[FOUNTAIN]Military force should be the crux of reform

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[FOUNTAIN]Military force should be the crux of reform

In June 1982, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon. By August, Washington had deployed a Marine detachment to Beirut to oversee the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Upon completing the mission, the Marines stayed at the Beirut International Airport. The rules of engagement dictated that the Marines should carry unloaded rifles and could only load and fire if they were attacked. With their hands tied, the Marines in Beirut were continuously attacked by Lebanese guerrillas.
In order to investigate the reasons for the attacks, the U.S. Department of Defense launched a probe. The investigation committee paid attention to the complicated lines of command. For orders from the White House to reach the battalion commander in Beirut, five levels had to be cleared: orders were passed to the European commander, then to the navy commander in Europe, then to the 6th Fleet commander, to the Task Force 61 commander and then to the battalion commander. There was no senior officer responsible for security, and the chain of command had nothing to say about an offensive posture against guerrilla attacks.
On Oct. 23, 1983, an attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon resulted in over 200 Marine and Navy deaths, and the transportation of the injured became a problem. According to Charles M. Perry’s “Defense Reform, Modernization, and Military Cooperation in Southeastern Europe,” the U.S. armed forces debated where to send the injured soldiers and ended up transporting them to West Germany instead of a much closer naval hospital in Naples, Italy. Only two decades earlier, U.S. forces were not the organized and powerful armed forces they are today.
After the confusion after the attack, the effectiveness of cooperation among the military services was debated, and there were productive discussions regarding how to maximize military clout. Today, the U.S. military is unchallenged in the world.
After Yoon Kwang-ung became the new minister of defense, reform has become a buzzword in the armed forces here. But the focus seems to be on civilian control of the military. As the example of the United States shows, making the military more “civilian” is not the point of military reform. The point is how to maximize military capacity.


by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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