The Re-Hollowing of the Military
It comes as little surprise that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the last Cabinet holdover from the George W. Bush administration, is planning to step down next year. Most expected him to stick it out only through the year-end review of the Afghanistan-surge strategy. What’s noteworthy is his announcing this just days after ordering the closing of the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command and the dismissal of thousands of employees at its Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters, as well as hundreds of uniformed officers who are being forced out to pasture. That’s not going to engender good feelings inside the ring. In light of Gates’s announcement, we are offering readers a preview from our yet-to-be-released September issue: Arthur Herman’s “The Re-Hollowing of the Military.” In it, Herman takes a close look at what may prove to be the most notable and dangerous aspect of Gates’s legacy.
On May 3, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a speech at the Navy League in Washington to an audience of veterans, retired and current defense-industry executives, and supporters of the tradition of American naval power. Gates gave it to them. He told his audience that the time had come “to re-examine and question basic assumptions” about how their beloved Navy works, “in light of evolving technologies, new threats, and budget realities”—specifically, a federal deficit in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.
“Do we really need 11 Carrier Strike Groups for another 30 years,” Gates asked, “when no other country has more than one?” That seafaring strength is a source of pride for Navy League members, as is the United States’s having a navy second to none. The audience’s surprise at hearing the secretary of defense question the value of America’s overwhelming naval predominance as unnecessary soon turned to dismay. “We simply can’t afford to perpetuate a status quo,” Gates told his listeners. By “status quo,” he meant a navy that maintained 11 carriers, 57 submarines, and a battle fleet larger than the next 13 biggest national navies combined.
Five days later, at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, Gates delivered the next salvo in the Obama plan for reducing the size of the U.S. military. Evoking the memory of Ike as the progenitor of -smaller but “bigger bang for the buck” defense budgets in the 1950s, Gates preached the virtue of putting America’s military forces on a strict monetary diet. “The gusher” of defense spending after 9/11 is being “turned off,” he announced, “and will stay off for a good period of time.” Not only will the country be better off not having “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry,” he assured listeners, but the military itself will be. “I say the patriot today is the fellow who can do the job with less money,” Gates concluded.
Altogether, the Gates Pentagon has slated $300 billion to be axed, including $100 billion in the next five years through reduced overhead and cuts in low-priority programs. And as all this happens, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will grow to spend five federal dollars for every dollar spent on defense.
Tackling fat at the Pentagon is nothing new. Every president since Eisenhower has looked for a defense secretary who can do more with less by sweeping away costly and unnecessary programs, trimming the bureaucracy, and revamping an obsolete arsenal. John F. Kennedy had his Robert McNamara; Bill Clinton his Les Aspin; George W. Bush his Donald Rumsfeld. Nearly everyone expects that the winding down of Iraq and the lessons learned in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan will mean fundamental changes in both our force structure and defense budget.
But the Obama-Gates drawdown signals a more ominous trend—a unilateral shift away from maintaining an American military that is truly second to none toward something far more modest in size and scope. A peacetime drawdown, such as took place after World War II and after the Cold War, is entirely appropriate and to be expected. But imposing one while a war—not one war but two, actually—is ongoing is an innovation, and not a welcome one. For the danger it poses is that Gates’s effort to lay the foundation for a leaner military will instead lead to a permanently reduced U.S. strategic presence. If we follow this course, the U.S. military will be a force more like those of our European allies. Not in terms of capabilities; ours will certainly remain the most technologically advanced armed service in the West, since decades of shrinking budgets have seen the Europeans falling farther and farther behind. Rather, we will resemble Europe in the sense that our ability to project power will be substantially impaired.
It is clear that no one in the Obama administration has spent time thinking about what will happen following the conscious decision to do less. What frightened Gates’s Navy League audience wasn’t the loss of a carrier or two or a few weapons programs; that has happened before. Rather, it is the specter of a gradual American military eclipse.
Gates has been quick to assure audiences and Congress that his cuts won’t mean an end to a military second to none. But in 2009, he began floating the idea that it was time to abandon the “two-war standard,” the long-standing assumption that the Pentagon budget must be large enough to allow the U.S. armed forces to wage hostilities in two Major Regional Conflicts at once. Gates says that such an assumption is “too confining,” even though fighting two wars at once has been the modern American historical norm.
