Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Unaffordable Empire or the Sustainable Republic?

The Economist's Lexington brought back to me one of my hobby horses that I have not ridden in awhile; the fact we cannot afford the military we think we need - even if we could, we shouldn't.

The world changes, constantly. We once stood athwart the world because the rest of the world was so relatively poor. That world is gone.

The rest of the world is getting richer, and as a result regional powers will naturally grow. We are not declining - the delta is just shrinking.

We have become accustomed to having overmatch to such a degree that we are setting ourselves up for overreach trying to live in a past that was never that great to begin with.

I can hear intellectual shields going up all over the place - again - so just take a moment to ponder Lexington's last two paragraphs;
A less-noted problem is that America’s unthinking reverence for its fighters is forestalling a badly needed reappraisal of how it organises its forces, and to what end. The fact is, America’s foreign-policy doctrines envisage a degree of global dominance, based on military might, which its volunteer force is now too small to enforce. And to increase the force sufficiently, on current trends, appears unaffordable or impossible. “This force cannot carry out that foreign policy,” concludes Andrew Bacevich, a historian and former army officer, who happens also to be a Gold Star father.

This constitutes a looming crisis, which could logically end in one of two ways. Either America will have to reintroduce conscription. Or it must curtail its military ambitions. Neither outcome is palatable to American policymakers, however, so the problem is seldom discussed. Maintaining the happy delusion that America’s forces are ideal and irreproachable makes that easier. But reality cannot be deferred indefinitely.
We need to finish up the wars we have. Give our friends enough notice to get their defenses in place, as we need to come home.

Let me a repeat again what I have put out for over a decade; remove all land-based maneuver forces from overseas. Maintain a few combined bases with allies for training, logistics, and the occasional surge exercise. No forward deployed TACAIR. Exceptionally limited forward deployed naval forces, if any.

We are a maritime, air, and space power. That is our competitive advantage. We were not designed to sustain, nor do we need, a large standing Army. We need to demobilize and shift to a largely balanced towards National Guard and Reserved land forces. If our rich friends are under threat from ground forces, then they should reflect that in their military investments. We can argument them from the sea, air, and space - and if needed, begin to mobilize land forces.

Our military spending could, and should, be 30% less than it is right now if we really believe that we should be a mercantile republic. If as a nation we decide that we are a global empire in style and action - then keep doing what we are doing.

We aren't. We shouldn't. 

Does anyone really think the path we are on is that desirable or sustainable? Ignore the domestic spending challenge - that isn't "our" wheelhouse. Do you want to be a citizen of a republic blessed with relatively good neighbors and large oceans - or an empire that desires and is expected to bleed blood and gold to protect people who won't protect themselves, or to rule people who have no desire to be ruled? 

Must we always be searching for dragons to slay, both real, imagined, or of our own creation?

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