« I Am Baffled | Main | The Rule Of Law »

November 17, 2008

Comments

There is an absolutely hilarious typo in the title of this post. See if you can spot it!

Another link: Andrew Bacevich interviewed by Bill Moyers.

Doh!

I fixed the "defictits." Sheesh, where's my mind today...

We, as a nation, cannot continue to spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined ...

... and still call it "defense".

Let's start by renaming the Pentagon the "Department of Offense", and then get into the budget battle.

--TP

Let's start by renaming the Pentagon the "Department of Offense", and then get into the budget battle.

Personally I prefer "Dept. of Hegemony" for the anacronym alone.

The Limits of Power is a must read. Mercifully, it is short and to the point.

Last week Ackerman had a post (http://attackerman.firedoglake.com/2008/11/13/procurementfight/) on the difficulty the new president will have cutting the DoD's pet projects. I wondered whether Gates would be able to push a fat-trimming agenda in a way another appointee wouldn't....

Also, if someone can remind me how to insert a link under text, I'm sure everyone will be grateful.

TLTIABQ, if we took your choice we would have to put a three-story Homer outside the Pentagon entrances with a big "DOH!" word balloon. That's fine, but we could just go back to calling it the War Department as we managed for about a century and a half.

We could easily defend our nation for less than $100 billion per year. The rest is not defense.

we would have to put a three-story Homer outside the Pentagon entrances with a big "DOH!" word balloon.

Sounds like the perfect deterrent for Rearing-Head-Putin to me. We may need it after the inevitable fading away over time of the Bush effect:

"I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls," Mr Putin replied.

Mr Sarkozy responded: "Hang him?"

"Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein," said Mr Putin.

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: "Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?"

Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: "Ah — you have scored a point there"

h/t Sully

I find myself cheered by the thought that Barack Obama, being a literate, intellectually curious man who respects books, may well have read Bacevich's book and considered what it has to say. The man reads, unlike the office's present occupant.

100 more days. But who's counting...?

So, is the Progressive view on defense spending, cut first and ask questions later? Shouldn't thoughtful Progressives first determine what the country's defense needs are and what the cost will be and go from there? If, for example, a 100 billion is plenty, shouldn't we know what we are and are not getting for our 100 billion? What DO we get for 100 billion? How many ships (and what kind and for what missions?), how many soldiers, marines, air force wings, etc. What present and future roles will the armed forces be called on to fulfill?

Progressives can analyze domestic issues down to the molecular level--it would be nice to see an actual progressive analysis of mid- and long-term threat assessments and what force structure, if any, the US should maintain to meet those threats.

"Also, if someone can remind me how to insert a link under text, I'm sure everyone will be grateful."

How to link.

"So, is the Progressive view on defense spending, cut first and ask questions later?"

No. HTH.

So, is the Progressive view on defense spending, cut first and ask questions later?

Have you read Bacevich's book? If so, could you cite the pages where he asks for this? Or could you cite my writing that asks for this?

Shouldn't thoughtful Progressives first determine what the country's defense needs are and what the cost will be and go from there?

See above. Why do you assume that this wouldn't be part of the process?

Progressives can analyze domestic issues down to the molecular level--it would be nice to see an actual progressive analysis of mid- and long-term threat assessments and what force structure, if any, the US should maintain to meet those threats.

Have you sought out such analysis?

Here's a starter, there's lots more if you're interested.

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/02/lost_opportunities.html

Shouldn't thoughtful Progressives first determine what the country's defense needs are and what the cost will be and go from there?

If those "needs" consist of spending more than the rest of the planet on our military, then it seems reasonable that, a priori, our "needs" have been specified incorrectly. No further argument need be made.

[And, as noted above, whatever those needs might be, they sure as heck aren't "defense".]

This also presumes, btw, that what gets categorized as a "defense need" inherently trumps all other concerns, e.g. Katrina reconstruction, maintaining the economy, and so forth. It's another dictionary flame, in essence*, and it's one that needs to be fought as part of this general attempt to push back on rampant DoD spending.

* Quick reminder: a dictionary flame is not, in fact, an ad hominem. I've never understand that, but there it is.

If, for example, a 100 billion is plenty, shouldn't we know what we are and are not getting for our 100 billion?

