Barack Obama spoke at the Pentagon yesterday concerning a major downsizing of the U.S. military. Flanked by Leon Panetta, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Obama spoke about cuts to military budget and changes to our overall military strategy. Facing almost $500 Billion dollars in spending cuts over the next ten years, drastic reductions in our forces are coming. Obama is tossing out 70 years of doctrine which recognizes that we need a military capable of fighting a Two-Ocean War. While he says we will maintain our treaty commitments to NATO in Europe, future emphasis will be in focusing on just Asia and the Pacific.
Now, before you roll your eyes and think that I am just going to beat up on Obama, I will point out that he is actually basing his plan on one floated by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 with the approval of then President George W. Bush. Those of you old enough to remember will recall that Bush choose Rumsfeld specifically for the purposes of taking a hard look at our military force structure and adjusting it for the current situation. Critics of Rumsfeld will cite the small footprint we initially used in Afghanistan and even later when we invaded Iraq.
A major argument that Obama and his administration is resting upon is that the era of the large ′Land War′ is over. We no longer have to worry about 50,000 Russian tanks rolling through the Fulda Gap in Germany. As unlikely as it seems, it should be noted that the Russians still have those 50,000 tanks. They never throw anything away. There are still massive parking lots packed with T-55 and T-62 tanks.
But in the last dozen years, the art of warfare has been changing. The development of GPS-guided munitions has radically changed our offensive capabilities since Gulf War I. In many respects, nuclear weapons are now obsolete, even in their role as deterrence. While using a nuke as in a counter-force mission in an extreme case is still a remote option, most of the bad guys with a brain are more worried today about a smart bomb or missile that can be deployed miles away and hit them within three feet. With the age of flying attack drones, risking a pilot on a dangerous mission ′Downtown′ is no longer a concern.
Most of the Pentagon′s budget goes to paying the troops and providing benefits and services. That s the real fly in the ointment which the Obama administration must deal with. As a nation, we′re already having problems doing justice to the men and women of our armed forces who serve and protect us so nobly. How can you tell a young man to risk his life and health on a battlefield and then deny him the proper medical care if he′s injured? What do you say to them while they are in a fire-fight on some remote mountain side in Afghanistan while their family at home needs food stamps to survive?
Since FDR began to build up the American war machine in 1940 as war clouds grew in Europe and the Pacific, the need to be able to fight a sustained battle on two distant and separated fronts as been a key part of our military doctrine. In the 21st Century, we now have the addition of a third front, Earth orbit, which demands consideration. We are so heavily dependent on satellites for communication, navigation and reconnaissance that the new ′High Ground′ of space is more important than ever before.
So I will concede that there is some truth to the notion that the age of the massive land war is almost over. The most likely scenario obviously is renewed hostilities on the Korean peninsula. Beyond that, would we get ourselves involved if war broke out between Pakistan and India? Russia against China fighting for control of oil-rich Siberia? Europe seems peaceful now, but what if an economic collapse shatters the EU? What would we do if Germany and France went at it again? That is the fundamental problem with the future. As Shakespeare put it, it is the ″undiscovered country.″
Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, one Chinese general wrote an article which was published saying that the U.S. armed forces has reached a level where an aggressor would need to throw a force at least 100 times larger against us to have any hope of winning. Our technological edge and military professionalism is such now that any large land war would be something akin to ″War of the Worlds″ where we are Martians. We have smart munitions that can blow away whole tank regiments at the drop of a hat. In the old days, only a tactical nuclear weapon could do that. Now, one guy in an air conditioned room munching on Cheetos can fly a UAV on the other side of the planet and drop a smart cluster bomb to achieve the same results without the radiation and other political issues.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said yesterday that the new military strategy proposed by Barack Obama is ″risky″. Obama spoke yesterday at the Pentagon along with Panetta and Joint Chief of Staff, General Martin Dempsey concerning the reduction in the military budget and changes in our future war fighting doctrine. With less need in Europe and NATO, we will be more focused on Asia and the Pacific. We′ve all known that the military was going to be downsized at some point. Even George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld had plans for such. The question is how we go about doing it? So until I see more details, I will refrain from being too critical.