Then came news that he was limiting the production of the F-22 Raptor advanced fighter program to 186 planes and was canceling the plan to ditch the first engine for the multi-purpose Joint Strike Fighter F-35 Lightning aircraft in favor of a superior new model. He did this despite fierce congressional resistance, citing “reams of expert analysis” and service opposition to the second engine. This was somewhat disingenuous on Gates’s part, given that he well knew that Air Force -officials had opposed it largely because they feared money diverted to the GE–Rolls Royce alternative to the original Pratt and Whitney design would restrict the amount of money needed to finish the F-35 as a whole.
This February also saw the unveiling of the Pentagon’s four-year Quadrennial Defense Review, a formal statement of the new Gates view. The “two-war scenario” was officially out. So were large and unwieldy conventional forces. The era of relying on the Abrams tank, the B-52, and carriers like the USS Eisenhower to defend American interests was coming to an end. In their place would be a smaller, swifter, and more flexible force, able to perform a range of operations, from protecting the homeland “in cooperation with domestic agencies” to executing counterinsurgencies and humanitarian missions.
It would also be ready to deny rogue nations access to nuclear weapons and terrorists access to secure bases, thanks to unmanned drone planes, Special Ops teams, precision-guided “smart” weapons, Stealth fighters, and bombers—all backed by a phalanx of intelligence analysts and cybersecurity experts.
Obama’s commencement address at West Point provided a revealing counterpoint to Gates’s reassurances that budget cuts won’t mean a diminished American military. The president offered West Point’s graduates a future in which “combating a changing climate” would be as important as killing terrorists in Afghanistan, and helping Third World peoples feed themselves and achieve their “universal rights” would matter as much as halting nuclear proliferation. The president made it clear that there is no place in his military for those who “like fighting for fighting’s sake”—or those who see American armed might as a way to confront immediate geopolitical threats.
One might say that in Obama’s strategic vision, the most important instrument of American power will no longer be the Nimitz-class carrier or the nuclear submarine but a food-laden Chinook helicopter backed furtively by a Predator drone guided by a soldier with a joystick hundreds of miles away.
In a world in which the use of conventional armed force is no longer the last resort but instead an almost unimaginable option (unless the law of inertia is involved, as it was in Obama’s decision to continue in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s no wonder that the Pentagon’s fleets of warships, tanks, fighters, and bombers have come to seem an expensive luxury—not to mention this nation’s overwhelming nuclear arsenal. Obama foresees a steadily shrinking role for American military force, and Gates finds himself cast as the man to make it happen.
It is a role he has played before, with questionable results, to put it mildly.
Nearly 20 years ago, when the first George Bush was president, Gates was given the job of CIA director in order to clear the agency’s post–Cold War decks. In 1991, Gates issued National Security Review No. 79, which foresaw a major shift in America’s intelligence priorities away from “traditional” geopolitical targets like Russia and toward nuclear proliferators and those who would spread chemical and biological weapons; halting narcotics trafficking and terrorism; and dealing with issues of world trade and economic espionage. Gates’s plan for implementing these changes involved a bureaucratic restructuring at the top to facilitate “transparency” and congressional oversight, followed by targeted cuts at the bottom, especially in the CIA’s outlying stations and agents.
In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, Gates’s strategy seemed to make sense. At the time, as CIA historian Tim Weiner has noted, “everyone thought the CIA would be smarter if it were smaller.” Under Gates’s aegis, in 1991, the CIA budget went down for the first time in more than a decade. It continued to fall for the next six years. Twenty CIA stations overseas were closed, and some of the larger ones in major capitals shrank by 60 percent. Gates had managed to squeeze out a peace dividend from the CIA.
The result, however, was a growing bureaucratic stagnation at the top and an alarming inability to gather and analyze even basic intelligence (including the existence of a major Russian spy, Aldrich Ames, within the agency itself). The problems multiplied in the Clinton years. The intelligence failures that led to 9/11 were the result.