There, I think you're putting the cart before the strawhorse. No-one that I've read is claiming to know what the correct level is. OTOH, I think everyone can agree that there are levels of defense spending which are too high. A simple example: I doubt anyone would agree that, say, 95% of GDP is warranted under any circumstances except perhaps the imminent annihilation of the nation. By a similar token, I don't really need to know a whole lot about the military to note that spending more than the rest of the planet combined on military, coupled with our present financial woes, is wasteful, if not outright unsustainable. The question isn't, then, "What is the correct number (in some kind of vacuum)?" but rather, "What are realistic expectations the funds that we can put forth towards defense and how does this change the nature of our strategy?" Horse before the cart, in other words.


Shouldn't thoughtful Progressives first determine what the country's defense needs are and what the cost will be and go from there?

In principle yes - everyone who is reasonable (IMHO) should be in favor of this approach regardless of their political affiliation.

In practice there are some problems with the sort of bottom up analysis you are asking for.

The first is that there is not in fact any really good way to objectively measure either likely threats or the efficacy of our possible responses to them.

For example look at how much difficulty various defense and intelligence agencies had in evaluating the threat posed by the Soviet Union and its military forces during the 1980s. And that was with a comparatively simple semi-bipolar world, one that was less complicated than our multi-polar world today.

From the standpoint of a military planner today, should Pakistan be counted as a friend or an adversary? What about India? Turkey? Japan? Mexico? How do you make anything other than highly subjective judgments in these cases, and how rational is a planning process which is forced to make wild guesses as to what the international environment will look like 5, 10, 20 years from now.

Or consider the plight of someone working the same problem from the point of view of Britain at the end of the 19th Cen., when war with Russia and/or France was considered a realistic possibility and the Germans were long term allies under the rule of a cadet branch of the British Royal family who were making a nuisance of themselves with regard to a naval arms race but otherwise were not much of a threat at the time.

The second problem is that even if we had a good yardstick with which to gauge the likely intentions and capabilities of our foes, and the same for our own forces, military superiority is always relative, and as an economist would put it, the price is determined at the margins - in other words the cost of increasing superiority rises steeply as we reach the limits of what is possible in terms of technology and how much we can throw at the problem in the way of finite resources. And the decision as to how far up that price/result curve we should climb is a purely psychological (and hence political) one since there is no clear point that definitely stands out from the rest as "good enough - stop here".

Finally, military superiority is ultimately an epiphenomenon arising from economic superiority. Increased spending on the military which causes long term damage to our civilian economy may in the long run be making us more rather than less vulnerable. So for each increment of spending on defense to be worthwhile, you have to factor in the opportunity cost of not spending that same amount stimulating other sectors of the economy.

It is taking all these things together, and combining them with the fact that it is historically unprecedented for a global power to spend as much on its military as all the other major powers combined which suggests to me that at a gross level our spending priorities have become counterproductive and wasteful. No other major power has ever spent as much as we are currently, in proportion to the spending of both current and potential adversaries and countries which are currently friendly and likely to remain that way, without being under direct existential assault.

I don't think you need to micromanage the details in this situation to see that we have room for substantial cutbacks without putting the security of our homeland in danger to a degree which is unacceptable. To argue to the contrary is to commit the same error which conservatives used love to accuse liberals of: trying to achieve a 100% solution to an ill defined problem with out regard to the folly of spending finite resources on a problem which is asymptotic with respect to marginal cost.

If it were me, I'd be making the majority of the cutbacks in those service branches (Navy, Air Force) where we are currently hyper-dominant. Below that level, we can argue the details.

Shouldn't thoughtful Progressives first determine what the country's defense needs are and what the cost will be and go from there?

Yes. On the other hand, conservatives should first determine what the country's social needs are and what the cost will be and go from there wrt other domestic programs. Instead, they bleat about 'fraud, waste, and abuse' as an a priori justification to cut government spending. When pressed for details as to what, exactly, to cut they disappear into the mist of inchoherence.

Eric asks,"See above. Why do you assume that this wouldn't be part of the process?" I read the link and the Bacevich essay. I haven't read the book and I don't have time to at this precise moment, but, in general I make this assumption because (1) Bacevich offered no specifics or analysis in his essay and (2) many of your readers reason from the assertion that because the US spends more on defense than the rest of the world that, ipso facto, our spending must be excessive. Indeed, I've followed the left's view on defense spending since the early 70's and it's consistently been 'cut defense spending by X percent or Y amount of dollars' without any real reasoning as to what should be cut and why.

