Military In Crisis: Sexual Assault, Soldier Suicides and Excess Spending Rampant

Military In Crisis: Sexual Assault, Soldier Suicides and Excess Spending Rampant

Larry Wilkerson: Decline of US armed forces inevitable if systemic problems remain unaddressed -   August 14, 2013
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

Since I happily discovered TRNN, I have noticed the great strides it has made with having numerous reporters on the ground in important sites - Jennifer Humiston
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making."


Military In Crisis: Sexual Assault, Soldier Suicides and Excess Spending RampantJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. And welcome to this latest edition of The Wilkerson Report.

We're now joined by Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William & Mary, and a regular contributor to The Real News Network.

Thank you so much for joining us, Larry.

LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

NOOR: So, Larry, what do you have for us this week?

WILKERSON: I did an interview, an hour-long interview this morning for a group that projects what I say and what others, of course, say, too, out to their investors. And the subject was the Armed Forces of the United States, national security, and the future. And it ranged from looking at military contractors like Lockheed Martin, whether they're good investment risks or not, to the state of the Armed Forces themselves.

And when we got into that latter category, we had a very interesting discussion, because I divided it up into three areas, basically, one, professional what I call soul-destroying problems like sexual assault in the ranks, religious freedom, suicides, and so forth; a second category of immediate problems that are considerable, substantive problems, like withdrawal from Afghanistan, potential reentry in Iraq, where the civil war is getting worse each day, and also potential war, either by going into Syria to intervene or through Syria to Iran, with Israel leading the way or just the U.S; and then a third set of problems which the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, is confronting right now, and that is the strategic set of problems. Just what are the threats to the future? Is cyber warfare, for example, really more to be feared than a nuclear weapon? I happen to think it is. And how do we assess the threats of the future? And how do we in a very constrained economic environment, how do we build forces to counter those threats? And it was an interesting discussion we--as I said, we raised over a lot of issues.

NOOR: And what do you see as the possible outcomes? And is there a way out of this?

WILKERSON: Well, a problem with the first category is leadership. We had 26,000 sexual assaults last year in the Armed Forces and only 3 percent were prosecuted. That tells you something.

We need a whole new set of leaders in the Armed Forces, especially at the top. We need people who don't talk about zero tolerance, because that's nonsense. We need people who actually want to prosecute offenders.

You had a person on The Real News recently, Jennifer Norris. She's very persuasive. I understand where she's coming from. I just read a book, manuscript that'll be a book in November by Sarah Bloom, a Army nurse, who's documented over 200 cases of sexual abuse, all the way from Vietnam up to the present. And they're heartrending stories that you hear from these women. And I might add, too, that about 10 or 11 percent of the sexual assaults is male-on-male. So this isn't just sexual assaults on women, though that's the predominant category.

But it's got to be handled by the leadership. So the same thing with suicides. We're at some awful rate of 22 suicides a day. This is leadership. You've got to take this bull by the horns and you've got to do something about it. You can't just pontificate about it from on high in Washington and say you're concerned. These are issues that are going to tear the military apart if we're not careful. Same with withdrawal from Afghanistan. This is going to be a very expensive and dangerous enterprise. It looks as if we're going to leave the mess, just as we left in Iraq. The potential for intervention in Syria, and even more so for natural war with Iran, is substantive. This would be catastrophic for the Armed Forces as far as I'm concerned.

And then you've got the long-range issue of a strategic review. How do you build the forces for the future? How do you change them from their Cold War mentality, which they're clearly still in? How do you get out of the big debt carrier, the F-35, the Air Force-dominated bombing regime now turning swiftly to drones? How do you get out of this massive surveillance state that we're spending [inaud.] 20 years and counting [incompr.] I think he's a good man. I don't see a lot of headway being made on a lot of these issues.

So one of my interlocutors this morning said we have got to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. And what she meant by that was are we about to take the best economy in the world, built from 1945 on, and really take it apart and not be able to reassemble it? That's it good question. You certainly aren't going to have any Armed Forces if you don't have a sound, robust, and successful economy.

When you look at these problems down at the professional level, the soul-destroying level, all the way up to the strategic level, they're so huge and they're so substantial, and they're set against a background of economic demise, of economic duress that doesn't seem to be going away, not any time soon. And so trying to design an armed force that is essentially now still mired in the Cold War mentality, still on large debt carriers, filled with monopolistic military contractors, still with the opus of precision guidance and precision bombing, and now transmogrified into drones and so forth, and you're looking at a set of threats out there in the future that none of this addresses, really, you've got some real problems. Throw on top of that the fact that you don't have a robust economic engine, and that's the essential for a robust set of armed forces, and you have a significant challenge for the future. As I said, one of my interlocutors this morning used the metaphor of the people who killed the golden goose, you know, or the goose that laid the golden eggs. From 1945 to about 1972, we had the most productive economy in the world. Since 1972, we've been going steadily downhill. And today we're at a point where we need to resurrect that economy and have the kind of Armed Forces we need, or continue to let that economy go downhill and have no Armed Forces at all or of any consequence. And this is a huge, huge strategic problem confronting the secretary of defense and ultimately the American people right now. They don't seem to know it, but it is.

NOOR: Larry Wilkerson, thank you so much for joining us and giving us that really important insight.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me. Good luck with further fundraising.

NOOR: Thank you Larry.

Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


Latest Stories

Eddie Conway Talks Indigenous People's Day and Political Prisoners
Indigenous Peoples' History is More Complicated Than a Holiday Myth
Turkey's Intentions Behind the Downing of a Russian Jet
Policing on Trial as Freddie Gray Case Set to Begin
Is America Powerless to Stop Pfizer Merger?
The Unbreakable Spirit of Gilmor Homes
My Reports on 1995 Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain Ignored by State Department - John Kiriakou on Reality Asserts Itself (3/10)
Wilkerson: The Hypocrisy of U.S. Syria Policy (1/2)
"Being a Founding White Father Ain't What It Used To Be:" Student Protests on College Campuses
Days of Revolt: Militarizing Education
Historic Win for the Right in Argentina's National Election
How I Joined the CIA - John Kiriakou on Reality Asserts Itself (2/10)
Sanders Defines his Social Democracy
MD Among Lowest Number of Hate Crimes in the Nation
Report: The Population of Women in Prison Has Tripled Since the '90s
Native American Genocide & Survival with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
History Will Judge America on Syrian Refugee Crisis As "Shameful"
I Believed America Could Do No Wrong - John Kiriakou, Former CIA Official, on Reality Asserts Itself (1/10)
N Don't Stop - Brook Park + TBB on Rooftop Live
The Black Panthers: A Revolution In Review
What's Fueling Boko Haram Attacks in Nigeria?
Is Obama Walking Into COP21 With An Empty Hand?
Back to Square One, Obama Says Assad Must Go
Towson President Agrees to Students' Demands After Eight-Hour Occupation
The Pentagon and Bernie Sanders Agree: Terrorism Linked to Climate Change
"They Think They've Won"
Canadian PM Trudeau Halts Bombings in Syria, But Is It a Real Shift in Policy?
Between ISIS and Intervening Powers, Perpetual Conflict is Common Goal
Cancer-Causing Processed Meats Largely Affect Low Income Neighborhoods
Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting