Friday, January 7, 2011

Defending ourselves or projecting American power?

I read this morning a tweet from Ambassador John Bolton, a brilliant national security guy and someone with a great understanding of foreign affairs. As expected he was less than pleased with the proposed defense cuts put out by Secretary of Defense Gates this week, saying in his tweet that these cuts would make the U.S. “less secure and able to defend itself”.

With all due respect (and I do deeply respect Mr. Bolton), I have to raise my hand and ask: in what way?

Who is a threat to the U.S. that these cuts would make us less able to defend ourselves, keeping in mind that the U.S. itself has not been attacked directly since Pearl Harbor, an attack that took place almost seventy years ago and was directed at a distant island from the mainland. Who exactly is threatening the United States militarily?

The Russians are not a threat to us.

The British are our closest allies and frankly not a threat either even if they were miffed at us.

Japan doesn’t really have a military.

France? The French military is only a threat to French freedom.

Germany is a military shadow of its former self and the whole world is happy about that.

China? Maybe a minor threat but the Chinese and the U.S. have such a symbiotic economic relationship that open warfare would destroy the Chinese economy. Each year that goes by makes it less likely that China will try to reunify Taiwan by force.

North Korea? They are a threat to start a war on the Korean peninsula but we already have a ton of forces in the area and such superiority in technology that a fight with the U.S. and South Koreans would be the end of that regime. The Chinese, for reasons above, are not going to bail them out like they did in the 50’s.

India is an economic partner and no threat to us militarily.

Iran? I think their armed forces would collapse faster than the Iraqis and one Persian Gulf liberation is our quota methinks.

Am I missing anyone? Lichtenstein? Madagascar?

Our biggest threat is terrorism and not a large scale pitched battle between multiple huge armies. I have come to two conclusions:

1. The U.S. military is designed to fight a war that we will likely never get into again. The world has changed dramatically and the mission of the U.S. military has likewise changed but we still build to fight some amorphous national military that doesn’t exist.

2. The military budget is the Republican version of liberal big government spending, a way for Republicans to spend tax dollars which is how politicians get and keep power but do so in a way palatable to Middle America and many conservatives.

Our military is designed less to protect America and more to project power around the world. I pointed out in a previous post that the United States superiority in aircraft carriers is overwhelming to the point of being ridiculous. We also have around 18 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines tooling around with a cargo of nuclear missiles that have been in place for around 30 years and are now prepared to launch their 20+ nuclear missiles at…who? We have between 2500 and 5000 nuclear warheads on hand, weapons that we haven’t used since we dropped two atomic weapons on Japan in 1945. As near as I can tell we haven’t even test fired one in almost twenty years. Yet there they sit in nondescript launch sites across the Great Plains, watched over by men who know they will never be used and maintained at enormous expense. Do we need 5000 warheads to cow a potential attacker (as if our incredible military might is not deterrent enough)? Might 1000 be enough given that even 250 warheads could probably snuff out most human life in Europe in the blink of an eye with plenty left over?

Like I said earlier, I find it increasingly odd that so-called “conservatives” wish to rubber stamp an infinite amount of military spending to fund an enormous standing military that I think would have shocked the sainted Founding Fathers. We simply cannot afford to maintain a military that can fight every war, deter every madman and keep every peace at a cost of hundreds of billions a year.

Here is the dirty truth of military spending, and really all government spending. What is being proposed is not a “cut”, it is merely not an increase. From the Wall Street Journal….

The projected five-year budget outlined by Mr. Gates doesn't include an actual decrease in the military budget. But it will stop growing by 2015. With salaries, health-care and fuel costs climbing every year, the Pentagon needs a 2% to 3% annual budget increase to avoid making cuts in programs.

So what is being proposed is just a halt to the ever increasing appetite for military spending. That will result in a decrease in personnel, some 69,000 in the Army and Marines, which is a reduction of about 9% from our current levels of 772,000 servicemen and women. The Iraqis want us out and we are probably going to oblige. Afghanistan is increasingly unpopular and it doesn’t seem like the government in place is ever going to be able to support itself. It actually appears that the situation has deteriorated militarily and diplomatically.

It is high time that “conservatives” who favor small government admit that our military spending is out of control and has been for some time. There is no credible major military threat to the United States or our territories. We have such a superiority in military firepower that any nation going to war against the U.S. would be like a middle school girls basketball team taking on the Miami Heat. We spend close to a trillion dollars on the military each year, much of it to defend the world that doesn’t bother to thank us much less chip in for the costs. We can make do with 600,000 men and women in uniform. We can do without the latest generation of landing craft that will never get used. We don’t need a two to one advantage in aircraft carriers against the entire combined navies of the rest of the world. We really don’t need thousands of nuclear warheads to provide a credible deterrence. One thousand warheads per continent (not counting our own or Antartica!) is a little excessive. Let the rest of the world pay for some of the military costs of deterring lunatics and despots. It is time for conservatives to get serious about smaller government even when that includes lower defense spending.
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