By Alan W. Dowd
Duty, Honor, Country
According to the Pentagon, almost 31,000 of the troops who are defending us are not yet Americans. Instead, they are immigrants, who in a very real sense are fighting for their own freedom. These men and women represent a remarkable cohort of troops, as we were reminded on Veterans Day, when 80 Marines and sailors—hailing from 25 different countries as far away as Syria and as close to home as Canada—took the Oath of Citizenship in San Diego.
In 2002, President George W. Bush streamlined the naturalization process for immigrants serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. According to the American Forces Information Service, more than half of those eligible have requested expedited citizenship; and 8,000 have already become American citizens, about two dozen posthumously.
Two of those posthumous citizens are Jose Garibay and Jose Gutierrez, both killed in the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Writing on the eve of a war that would end his short life, Garibay concluded, “I want to defend the country I plan to become a citizen of.” Gutierrez said of the mission in Iraq, his last mission, “It’s my job. It’s also my duty.” Their stories were told by The Wall Street Journal.
It’s humbling to think that there are people willing to defend a country not yet their own. And it’s nothing short of amazing to live in a nation so unique that others will risk everything—their lives, their future, their home and health, their safety and security—to be a part of it.
The same people who created the revolutionary network of computer networks known as the Internet are in the midst of opening an entirely new stretch of cyberspace, one devoted exclusively to war. This multi-billion-dollar Pentagon project is officially known as the Global Information Grid, or GIG, and it promises to transform military operations in the decade ahead the same way the Internet transformed commerce and communication in the 1990s.
The idea behind the GIG is to enable U.S. forces and commanders to share and access information on military threats, opportunities, options and needs anywhere on earth. As The New York Times reported in a recent analysis, the result will be something like a “world wide web for wars,” where deployed troops can log on to gain a “God’s eye view” of the battle space. This next-generation of warfare will arm troops with the most important weapon of all—accurate information, delivered in real-time.
But the God’s eye view comes with a big price tag: $24 billion to build the infrastructure of secure connections over the next five years, with another $25 billion for new equipment to send and receive “GIGnet” data in the field, and billions more for encryption. Some estimates put the GIGnet’s total cost at $200 billion—a necessary and investment in national defense in the Information Age, according to key Pentagon proponents, who tell the Times that the world sits at the threshold of “a new theory of war.”
The Pentagon consortium formed to build the GIGnet is itself a metaphor for the changing nature of national defense. Old mainstays like Boeing, LockheedMartin, General Dynamics, NorthrupGrumman, Raytheon, and IBM are making room at the drawing board for New Economy firms like Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun.
You wouldn’t know it by watching the evening news, but peace is breaking out all over the world. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s 2004 Yearbook, there were just 19 major wars in 2003, as compared with 33 in 1991.
While nearly every continent is scarred by war, Asia bears the most scars, with eight distinct conflicts flaring. Even so, at 20,000, the number of people killed in war annually has fallen to its lowest level since the end of World War II.
Against the bloody and grisly backdrop of the last 80 years, this is good news. The loss of 20,000, while tragic, is a tiny fraction of the number devoured by war in recent decades, as the Associated Press detailed in a recent review. In fact, death tolls from wars in the 1990s ranged from 40,000 to 100,000 annually. The highest post-World War II toll came in 1951, when 700,000 people were killed in wars.
Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.