Osama bin Laden died in a mansion. Adolf Hitler died in a bunker. Both bit the dust before the wars they started were finished.The Fuhrer shot himself April 30, 1945. While Nazi Germany formally surrendered eight days later, the war against Japan went on for six more months, and the U.S. spent the next four decades dealing with the aftermath. Today, even with bin Laden dead, the U.S. still has much to do before it can declare victory in the long war on terrorists. Read More
It was 1989 — and everyone knew that defense budgets were going to go down.At the time, spending less on defense made sense. Almost overnight, with the Soviet Union disintegrating from within, the world had become dramatically safer. The U.S. would need a smaller conventional force, a reduced nuclear arsenal, and a shift in focus of its national security missions.Leaders in the Pentagon, writes historian Lorna Jaffe, recognized that if “the military did not plan these reductions in a rational manner, then Congress and OMB would impose them.” Read More
It was known as a hard-luck division — until the day it got lucky.In Normandy, the 90th Division suffered more causalities than almost every other combat division. Two division commanders had already been relieved. Almost nothing seemed to go right. Until late July 1944.That’s when the 90th got laced by German artillery fire, and got very lucky indeed. None of the rounds exploded. Engineers inspecting the shells found they’d been loaded with sawdust. It was noted in the unit combat log — and forgotten. Read More
It was August 1991. The Berlin Wall had fallen two years earlier. The Soviet Union tottered on the verge of collapse. The evil empire’s newly independent republics were deciding whether to stick with Moscow or go it alone.President George H.W. Bush traveled to the Ukraine … and delivered what may have been the worst speech ever by an American chief executive. Read More
March 2002: “Operation Anaconda.” U.S. forces were chasing down the last organized groups of Taliban and al Qaida fighters in Afghanistan. Capt. Nelson Kraft’s troops fanned out across the Shahi Kowt Valley ... and found more bad guys than they were looking for. Mortar rounds, rifle fire and smoke bathed the battlefield. “We were fighting off, in my best estimate, 50 to 100 [enemy fighters] in the west, 50 to 100 in the east, and 50 to 100 to our north,” Kraft recalled. “They were popping in and out of the [ravines] and heading toward our position.” Read More
What’s the best weapon to protect America from terrorist attacks? Common sense. Just ask Peter King. The New York Republican chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. He thought the committee should look into radicalization among American Muslims. The theme of the hearing was nothing new. Last year, a committee in the Democrat-controlled Senate held one of its own. Read More
They called it “the victory on the Potomac.” And truly, the 1986 Department of Defense Reorganization Act transformed how the Pentagon worked.It elevated the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to greater status as “the” principal military adviser to the president, the National Security Council and the secretary of defense. It strengthened the authority of “combatant commanders” in the field. And, most consequentially of all, it established standards for “joint” professional development — the key to integrating the capabilities of the services. Read More
History rates as losers those leaders who fail to deal with big problems. Consider the Iranian Revolution. President Jimmy Carter fretted about the turmoil as protesters took to the streets of Tehran. Still, it was just one of many issues on his plate. Carter spent far more time on normalizing relations with China and arms talk with the Soviets. It’s tempting, then, to point at the Carter legacy and conclude that President Barack Obama needs to drop everything and focus laser-like on the Middle East, and most especially Iran, lest history tag him “loser.” Read More
Neda Agha-Soltan wanted freedom. For everyone. Many joined her in the streets of Tehran to protest Iran’s rigged presidential elections of 2009.
During one of those protests, on June 12, Neda took a bullet square in the chest. Bystanders’ cell phones captured the young woman’s collapse and recorded her bleeding out on the street.
Neda’s death went global. Uploaded to the Internet, the cell phone files became the video shot heard ’round the world. Read More
They didn’t call him “Tricky Dick” for nothing — and Melvin Laird knew it.The Wisconsin congressman knew what he was getting into when President Richard Nixon tabbed him as secretary of defense. Laird would have to wind down an unpopular war and thread the needle among a paranoid White House, a restive Congress and a powerhouse personality known as Henry Kissinger.Despite these obstacles, Laird excelled during his tenure at the Pentagon. Few have proved a better steward of our men and women in uniform during difficult conditions. Read More
It went from being just another country to a world power in just a few decades. The world’s leading manufacturer, it was also one of the great traders. It boded well for peace and stability, some said. The extensive trade ties and business connections reduced the likelihood of future war to all but nil. Until the first shot was fired. Read More
In 2008, monks in the Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama had suspicions that someone was reading their e-mail. For example, when they followed up on an e-mail request to meet with a diplomat, they would find that a Chinese representative had just called to discourage the get-together.There were other signs, too, that something was amiss. Confidential documents and sensitive information were leaked. Was there a spy in their ranks? Had someone cracked their computers? Read More
What makes nuclear deterrence work? That was the great strategic debate of the 20th century, as argued between two towering intellects from RAND.
In one corner loomed Herman Kahn. The rotund, flamboyant defense analyst insisted defensive capabilities were essential to establishing an effective deterrent. If you could fight and survive a nuclear conflict, your enemy would think twice before pushing the button. Read More
America’s only nuclear-powered commercial ship sits in Baltimore harbor. It has not sailed in decades and likely never will again. That is what happens when a president cannot make up his mind.
The NS Savannah was the flagship project for President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program, a public diplomacy blitz to convince the world that America was more interested in peace than war. The U.S. wanted to use its nuclear power for peaceful purposes, including a new generation of atom-powered merchant ships. Read More
Brooklyn native Vinny Viola seldom strayed from the Big Apple until he left for West Point. After soldiering with the 101st Airborne, he returned home, graduated from law school and went to work at NYMEX, the New York Merchantile Exchange.In 2001, he became the NYMEX chairman. His resolute leadership following 9/11 helped the exchange recover from the turmoil. Read More