Evaluating whether we spend enough, too little or too much by comparing us to the world is (1) tantamount to cutting first and figuring out why afterward and (2) comparing apples to airplanes. The PRC spends a fraction of what the US does because its personnel costs are a fraction of what it costs to attract, train and retain quality people in our armed services. If the PRC had to pay US prices for goods, services, personnel and quality of life benefits, its army would be about the size of ours, if not smaller. So, the apparent comparable--spending more than the rest of the world--is actually anything but comparable.

Either we don't need any kind of national defense at all, meaning we can cut everything except retiree commitments and veteran's benefits, or we have a need for a standing military and that need is determined solely by what missions we might either ask our armed forces to perform or what crises we cannot even foresee at the moment that may require an armed response.

Among the many, many questions that should be asked are:

1. Do we continue to maintain a blue water navy with a sustainable force projection capability?

2. If 'yes', should that same navy have the capacity to, for example, deter a PRC invasion of Taiwan and simultaneously support South Korea in case you-know-who gets frisky?

3. Should the US maintain 38,000 troops in South Korea? If yes, then by extension, we have to maintain the force structure and follow-on reinforcements so that the second phase of a conflict isn't paying a ransom for the return of the troops who were overrun and captured.

4. And, what about surprises? The US has been in five major conflicts beginning with WWII. Of the five, three (WWII, Korea and Gulf War I) began as total surprises to us and our government. In the first two instances, the US took horrendous casualties because we lacked sufficient numbers of trained troops and material to even defend effectively, much less mount any kind of counter-attack.

The point is that cutting defense--other than ending the Iraq war--is a hugely complicated and risky task. The downside to erring on the side of caution and buying more defense than you need is we spent money we didn't need to. The downside to getting by on the cheap is, if a major war breaks out, we experience what we did in WWII and Korea--tens or hundreds of thousands of unnecessary casualties on the front end while we tool up domestically.

bobbyp: I would begin my domestic budget cutting with phasing out agricultural subsidies over a four year period. I would simultaneously invite GM to reorganize under Chapter 11 and reconsider the 700 billion bailout. I would freeze the remainder of domestic spending at current levels and leave it to congress to apportion funds within the cap as it sees fit.

I am not a big fan of social spending, under most circumstances. What money we do spend should be roads, bridges and actual education, i.e. improving teacher and course load quality--if that means firing substandard teachers and paying more for quality people, then fine. School should be free through high school and college made available through loans repayable through national service on a one year-to-one year ratio. If a person born in the US takes advantage of the schooling that is available for free, is willing to work part time in college and apply themselves in school and pays the taxpayers back for the money they spent putting him/her through college, then that person has received about as much from his fellow citizens as he/she has any reasonable right to expect.


1. Do we continue to maintain a blue water navy with a sustainable force projection capability?

We could cut current naval expenditure while maintaining the same 2-power standard which was good enough for Great Britain in its imperial heydey. Note that they were also far more dependent on naval power than we are and the British Army was during that period substantially the junior branch of their services.


2. If 'yes', should that same navy have the capacity to, for example, deter a PRC invasion of Taiwan and simultaneously support South Korea in case you-know-who gets frisky?

3. Should the US maintain 38,000 troops in South Korea? If yes, then by extension, we have to maintain the force structure and follow-on reinforcements so that the second phase of a conflict isn't paying a ransom for the return of the troops who were overrun and captured.

On a phased-in basis, NO to both questions. Taiwan and South Korea each possess enough GDP to look after their own security interests. The point where they needed us to defend them has passed.


4. And, what about surprises? The US has been in five major conflicts beginning with WWII. Of the five, three (WWII, Korea and Gulf War I) began as total surprises to us and our government.

WWII was not a strategic surprise. The conflict arguably started in 1931 with Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and its European phase began in 1939. 10 years notice for the Asian phase and 26 months notice for the European phase is hardly "surprise".

Even at a tactical level the casualties we suffered during Dec 1941 were a very small part of the total losses we suffered during that war, and the damage to the US Pacific fleet was not even close to being decisive in the Pacific theater, as the Japanese learned to their cost.

Korea was a surprise because of incompetance in the US Govt, namely declaring a country outside of the perimeter of US vital interests (the infamous San Francisco speech) while neglecting to notice that we still had troops stationed there.

Gulf War I was not exactly a shocking surprise either, seeing as how our reaction to a possible conflict between Iraq and Kuwait was solicited by the Iraqi govt. prior to the start of that war.