“Tensions rising as budget pinches,” Gates noted in his work diary at the time. Those same tensions are now rising at the Pentagon. Gates is setting in motion a scramble to get rid of what we have now in order to create room for what’s to come. The result is supposed to be a leaner but more fully ready and versatile force. But what if we end up not with something better but—as with the CIA in the 90s—a calamity waiting to happen?
Gates’s challenge is to present a shrinking budget as good news for military preparedness and efficiency. This means relying on, and appealing to, three key assumptions concerning our current defense establishment and its strategic posture vis à vis the rest of the world. Each contains an element of truth. But each can also point us in the wrong direction for future defense policy.
The first is that our forces, and especially our nuclear arsenal, are so clearly oversized relative to the rest of the world that reduction can’t hurt.
This has been a standard view for years on the left, which likes to point out that the United States spends nearly half (46 percent) of the world’s total expenditure on arms and weapons. Gates has given those critics credence by saying things like, “Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined?”
It is certainly true that when one adds in supplemental outlays for both Iran and Afghanistan, defense expenditure for fiscal year 2010 is a whopping $685.1 billion, up 3 percent from 2009. Obama may well prove to be the president who will spend more absolute dollars on defense than any since World War II. A budget this size certainly looks like it could use a trim.
But these raw numbers are misleading. The Iraq-Afghanistan supplements were subtractions from, not additions to, America’s spending on its basic force readiness—which is why the Bush administration insisted on keeping them segregated from the Pentagon budget. While military personnel costs for FY 2010 are up 5 percent in the new budget, weapons procurement—the lifeblood of any plan to modernize the military—is down nearly 2 percent. As a percentage of total federal outlays, the Pentagon is headed from a current rate of 19 percent (about the same as during the Clinton years) to 15.6 percent by 2015. That’s almost as low as before 9/11.
We may indeed, as Gates notes, have a fleet 13 times the size of that of the rest of the world’s navies. But that number is a calculation of “total tonnage displacement,” a technical measure—not the actual number of ships or submarines. That count is currently 286 ships, sharply below the 313 the Navy itself set just a few years ago as the absolute minimum needed to provide its most important role: keeping open and protecting the world’s sea lanes and the so-called Global Commons.
At the core of that global mission are the Navy’s carrier strike groups, which patrol the waters adjoining the U.S. military’s five area commands, from the Middle East to Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere. The Obama Pentagon has already reduced the number of carriers from 11 to 10, even when we probably need at least 12 and as many as 15 to fulfill our commitments. Of course, the Pentagon does plan to acquire new carriers as the old ones retire from service—six, in fact. But these will be less than half the size of today’s Nimitz class, with fewer planes and smaller capabilities, while the 100,000-ton Gerald Ford class—the original Nimitz replacement—will be terminated after only one is built.
Likewise, out of an Air Force of 3,200 tactical aircraft, only 150 represent the next generation of air—supremacy fighters—the F-22 Raptor—and the final number of those is being frozen at 186. Meanwhile, China is building its own version of that advanced fighter, with no self-imposed limits on its numbers.
Finally, we do have an abnormally large nuclear-weapons arsenal relative to the rest of the world: more than 5,100 warheads. Even after the cuts imposed by the new START treaty, we will still keep 420 ICBMs, 14 submarines carrying up to 240 nuclear ballistic missiles, and 60 nuclear-capable B-52 bombers. But all these are aging and in need of both upgrading and repair—not to mention replacement by smaller, more efficient, and more accurate warheads. But the Obama administration has ruled out developing any new nuclear weapons and has pledged barely $8 billion a year to “sustain and modernize” the existing arsenal. That’s hardly more than the Education Department gives the states each year for teacher-training programs.
Nor has there been serious analysis from the Pentagon of what higher strategic price we might pay for shrinking our nuclear arsenal. During the Cold War, America’s overwhelming nuclear strength not only made all-out war with the USSR unimaginable; it also prevented regional conflicts like Korea and Vietnam from escalating into hot clashes between the world’s biggest nuclear powers. No one can say how our decline as a nuclear behemoth will affect the dynamic of our long-term dealings with China and Russia, especially when they have learned that we are prepared to throw away our greatest advantage in the nuclear sweepstakes—our missile defense—at the stroke of a treaty pen, while rogue nations like North Korea and Iran are allowed to continue their nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs unchecked.
