Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century

Here I respond to this 90-pager published by The Project for a New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf) in 2000.  It's a conservative think-tank that promotes America's global leadership. 

"There are, however,
potentially powerful states dissatisfied with
the current situation and eager to change it,
if they can, in directions that endanger the
relatively peaceful, prosperous and free
condition the world enjoys today.  Up to
now, they have been deterred from doing so
by the capability and global presence of
American military power.  But, as that
power declines, relatively and absolutely,
the happy conditions that follow from it will
be inevitably undermined."
This view places little trust in what would replace American global leadership.  I find the reasoning moderately persuasive.  Interestingly, I attended a discussion group last night where one sub-topic was the "world federalism" view of Joseph Smith (the idea that nations are "states" under a constitutional world order).  I asked the attendees to raise their hands if they were world federalists- most said "yes."

" At no time in history
has the international security order been as
conducive to American interests and ideals.
The challenge for the coming century is to
preserve and enhance this “American
Yet unless the United States maintains
sufficient military strength, this opportunity
will be lost."
Hmmm.  If no network of regional or global power (think AU, EU, UN, etc.) replaces the function of the "pax Americana," then perhaps. 

"RESTORE THE PERSONNEL STRENGTH of today’s force to roughly the levels anticipated in
the “Base Force” outlined by the Bush Administration, an increase in active-duty strength
from 1.4 million to 1.6 million."
This seems a reasonable proposal.

"MODERNIZE CURRENT U.S. FORCES SELECTIVELY, proceeding with the F-22 program while
increasing purchases of lift, electronic support and other aircraft; expanding submarine
and surface combatant fleets; purchasing Comanche helicopters and medium-weight
ground vehicles for the Army, and the V-22 Osprey “tilt-rotor” aircraft for the Marine
A specific suggestion- I like that. 

"DEVELOP AND DEPLOY GLOBAL MISSILE DEFENSES to defend the American homeland and
American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world."

- I don't know what a missile defense looks like.  Wish I did.

the way for the creation of a new military service – U.S. Space Forces – with the mission of
space control."
 Very forward looking- not a terrible thing.  May be a smart move long-term.

 "INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING gradually to a minimum level of 3.5 to 3.8 percent of gross
domestic product, adding $15 billion to $20 billion to total defense spending annually."
 Now that is bold sauce.  I'm not sure a % or target amount is the best objective: you'd think adequate forces to sustain policy goals would be better targeted.  On the other hand, a predictable amount can be useful in planning.

"withdrawing from constabulary missions to
retain strength for large-scale wars;"
Many decry America's role as "global policeman."  This article calls such a role "constabulary."  I'm not sure the American military is the model constable, but I think there are some benefits (and perhaps a net benefit) to a decent (though imperfect) global constable, much as there are benefits to a decent (though imperfect) local constable.  The alternative is often worse, I would imagine.

"Today’s force,
reduced by a third or more over the past
So the troop levels decreased by a third from 1990 to 2000?  Didn't know that.  Was there a big conflict around 1990 (Gulf War's my guess) and the subsequent decade witnessed an absence of such?  If so, such a force reduction is not necessarily bad, though I would expect gradually rising troop levels, similar to annual inflation.

”  But as we
have seen over the past decade, there has
been no shortage of powers around the
world who have taken the collapse of the
Soviet empire as an opportunity to expand
their own influence and challenge the
American-led security order."
I don't feel particularly committed to a Pax Americana.  Pax is enough for me, and I can see regional or global military forces, together with rule of constitutional law, substituting for America's current role.  Indeed, it might be more strategic to work toward a global federalism than an American federalism.  I think it is America's ideals (i.e. democracy, liberty, and protection of minorities) that hold long term promise: not necessarily America.

"Today [the US military's] task is to secure
and expand the “zones of democratic
peace;” to deter the rise of a new greatpower competitor; defend key regions of
Europe, East Asia and the Middle East; and
to preserve American preeminence through
the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies."

I plain don't like this.  Why stifle competition, and why preserve our preeminence?  Again, I think our ideas are more worth maintaining and sharing that American military superiority.  Can't we build alliances and trust in our unions with other countries and shared values, rather than merely American military might, to prepare against potential threats? 

"These readiness problems are
exacerbated by the fact that U.S. forces are
poorly positioned to respond to today’s crises."
I find those problems concerning.

"If an
American peace is to be maintained, and
expanded, it must have a secure foundation
on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence."
Probably true.  Of course the question is what cost is worth paying for an American peace. What would be wrong with an Indonesian peace, for instance, if such offered an equivalent "final guarantee of security, democratic freedoms and individual political rights?" (or the UN for that matter?)

"HOMELAND DEFENSE.  America must defend its homeland.  During the Cold War,
nuclear deterrence was the key element in homeland defense; it remains essential.   But the
new century has brought with it new challenges.  While reconfiguring its nuclear force, the
United States also must counteract the effects of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and
weapons of mass destruction that may soon allow lesser states to deter U.S. military action
by threatening U.S. allies and the American homeland itself.  Of all the new and current
missions for U.S. armed forces, this must have priority.
LARGE WARS.  Second, the United States must retain sufficient forces able to rapidly
deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars and also to be able to respond to
unanticipated contingencies in regions where it does not maintain forward-based forces.
This resembles the “two-war” standard that has been the basis of U.S. force planning over
the past decade.  Yet this standard needs to be updated to account for new realities and
potential new conflicts.
CONSTABULARY DUTIES.  Third, the Pentagon must retain forces to preserve the
current peace in ways that fall short of conduction major theater campaigns.  A decade’s
experience and the policies of two administrations have shown that such forces must be
expanded to meet the needs of the new, long-term NATO mission in the Balkans, the
continuing no-fly-zone and other missions in Southwest Asia, and other presence missions in
vital regions of East Asia.  These duties are today’s most frequent missions, requiring forces
configured for combat but capable of long-term, independent constabulary operations.
TRANSFORM U.S. ARMED FORCES.  Finally, the Pentagon must begin now to exploit the socalled “revolution in military affairs,” sparked by the introduction of advanced technologies
into military systems; this must be regarded as a separate and critical mission worthy of a
share of force structure and defense budgets."
These seem well thought-out to me initially.

"as the leader of a global network of alliances and strategic
partnerships, U.S. armed forces cannot
retreat into a “Fortress America.”"
I'm glad for this acknowledgement.

"Through all the accounting gimmicks,
defense spending has been almost perfectly
flat – indeed, the totals have been less than
$1 billion apart – for the past four years."
Interesting factoid.



  1. Some of my thoughts on your thoughts:

    Have you ever seen how many foreign military bases we operate? I see no problem with cutting down on some of them to save money and require fewer soldiers for an equivalent level of home defense. These foreign bases and troops aren't free. And not always wanted by the local populations.

    Missile defense = shooting down the missile before it can hit us. Lasers, counter missiles, extremely rapid fire guns, etc.

    Having a global policeman is great. Having a global police force shared between allies is even better, in my opinion.

  2. Thanks for the missile defense explanation, and your thoughts on a global police force and military bases.


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