Sorry, better historical examples, please.

Of the five, three (WWII, Korea and Gulf War I) began as total surprises to us and our government.

Ummmmmm . . . .

"Indeed, I've followed the left's view on defense spending"

That's almighty impressive. What's "the left's" view on boxers versus briefs? What's the view of "the right"?

I'd like to follow the view of "the left," myself: who speaks for it, exactly? And who speaks for "the right," specifically?

This could simplify things endlessly for me; hitherto I thought I had to keep track of hundreds of opinions, but turns out not so! Thanks muchly for your help with this!

And sorry for not getting to the scanning bills yet; busy weekend.

"bobbyp: I would begin my domestic budget cutting with phasing out agricultural subsidies over a four year period."

This is the one thing that just about everybody who isn't a farmer or an investor in such farm corporations as Archer Daniels Midland seems to be agreed about.

"...and the damage to the US Pacific fleet was not even close to being decisive in the Pacific theater, as the Japanese learned to their cost."

That was partially luck; if the carriers had been home at Pearl, too, we really would have been unable to do anything in the Pacific for a year, and could well have suffered raids on the West Coast, as well as delaying victory another year or two, and certainly making it more difficult to make the European theater a priority.

It wouldn't have cost us the war, but it would have involved pain, and unknown bad effects.

The point is that cutting defense--other than ending the Iraq war--is a hugely complicated and risky task. The downside to erring on the side of caution and buying more defense than you need is we spent money we didn't need to. The downside to getting by on the cheap is, if a major war breaks out, we experience what we did in WWII and Korea--tens or hundreds of thousands of unnecessary casualties on the front end while we tool up domestically.

Piffle.

Right now, our defense budget is about what the rest world combined spends on defense. It's about eight times what the PRC spends. To pretend we can't make cuts without placing ourselves in mortal peril is ludicrous.

Take missile defense--please. That's about $9B annually that would be better spent making cash bonfires; at least, a bonfire serves a useful purpose of a kind.

There are a number of programs of this sort that could be cut without peril to anyone. There's also plenty of progams that simply aren't being managed with an eye towards being an effective steward of taxpayer monies.

Acquisition of any weapon system needs to be tightened up. We end up paying a lot more (and with schedule delays) for these systems. So we generally wind up with systems that are super-expensive and nearly obsolete by the time they're deployed.


That was partially luck; if the carriers had been home at Pearl, too, we really would have been unable to do anything in the Pacific for a year, and could well have suffered raids on the West Coast, as well as delaying victory another year or two, and certainly making it more difficult to make the European theater a priority.

It wouldn't have cost us the war, but it would have involved pain, and unknown bad effects.

Of course. Luck cuts both ways - the Japanese caught a number of lucky breaks in terms of our failure to leverage our code breaking success to detect the attack and/or various other things which could have gone wrong for them (a chance visual siting of their fleet for example) which would have been disastrous for them.

The point in my longer comment is that the search for 100% security, such that luck has no role to play in international conflict, is a fool's pursuit. The harder you seek perfect security the more expensive it becomes, to the point of undermining the civilian economy which is the long term source of our security, and in any case there is no guarantee of obtaining what we seek.

Even the most massive military spending is subject to being rendered pointless by unforseen changes in warfare - for all we know the next major war may be fought primarily in cyberspace, or in near-Earth orbit, or by way of sophisticated biological agents, rendering our very expensive Navy and Air Force as pointless as the Maginot line and the Polish cavalry.

Or to take a more tactical example, sometimes it is a burden to re-arm prematurely. The Germans spent most of WW2 dealing with the burden of an aging tank force (too many Mark I's, Mark II's and borrowed vehicles from the Czech army) because their mid 1930's rearmarment program bulked out too many of their Panzer divisions before a signal change in armor design and an increase in gun caliber which rendered the older designs obsolete - something which became painfully obvious once they went up against superior Russian designs on the Eastern Front.

So what I'm arguing is that there is not a linear relationship between military spending and security, and our spending right now is so far beyond the bounds of past historical practice that the point of some sort of rational expectation has clearly been left behind. To attempt to continue to support 50% of the world's military spending with a 20-25% share of the world's net economic output is folly and madness.

I'd like to follow the view of "the left," myself: who speaks for it, exactly?

Norbizness, of course, although I can't find his current home.