In the end, it’s not the size of a military budget that matters but whether it’s headed toward growing capabilities and deterrence or shrinking them. China’s military budget may still be a fraction of ours, but it has seen a tenfold increase since 1989—and China systematically understates its official defense-spending numbers. Its current military spending is not primarily aimed at us but at enhancing Chinese hegemony—an understandable aim. To that end, it’s not shy about spending that money on those same conventional assets, which Gates denigrated when he spoke before the Navy League, like nuclear submarines, advanced tactical fighters, and even two new aircraft carriers ready for 2015. Nor are the Chinese shy about building up arsenals of anti-ship and anti-satellite missiles that can neutralize the U.S.’s advantage in those same areas. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been doing much the same as it works to resuscitate its once-vaunted surface and submarine fleets into a global force again and buying new, advanced technologies from our NATO allies.
Big armies and navies aren’t necessarily good armies and navies, but they do provide more deterrence than steadily diminishing ones. Both China and Russia understand this elementary point, even if the current Pentagon does not. Indeed, China’s recent military-spending patterns provide a useful perspective on where the global military future is headed—and it’s not toward shrinking defense budgets or scrapping conventional arsenals.
This touches on the second assumption behind downsizing: our force structure is still so top heavy with weapons made for the Cold War and its outmoded strategies that it needs a radical overhaul.
In fact, the shrinkage of the 1990s disposed of most of those Cold War assets. The U.S. slashed existing forces and their state of readiness—then, as now, in the name of strategic re-evaluation and force restructuring. As defense spending declined by nearly one-third from 1990 to 1998, the Army shrank from 18 to 10 divisions; the Navy went from 508 to 348 ships; and the Air Force declined from 24 active and 12 reserve wings to 13 and seven, respectively. Active-duty personnel were cut by 700,000, and weapons purchases by one-third.
These cuts were not of weapons and programs designed simply to stop the Soviet juggernaut in Germany. The Cold War had been a global conflict, and over the decades the United States had developed an array of capabilities and weapons, from carriers and anti-tank attack helicopters to amphibious landing ships and nuclear-powered attack submarines, aimed at stabilizing even remote parts of the world against the Soviet threat or that of its allies.
The disappearance of the Soviet Union did not end that mission; on the contrary, it made the issue of stabilization more vital than ever. Instead of redistributing the weight of deterrence, however, the Clinton administration decided to cash in those resources for their peace-dividend value. These cuts cost the United States its proactive advantage in deterring aggression or eliminating a threat. Clinton’s first secretary of defense, former representative Les Aspin, argued that the cuts still left enough force for the United States to respond to at least two threats at once—even if those threats came at opposite ends of the globe. But the margin for error was razor-thin. And to everyone’s surprise, America’s declining power of deterrence actually led to more missions for our military rather than to fewer. It was no coincidence that the shrinkage of the American military by land, sea, and air in the early 1990s was followed by the growth of an unstable post–Cold War world, from the Balkans to Rwanda, and from Somalia to Afghanistan.
The military in the Clinton years found itself dangerously stretched between missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, maintaining a no-fly zone over Iraq, and keeping watch over China’s threatening moves in the Taiwan Straits. When war in Afghanistan and Iraq came, that stretch reached the breaking point.
In this sense, the “gusher” of defense spending of the Bush years, when defense budgets surged by 45 percent between 2000 and 2010, was no gusher at all. It was an effort to make up for the ground lost in the 90s. Bush did manage to restore defense spending to 3.5 percent of GDP—still a historic low—after it had fallen to just 3 percent under Clinton. Yet much of that spending by necessity went more toward fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of restoring the eroded and eroding strategic balance.
Donald Rumsfeld dubbed this correction “military transformation.” That program, much maligned by critics later, underlay most of the reforms and programs implemented during Rumsfeld’s tenure at the Pentagon from 2001 to 2006. The goal of Transformation was not just to catch up to where we had been before but also to leapfrog ahead with new technologies, logistics and information systems, and new strategic thinking as well.
