How awesome would it be if Obama read my blog? Seriously, I’m not his biggest fan, but I would be incredibly schoolgirl-ish if I found out he did. Anyway, the subject at hand. I have spent hours today thinking on this (except for the hour I watched Project Runway All-Stars with the wife, which was fantastic, by the way), and I posted a status on Facebook about it, knowing two guys who know a lot about this subject would get into a discussion about it. Their thoughts have also contributed to this post.
The military is going to be trimmed down a bit, according to the president and his advisers. I can’t help but wonder how many people at the Pentagon were supportive of this and how many were wondering why in the hell politics is dictating how they get funded instead of, you know, an actual strategy. Don’t get me wrong, conventional hard power (the traditional military) does need to be re-tooled a bit to fit in with a modern world filled with cyber attacks and non-state actors, but this is a politically-driven move, which everyone who paid attention to the Super Committee assembled by Congress knew would come to pass, especially when it came down to the SC not doing what it was supposed to.
This needs to be broken down into two parts: What is happening and what should happen with the military. The first is the reality before us, the second is how this either has to be remade into or transitioned into by whatever administration comes to it later.
What is Happening
Like I said, this is a political move and lacks a true strategy. A feuding House and Senate being unable to pass a budget (I am not assigning blame to a party because both are ultimately responsible) and a president who has time and again shown that he is unwilling to look at everything for cuts and instead targets what he knows opponents will be against (for the ultimate purpose of winning re-election, mind you) makes cuts to the military inevitable. We’ve been waiting for this, and here it is. Now, is the military as sacred a cow to the Republicans as Social Security and welfare are to the Democrats? It appears so. The Republicans tried their best to cut from everything but the military, and that is simply unrealistic in an era where spending across the board is rampant.
Right now, the Republicans have their hands full with recess appointments the president is making and now this. Ultimately, it is so close to the 2012 election that they should focus on winning that and fighting these battles later. The military is too active right now to cut from, making any real changes the president wants to make come further down the road. Right now, the have the high ground with an active (if not factionalized) voter base and approval ratings for the president being so low.
What Should Happen
The military does need to be cut in some places and be overhauled in others. Conventional warfare is going to be a much smaller part of any war we happen to get in on with advancements in drone technology, growth and success in special operations, cyber warfare and the rise of non-state actors as makeshift armies using guerrilla tactics. A physical army can seize and occupy (despite Sun Tzu’s warning that laying siege is the absolute last thing you’d want to do), but special operations take out key targets that can easily cripple an enemy before going to battle, and drones are a safe and effective way of doing battle with little loss on your side. An army now seems more like a clean-up crew in this case, which is not insignificant. But consider that we spend so much money on aircraft carriers, which are almost paperweights now with the ever-advancing missiles other nations develop, and that is just one example. Then there is the subject of private military contractors and just how much we pay other people to do a job we already have men and women in uniform to do. It seems entirely ridiculous.
Everything should be on the table, and a strategy of some sort should be formed. Not based on politics or budgeting, but based on what is best for our national interests. Letting this idiotic back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans get in the way of national security is more dangerous than anything the president put forward today.