If 'yes', should that same navy have the capacity to, for example, deter a PRC invasion of Taiwan and simultaneously support South Korea in case you-know-who gets frisky?

Sorry, it is quite possible that you-know-who might not be getting frisky for while. Of course, if we were to have an administration that would attempt to defuse tensions rather than raise them, it might not be necessary to plan for so many surprises.

As to where to start cutting, Robert Farley of LGM has a number of posts making the case that it is the Air Force that needs to be examined most closely.

Take missile defense--please. That's about $9B annually that would be better spent making cash bonfires; at least, a bonfire serves a useful purpose of a kind.

I could not agree more.

Still, I have to point out that the $9B is income to a lot of people. So Star Wars is at least a jobs program -- a way to provide a living to some number of people without calling it "welfare".

See, if we paid them $9B to develop and build windfarms, say, that would be welfare, since the free market can deliver cheaper electricity by mining coal and converting it to atmospheric CO2.

--TP

Defense cuts? Hmmm...let's see:

Disband the United States Army

Cut the # of active aircraft carriers in half and round down, we have, um, 11, as many as the rest of the world combined (sell the discontinued ones to trusted allies to raise cash)

End the farcical ballistic missle defense "shield"

Bring home U.S. troops stationed overseas in, and close bases situated in: South Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, Iraq, and pretty much any country other than Afghanistan, and seriously consider that too

End development of the JSF

Raze the pentagon and turn it into a park

That should leave more than enough for America's defense, along with capacity to inflict serious harm on any other nation short of nuclear weapons.

I'm in a hurry, but I'll go on record as saying I think entirely disbanding the Army is a tad overdoing it.

I'm in a hurry, but I'll go on record as saying I think entirely disbanding the Army is a tad overdoing it.

We would still have the marines.

This is totally looking at it backwards. One shouldn't have explain what needs to be cut. The onus should be on the people wanting to spend money to explain what strategic threat any appropriation would protect against, and be worth the money. Many of the weapons systems seem to be just there for hypotheticals.

"Many of the weapons systems seem to be just there for hypotheticals."

I don't believe one has to be a crazed militarist to say that that's how, within reason, one needs to think about defense. Meaning actual defense, mind. Not as a justification for spending for absolute security, which can't be obtained -- I'm in complete agreement (as usual) with TLTIA's 7:36 p.m. -- but in that one genuinely can't predict the future, and asking that that be done before spending any money for defense is a visit to the equally wrongheaded other extreme.

There's a reasonable middle-ground between outspending the rest of the world umpty times, and disbanding the Army and demanding that every future possible need be foreseen.

Is, on the other hand, cutting out current immense defense budget some reasonable amount some crazy leftwing, visualize-peace thing? Does that describe The Cato Institute?

More discussion. Follow-up.

Starting point: anyone like to explain why we can't reduce our nuclear force down to "only" 1000 warheads? Anyone?

Details and suggestions.

I'm all about the specifics.

@mckinneytexas

Either we don't need any kind of national defense at all, meaning we can cut everything except retiree commitments and veteran's benefits, or we have a need for a standing military and that need is determined solely by what missions we might either ask our armed forces to perform or what crises we cannot even foresee at the moment that may require an armed response.

False dichotomy. If we are to attempt to prepare for crises we cannot even foresee - where does it end? Should we be prepared for the rest of the world to simultaneously declare war on us? We can't foresee it, but per your reasoning this doesn't mean we should try to prepare for it.

More pointedly, "[budgetary] need is determined solely by what missions we might either ask our armed forces to perform" is a very implausible assertion, as you conclude a priori that the chicken comes before the egg and not the other way around. We ask our armed forces to perform missions based upon what we perceive them to be capable of; if we spent less militarily, we'd be less inclined to view everything as nails for our military hammer. This notion isn't really relevant to how we allocate their budget. We currently budget military spending more on the latter of your two criteria than the former, albeit with a (marginal) sanity check absent in your above formulation.

*shouldn't try to prepare for it

Joe Cirincione points out that the fense budget has gone from:

...$280 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $542 billion in 2009, plus $860 billion spent thus far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the wars will cost us $2.4 trillion before they are over.
I kinda think we can cut a few billion here and a few billion there, without cutting bone.

