The Heritage Foundation is out with its Quadrennial Defense Review (every 4 years). The conclusion?
Overall, the Index concludes that the current U.S. military force is adequate to meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities. Clearly, this is what the military is doing now and has done for the past two decades, but it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two, near-simultaneous major regional contingencies. The consistent decline in funding and the consequent shrinking of the force are putting it under significant pressure. Essential maintenance is being deferred; fewer units (mostly the Navy’s platforms and the Special Operations Forces community) are being cycled through operation-al deployments more often and for longer periods; and old equipment is being extended while programmed replacements are problematic. The cumulative effect of such factors has resulted in a U.S. military that is marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.
The U.S. military is inadequate? Shocked? Of course not. This review contains no surprises at all. That’s not to disparage the work done by Heritage, just to point out what should be obvious to even a casual observer. To wit, Spellchek posted on this subject last month.
USSOCOM is the current, and for the foreseeable future, go to defense force protecting America and its interests. Both the budget and the role of the traditional forces are in decline. The time of deploying a national defense capable of fighting two major wars at once are gone. The Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force are an outdated model more suited for repelling invasions or conducting occupational wars abroad, neither of which appear to be likely in the future. No, they won’t be disbanded anytime soon, but their role will increasingly modified to become more of a support role rather than the primary role they’ve been accustomed to for so many years.
We’re now several years in to the Obama Administration’s announced intention to ‘pivot’ our defense priorities toward the Asia-Pacific region. So far that has meant little in actual logistics. Rather it has been an effort to do what the President loves to do most, change the wording and appearance of U.S. policy. Results don’t really matter. Intentions do. Whether it is closing Gitmo, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or anything else tied to the Bush Administration, Obama likes to make grandiose announcements of what he believes America should prioritize rather than what global events dictate.
ISIS wasn’t anywhere on the world’s radar when Obama announced his pivot. You could say that is a shortcoming of the many think tanks that heavily influence national defense. Their priorities are driven by the military-industrial-corporate complex. They do a poor job of factoring in the power vacuum left behind from our various incursions to destabilize foreign regimes that allows committed groups such as ISIS to spring up out of relative obscurity and quickly become a regional factor.
To be fair, that’s about as accurate as predicting the weather. When you practice proxy wars by supplying munitions, sometimes to both sides at one point or another, financial payoffs, and diplomatic pressure to influence outcomes you always run the risk of unpredictable fallout. Egypt, Libya and Syria are prime examples.
This is why I weighed in the changing face of our national defense priorities. Maintaining a military capable of fighting two wars simultaneously is outdated as it is an extremely unlikely event. In context, that means defending the homeland. Defending our interests abroad is entirely different. As described by USSOCOM, we are involved in activities defending our interests in dozens of countries each and every day.
Defense hawks will always promote the idea that we need to maintain a very large military as readiness is very profitable. What if the Chinese million man army marches on Washington tomorrow? Never happen. It wouldn’t go down like that if China ever did feel its oats and decide to test the waters. No navy in the world has anywhere near the capacity to quickly transport an invasion force of such large numbers of troops and modern warfare technology invalidates it as a viable option anyway.
Notice what you don’t see these think tanks spending their resources reviewing? Measuring the success of securing national interests abroad after decades of interventionist policies. Can anyone say with a straight face it has resulted in stabilizing the threat against our interests? Does it cloud perception by utilizing force to secure our economic and diplomatic interests?
In fact, there is a call to change that perception, at least within an administration. To no longer conduct covert ops which come at a high cost in public relations, foreign relations and our ability to command respect separately outside of diplomacy and economically. It’s one of those things where everyone knows we do what we do even if we go to great pains to camouflage it. The Brookings Institute, generally considered a left-wing think tank, weighs in.
The idea was to reinvigorate attention paid to the Asia-Pacific region afterenormous focus on—for obvious reasons after 9/11—Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terror. And recognizing that the Asia-Pacific is by far and away the most dynamic region in the world, U.S. interests require that we enhance our engagement there and certainly not be seen as neglecting the region for other priorities.
This required conceptualizing and implementing an Asian-wide integrated strategy. In other words, integrating economic, military and diplomatic components of strategy, not separately toward Northeast Asia, China and Southeast Asia, but having an integrated approach to the entire region.
This wouldn’t mean an end to covert conducting foreign policy. It just means to attempt to integrate our various behemoth agencies better from within in an effort to achieve more focused results.
So to answer my own question, there is no thought to assess the results we’ve achieved, only to figure out how to grow the behemoth from within. Oh, and to be clear as Obama likes to say, I’m certainly not endorsing the perception tactics he prefers in which we should just be nice to the bad guys and they won’t be bad anymore. Instead, I’m asking the impossible. Assess the results of where we are now.
What am I saying? What if we had taken a different route the last 75 years? What if we had taken on foreign threats directly as they cropped up? What if we stop trying to export democracy? What if we simply annihilate our foreign threats as you should do in a war scenario and stop the massive expense of nation building? That’s not an isolationist policy. However, it also flies in the face of the goals of the military-industrial-corporate complex. Profits.
Do you think we’d have an issue with respect in the world? Do you think we’d have an issue of small time dictators feeling empowered to threaten us? Do you think entities such as OPEC would have the ability to neuter our economy?
In other words what we should have done all along is kick ass anywhere in the world quickly and efficiently. Stay out of organizations such as the U.N. and N.A.T.O., trade pacts such as NAFTA or the upcoming T.P.P and T.A.P., or anything that serves a different agenda other than ours. We had the world’s largest economy. The world’s best military. The world’s best Constitution. We had nowhere to go but down apparently.
I contend that we would be far safer today. We would not be beholden to foreign nations or special interests. We would not have to maintain a military presence in every corner of the globe because everyone would know through actions, not threats, that we could not be messed with. I’ll bet we would have done it far cheaper and with far less bloodshed than the path we chose. We let the elites and the profiteers take over and decide America’s role in the world. We squandered the rarest of chances, one that won’t likely present itself ever again.