Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales said America is like a $2 trillion hammer that keeps looking for a nail.
"We are looking for an enemy worthy of our weapons," he said.
Scales served in the army for more than 30 years and during three wars, and is now a military analyst and a published authority on contemporary and future warfare.
At the final Seminars at Steamboat Tuesday night, Scales belabored the point that the war in Iraq can only be won with empathy and cultural competency, not with technology.
"The process of educating our young men and women to be empathetic is the most effective weapon," he said. "It's a matter of national importance that we get better at perspective shaping."
America is fighting a dispersed war that will be a long and costly one, but we are not spending our money wisely, he said.
"We have more first-line fighter aircraft that cost between $30 million to $350 million, than we have infantry squads of 11 people that cost between $9,000 to $110,000," Scales said. "If this war is going to be won or lost, we need to shift our resources."
The most precious commodity of war is time.
"Time is a function of initiative and whoever controls the initiative will win," Scales said. "America is better at fighting short wars than long wars."
Scales learned more about being a soldier from his receiving his Ph.D. in history than in combat because he learned how to think, not what to think, he said..
"At the end of the day, war is a thinking man's game," Scales said. "War has become so complex and demanding that it is no longer a young man's war."
He said he thinks we can learn how to mitigate the horror of war, but can never stop it. And it is imperative that we support our soldiers.
"You have no idea how hard it is for a Marine to kiss his wife goodbye and go back to Iraq for the fifth time," Scales said. "One Marine coming back from war said, 'We marched off to the war and America went to the mall.'"
There have been 1.2 million soldiers and Marines rotated through Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years.
"We just need to pay them enough to stay and spend the money to have them properly equipped and trained," Scales said. "Let's pull up our socks, readjust our strategy and get it right."