So does whackadoodle leftist Bob Gates. Even well-known peacenik Donald Rumsfeld:

[...] "In this building, despite the era of scarce resources taxed by mounting threats, money disappears into duplicative duties, bloated bureaucracy, not because of greed, but gridlock. Innovation is stifled not by ill intent but by institutional inertia," Rumsfeld warned in 2001. "Just as we must transform America's military capability to meet changing threats, we must transform the way the department works and what it works on." He spoke of launching a major push to wring inefficiencies from the way the Defense Department does business, although that effort was sidelined the next morning when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

In this week's speech, Gates blamed that same Pentagon inertia for hampering U.S. success in Afghanistan and Iraq. He cited the laggard efforts to develop better armor to protect soldiers, and drones to tell them where the enemy is hiding. "Why did we have to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities we need to protect our troops and pursue the wars we are in?" Gates asked. "For every heroic and resourceful innovation by troops and commanders on the battlefield, there was some institutional shortcoming at the Pentagon they had to overcome."

Gates stressed that for the foreseeable future, the U.S. is likely to be fighting an unsavory stew of insurgents and terrorists rather than modern militaries armed with columns of tanks, armadas of ships and fleets of planes. "As then-Marine Commandant Charles Krulak predicted 10 years ago today, instead of the beloved 'son of Desert Storm,' Western militaries are confronted with the unwanted 'stepchild of Chechnya,' " Gates said. Combat in that messier realm, he argued, requires lots of cheap weapons and not so many of the glamorous ones.

High atop Gates' hit list of such unneeded weapons are F-22 fighters beyond the 183 already deployed or in the pipeline. The Air Force insists it needs perhaps twice as many of the $350 million fighters for possible wars with China or Russia.

And yet if we're going to full-scale war with China or Russia, we're all in a lot of trouble, and I'm highly unclear that several dozen more F-22s is really going to make the difference between winning and losing. There's also that whole "nuclear weapons" thing that crops up with them, again.

Back to crazy leftist hippie Gates:

[...] The effect is often jarring, in Washington, when someone inside the Beltway utters an uncomfortable truth. That's what Defense Secretary Robert Gates did at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, putting a damper on pressure from his own Air Force for Congress to buy more F-22 fighters. Gates believes the 183 F-22s currently planned are sufficient. "I know that the Air Force is up here and around talking about 350 or something on that order," the Secretary said. But buying more of the costly F-22 will come at the expense of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is about half the price.

"The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater," Gates said.

Back over here:
[...] If Congress funds the president’s $623 billion FY2008 military budget request, we will spend more on our forces next year than at any time since World War II.

[...]

Foreign policy by military force is underwritten at 21 times the level allocated to all non-military forms of engagement with the world; it receives 14 times the amount devoted to protecting the homeland; it will outspend both defense and prevention put together, that is, all forms of non-military security spending, by a factor of 9 to 1. In other words, the
President’s proposed budget would devote 90% of our foreign and security policy resources to engaging the world through military force.

Things we can consider cutting: do we need another Virginia-class submarine? There's $2.5 billion. 5 more Trident ballistic missiles? $670 million. A "bonus payment" for the contractors of the Joint Strike Fighter, when it's $10 billion over budget and 11 months late? That's $494 million.

Do feel free, anyone, to explain why that bonus is key to our national defense.

But that's far too modest (this is all from my earlier link); we don't need the DDG-1000, which seems to be susceptible to modern cruise missiles, and thus useless anyway. How about cutting these?

About $21 billion would be saved by reducing the nuclear arsenal to no more than 1,000 warheads, more than enough to maintain nuclear deterrence. And keeping National Missile Defense in a
research mode and preventing the weaponization of space; About $23 billion would be saved by scaling back or stopping the research, development, and construction of weapons that are useless to combat modern threats. Many of the weapons involved, like the F/A-22 fighter jet and the DDG-1000 Destroyer, were designed to fight threats from a bygone era;
Another $5 billion would be saved by eliminating forces, including two active Air Force wings and one carrier group, which are not needed in the current geopolitical environment; and, About $7 billion would be saved if the giant Pentagon bureaucracy simply functioned in a more
efficient manner and eliminated many of the nearly 3,000 earmarks in the defense budget.
We can talk more specifics, as folks like. We can talk about starting with cutting $56 billion out of a $481 billion dollar budget without talking about leaving ourselves defenseless. Or can we, mckinneyintexas?

I haven't read 'The Limits of Power', but I'm currently reading Bacevich's 'The New American Militarization,' and it really is very good.

