Tuesday, November 05, 2013

You Get the Military You Want

In our little chatting clubs it is comforting to soak in our echoes of pontifications on shipbuilding budgets, ALT POMs, sequestration impacts, and if we are following the right strategy - or if we have a strategy at all.  

That is nice and all - but that isn't, in the end, foundationally important. Without the interest of the taxpayer, the understanding of Congress, and the leadership from the President - it is all vanity.

Robert Kaplan over at RCW is trying to take a clear view of what is clearly emerging from the change in the American mind about military spending and capabilities; they just don't see the need, and don't want to pay for it.
The bottom may be starting to fall out of the U.S. defense budget. I do not refer to numbers when I say this. I am not interested in numbers. I am only interested in public support for those numbers.The elites respond by saying that chaos anywhere threatens America's liberal vision of the globe, and there isn't just chaos here and there; indeed it is all over the Greater Middle East. The public is not convinced.
... the world is changing in a number of ways that do not obviously argue for such a robust defense. Notice, I used the word "obviously." Certainly, defense needs are pressing, but they are becoming so in a somewhat subtle and obscure way. Thus, the public is having a hard time being convinced.
The American public just has never been enthusiastic about great military crusades unless the threat against the homeland is concrete and immediate. Policy intellectuals sometimes talk breezily about how Americans are willing to sacrifice. No! A democratic public, in fact, hates sustained sacrifice unless it involves its own core self-interest.
... the world may finally be turning into a place where the public sees less and less reason for an overwhelmingly large defense budget.
As Papa Salamander liked to say, "No one owes you a living." Along those lines, those policy makers and thinkers in the national security arena cannot assume that Congress, the President, and the American public will comply with their view of the world and the need for robust spending by the USA on a large military.

I agree with Kaplan, there is a lot of marketing and salesmanship that needs to be done.
Indeed, democratic publics, with all their common sense, are nevertheless compulsively obsessed with momentary emotions -- especially in an age of incessant polling -- and are therefore less wise in planning for future contingencies.

So the armed services and the elites must explain why armies are required for emergencies -- which periodically happen; and why navies and air forces are required for guarding the sea-lanes and thus essential for preserving the global system, upon which America depends.

Defense no longer constitutes a free ride where epic events automatically secure big budgets. The public will henceforth demand deep and lucid explanations.

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