But how and where to concentrate that effort bedeviled the Rumsfeld years and has given rise to the debate underlying the third assumption of the Obama-Gates approach, namely, that the weapons we have are unsuited to the conflicts to come, and even vulnerable to countermeasures by possible future adversaries large and small.
This refers to irregular or unconventional threats like terrorism and Islamicist insurgencies and the challenge of cyberwar and ballistic missiles, against which a large conventional military would seem ill-matched. The Cold War forced us to put our defense dollars into myriads of carriers, planes, tanks, field artillery, and strategic bombers like the B–2. The argument runs that while it may be wise to keep some conventional deterrence in the piggy bank for a rainy day, this old capital stock has become less relevant as the probability of conventional force-on-force conflicts sinks out of sight. Indeed, the danger is that it will become a financial black hole, swallowing up money that should be invested in fresh, more viable military “start-ups” like robotics and cyberwarfare. It would be “a serious mistake” to reinforce the force that can deal with Now at the expense of creating one that’s ready for What’s Next.
And What’s Next, it appears, is an ever-expanding universe of unconventional warfare and low–intensity conflicts, from terrorist attacks to Third World insurgencies. In the larger strategic picture, it’s also one where relatively cheap but deadly accurate anti-ship, cruise, and ballistic missiles will allow not only big powers like China and Russia but also third-rate ones like Iran and Syria (or even terrorist bands like Hezbollah) to threaten our aircraft carriers off the Taiwan coast or in the Persian Gulf, and where electronic anti-satellite warfare and cyberattacks can, at minimal expense, deny us command and control of those same forces.
“In an environment characterized by limited resources,” writes the military scholar Andrew Krepinevich, a favorite of Gates’s, “taking a different approach to defense investments typically involves cutting back in some areas so that others can be better resourced.” Such a future by necessity means fewer carriers, B-52s, and Littoral Combat Ships, and more SEAL teams, drones, Stealth fighters, and bombers—plus a healthy investment in cyber and electronic measures to keep our net-linked forces safe.
It is true that we have an American military that is overstretched and in desperate need of refitting and relief. But it is also an American military with a wider range of capabilities than ever, with more experience in a variety of -theaters of operations and types of missions than any military in the world.
Whatever else may be said of Bush and Rumsfeld, the fact is they built a military establishment that is the best-trained, the most versatile, and the most mission-savvy in American history, one that secured victory in Iraq and has been fighting in Afghanistan for nine years—and was still able to escalate its efforts on a shrinking budget rather than a growing one.
It’s hard to think of any other military in world history that is trained and equipped to fight irregular insurgencies at the same time as conventional force-on-force conflicts; that can conduct amphibious landings and humanitarian missions simultaneously from the same platforms; that leave a “footprint” as heavy as the occupation of Iraq or as light as a Navy SEAL raid or a Predator-drone strike; and to top it all, that has put together a missile–defense program that has turned the Cold War fantasy of shooting down a nuclear-armed ballistic missile into a 21st-century reality. Critics like Krepinevich correctly argue that we need to pursue a strategy that gets our armed forces ready to leapfrog to What’s Next. One could respond that we’re already there.
Of course, this is not an invitation to complacency. There are several areas where some serious new investment is needed, such as cyberwarfare and robotics (the Chinese are currently working on their own -robotic unmanned platforms that are based on models more sophisticated than ours). There’s a strong need to find a way to spend the dollars invested in military-personnel costs, especially health-care costs, more wisely.
The key word is invest. One can spend a defense dollar only once. That has certainly been true in Iraq and Afghanistan, where money that should have gone to modernizing our forces and achieving the next level of readiness flowed into combat operations instead. The proper corrective is not spending less but, with wisdom and prudence, spending more.
Indeed, from a historical perspective and contrary to conventional wisdom, today’s Pentagon is sharply underfunded, both in terms of its share of the federal budget and in terms of the economy.
Spending currently hovers just below 4 percent of GDP—compared with 6 percent during the Reagan buildup of the 80s and even 4.7 percent during the supposedly pacifist Carter years. As for the defense budgets that Gates professes to admire most, the Eisenhower budgets of the post-Korea years averaged 10 percent of GDP, which means current spending should be at least twice what it is today.
