The Future of America's Military

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin's story tonightabout Where American Standson military readiness is more than a startling account of what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the United States -- 5,300 dead, more than $1 trillion spent. It's a sobering look at what lies ahead.

David Martin Preview: Future of War

The Pentagon believes the world has entered a period of "persistent conflict." Besides Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been more than 50 ethnic wars and 170 border conflicts across the globe in the last decade, according to a report by the Center for New American Security.In addition, there's a crippling shortage of water and an exploding population -- an incredible 45% of Yemenis are under the age of 15. This is what the "potential for failure" looks like in Yemen and 90 other countries.

CBS Reports: Where America Stands

Eighteen years ago, the United States Marines went into another failing country -- Somalia -- to help deliver food in the midst of famine. I was embedded with the Marines when they landed on the beaches of Mogadishu. The starvation was terrible, shocking to see. I recall the smell of death that seemed everywhere in that country -- and the child who kissed my hand when I reached out to her. I still have my "Operation Restore Hope" t-shirt.

The Somalia mission -- which ended in disaster after the "Black Hawk Down" attack that killed 18 Americans -- was not my first time in a battle zone. But it was my first experience with what the talking-points crowd calls asymmetrical or unconventional war. American firepower and technology is handcuffed by a rag tag enemy which doesn't fight the way we want to them. You don't know where the next attack is coming from.

This is the type of war the U.S. military is trying to get soldiers ready for with the innovative techniques you will see in David Martin's story on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. For all its fancy technology, the Army says there is no better sensor than the soldier himself. The human eye can -- and does -- spot roadside bombs better than anything the scientists have come up with.

It is that ability to see danger the Army is trying to hone in the IED simulator David Martin experiences in his story tonight. It's not "cool video," as some people have already said. It's not a "ride." It's a serious attempt to save American lives. You have only to meet amputees at Walter Reed to know how important this work is.