Lost in the higher than normal turmoil in the Middle East - SECDEF Gates showed some of his cards at a speech 25 FEB at West Point,
Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services, the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere. The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations, is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions. But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.He did that in front of an Army audiance ... and for good reason.
That is where the institutional push-back is going to come from in the next decade. As we discussed with Heritage's Mackenzie Eaglen on Midrats yesterday, as we finish out decouple from IRQ and are set to slowly disengage from AFG - when you look at the global environment paired with out unavoidable budget trainwreck that will take decades of hard politics to fix, where can we get the most bang for our defensive buck?
We need to leverage what the good Lord has blessed this nation with; oceans, space - and even in the 21st century; time.
We are not a land power by need or design. We need to be home-based with global reach. We need robust friends to partner with - not pampered dependents to garrison or play mercenary for. We need to spend out money on things to create global effects at minimal impact in blood and treasure. That is done at sea, in the air, and in space.
That is our future. We can either get it right now, or suffer later.
SECDEF sees it - so do I. Some who don't agree are behaving in a way that is really beneath them. I am a big fan of Bill Kristol - but here he is wrong.
As secretary of defense he has sent "a big American land army into Asia," increasing the U.S. troop presence from around 57,000 soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan in August 2009 to about 100,000 today. (He also presided over a surge of more than 30,000 troops to Iraq.) Leave aside the facts that our soldiers and Marines are succeeding in Afghanistan, and that history will vindicate Gates's involvement in the decision to surge. Does Gates really think it appropriate — while he's still secretary of defense, with troops fighting at his direction — to be undercutting the troops' mission as though he's resigned to their failure?Gates believes, as I do, that once this nation is engaged in a conflict, you win it - regardless of how it started. Argue about the good or bad later - but win. That is what he is trying to do, and also why he continues to try to give the CINC room to back out of his incredibly foolish timetable of retreat.
As for the "realism" of his prescription: The United States has sent 100,000 or more troops to Asia and the Middle East five times in the last six decades. Does he really think we may never be called upon to do so again?
Gates is doing what a good SECDEF does - looking three moves ahead on the chess board.
You can, and should, have most of your land strength in the National Guard and Reserves. We do not need, nor can afford, a large standing Army. That way - you have to ponder hard before you commit them. Many can be brought up to speed quickly if needed - others longer, and that is OK.
You can grow an Army relatively quickly, even in today's world. You cannot bring up an Air Force or a Navy that fast. You can also keep a lot of what we need - Strategic Air & Sea lift - in the Reserves as well. A lot of it.
We are not an empire - we are a mercantile republic. As Admiral Mullen stated - our largest national security problem isn't another nation's military - it is our inability to be economically responsible. Like it or not, a lot of that budget fix is coming out of the military; at least its fair share. It is folly to argue otherwise; it is better to prepare.