Spending on that scale would constitute not just a military renaissance but also a powerful -economic shot in the arm—while still remaining competitive with Obama’s own billion-dollar economic-stimulus package of last year. Indeed, historically, increased defense spending has been a powerful economic stimulus: most famously during World War II but also during the Reagan years. As analysts Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly point out, defense dollars also get spent the year they are -appropriated—a key advantage over the “slow drip” approach of the current Obama stimulus.
Expanding programs like the F-22 Raptor fighter or even the F-18A Super Hornet would mean immediate jobs for an industry that includes some 30,000 companies in 50 states. By at least one calculation, just a 5 percent boost in operations and maintenance could create as many as 300,000 new jobs. Conversely, Schmitt and Donnelly point out that the Obama-Gates plan to shut down the Raptor program will mean terminating the 25,000 workers exclusively committed to that program, and another 50,000-75,000 in the subcontractor and supplier base that support it. Hence, there are powerful economic as well as strategic reasons for increasing—or certainly not cutting back—America’s defense spending, at a cost (Schmitt and Donnelly calculate) of barely one nickel per dollar of GDP. Yet Gates’s instinct, as his time at the CIA shows, is just the opposite.
It is an obvious truism to note, as Andrew Krepinevich does, that “increased levels of procurement funding do not necessarily yield a corresponding boost in military effectiveness.” Yet the current Gates-Obama policy is clearly running in the opposite direction.
Krepinevich himself has reinforced the desire for cuts by arguing that in an age of strategic uncertainty, the Pentagon needs a “hedging strategy” to avoid being locked into either expensive old-style conventional forces or in new technologies that look promising but turn out to be dead ends. Spread the money stream as thin as possible, in other words. A cautious approach, certainly, but also one that can easily be used to justify keeping the stream thin as well.
Former Carter defense official Ashton Carter has been even more emphatic, insisting that increased defense spending can pose an actual danger to national security. Too much money in the Pentagon erodes the discipline of matching means and ends, Carter has postulated. It leads to too much “capabilities-based” planning (seen as a major sin of the Bush-Rumsfeld years) and bulking up “what we have instead of asking what we need.”
According to this fascinating argument, the more we cut, the safer we should all feel. Gates likes that argument. He has made Ashton Carter his undersecretary for acquisition and procurement.
Gates himself expresses the same point a little differently: “We have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3-6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers”—or on the host of other weapons programs that have sustained American power in recent decades.
Yet here Gates and the Pentagon find themselves in a painful dilemma. Their ultimate goal is to modernize our forces so that we can avoid spending more money: but every modernizing solution requires spending more, not less. For example, both Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that a future of fighting unconventional low-intensity conflicts and battling small but deadly bands of Third World insurgents is not going to be less costly than building and maintaining conventional arsenals.
An F-35 fighter or B-2 Stealth bomber comes at a staggeringly high price tag—but its use brings more immediate results. Waging a counterinsurgency may not require such expensive weapons, but it does mean fighting along a much longer timeline, with massive sums set aside for nation-building and civilian-assistance programs—not to mention the political blowback from a public weary of seemingly endless wars and overseas commitments, and envious international opinion determined to undercut the tools of American hegemony.
Nor will relying on robots help. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles like Predator drones are relatively cheap compared with their manned counterparts; so, too, will be future generations of unmanned submarines and fighting vehicles. But the development of these technologies is and will be both time-consuming and expensive, especially the more sophisticated versions, which will eventually replace human agents like pilots or drivers with fully automated functions. Although the basic technologies exist, don’t look for a robot-controlled destroyer or nuclear submarine or tactical fighter anytime soon. The overall research-and-development costs are going to make those $11 billion aircraft carriers look like bargains.
The dilemma, then, is that no shrinking defense budget will ever be able to modernize our military or maintain force readiness, let alone fight a war—no matter how prudent and careful the number crunchers may be (and Gates is hiring another 30,000 of them, to audit defense contracts).
In the end, there remains only one alternative: to shrink the mission. If you want to see the results of a shrinking CIA budget and mission, visit lower Manhattan. What might follow from Gates’s career-capping years at the Obama Pentagon could make Ground Zero look like a war game.