society is primarily motivated by issues of social justice and equality. However, I continue to believe that they are, in part, “pulled in…by the lure of naturalness”–otherwise they would focus more on fair access to enhancement technologies rather than seeking to ban them.
I am surprised to read of my “enthusiasm” for inheritable genetic modification. I had hoped I was clear that genetic enhancement, where feasible, is likely to be unimportant and, where important, is likely to be infeasible. I am certainly not enthusiastic for restricting individual freedom and possibly important research on such weak arguments.
That many countries have passed laws against currently fictional technologies says little about what will happen if those technologies become real and nothing about the enforceability of those restrictions, let alone international treaties. And effective bans on procedures that follow directly from important medical research would necessarily end up limiting that research.
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