On the subject of disbanding the US Army, perhaps we should instead move the entire force onto Reserve status- easy to mobilize in the event of an emergency, but cheaper, and it would help to prevent the view of the soldier as mythological hero that Bacevich talks about as being so damaging to the US military and foreign policy.

Another viewpoint worthy of the time taken to read it (perhaps "slog through it" would be a better term) is that put out by the author Phillip Bobbitt (see the books "Shield of Achilles" and "Terror and Consent" ) dwelling at length on the relationship between military power, ideologies used to construct and support the legitimacy of the state (which he construes as systems of constitutional law in the broadest possible sense of the term) and history (both the outcomes of inter- and intra-state conflicts and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of them after the fact).

He points out something this is all too easily forgotten in debates over national defense - that the ultimate objective of national defense is to safeguard and maintain the legitimacy of the state by competently discharging one of its principle responsibilities: the physical protection of its citizens.

He points out that doing so is no longer purely or even primarily a task for conventional military forces because in our world today there are too many threats which conventional military force cannot effectively deter as a result of modern weapons making it theoretically possible for small numbers of assailants to cause large scale physical damage and even more so the vulnerabilities of our modern society have rendered national borders less relevant than they were in the days of traditional mass conscript armies.

Today over-the-horizon threats are something we have to learn to live with, because many of the threats we face are transnational and/or non-military in nature, e.g. pandemics, global warming, acts of terrorism, natural catastrophes, or even systemic instabilities in the heavily networked and interconnected world of modern life, yet states are burdened with the responsibility of protecting their citizens against these problems nonetheless and they threaten the legitimacy of the state if it fails to adequately do so.

His conclusion is that we need to shift from threat based analysis to vulnerability based analysis, concentrating on making our society more resilient with respect to things that can go wrong rather than trying to block every possible threat.

That Left Turn 11:32: I absolutely agree. For those with a mathematical, Robert McNamara type bent for "rational" analysis, you can graph two converging lines against one datum. The first line, ascending, represents the power potentially available to an individual member of our society. Today we have access to the Internet, recipes for all kinds of nasty stuff, the means to transport it,and so on. The descending curve represents the ability of an increasingly interdependent society to resist the effects of violence. The datum represents the constant, the strength of materials. It took the same force to break a femur in the time of Napolean or Chingis Khan, but the power available in modern weapons, whether those of a regular military of improvised devices, has increased greatly.

Shouldn't thoughtful Progressives first determine what the country's defense needs are and what the cost will be and go from there?

Sure.

Here are the first questions I would ask along those lines.

Do we need to have absolute, unassailable military superiority over every other nation on earth?

What would actually be required to meet that goal, should we decide we need it?

Is there something short of that which would still insure the safety of the US itself?

What does "military superiority" mean in an environment where 19 guys with box cutters can knock down the WTC, attack the Pentagon, and come damned close to blowing up Congress?

Sorry, no answers here today. Just questions.

Thanks -

Gary Farber--of course we can talk about specific cuts, that was the point of my original post. I agree generally that our military needs to be restructured, particularly our ground units. I disagree about cutting our force projection capabilities, for a variety of reasons, two of which are Korea and Taiwan. These two venues have a fairly high potential for open conventional war. If the US continues to extend its umbrella over Taiwan and South Korea, the principle purpose of our force projection assets is served: deterrence with no actual battle. If our umbrella were to be withdrawn, both countries would have to strongly consider developing their own nuclear deterrent. One of the many underlying rationales for our extensive military complex is to relieve allies of the need to develop a nuclear deterrent.

Can we cut our own nukes? Probably, but that seems to me to be a second or third order level of analysis, since they are already on the shelf and the cost we incur is simply ongoing maintenance.

Whoever said we should sell half of our carrier fleet to trusted allies is wrong for at least two reasons. First, not a single ally has the depth to station 3000 sailors and pilots on a single ship, much less provide the support ships a carrier requires to discharge its mission. Second, if we cut our carriers to five, at any given time only three would be at sea. We wouldn't even have the assets to make a difference in places like Bosnia, much less keep sea lanes open or deter the PRC or North Korea.

As for my general comment that the left's views of military spending since the early 70's has been to cut by raw numbers or percentages, that is a true statement. By left, I mean elected politicians, pundits and analysts. I am unaware of anyone on the left (except Scoop Jackson) who ever advocated actually increasing defense spending--except Obama.

I'm highly unclear that several dozen more F-22s is really going to make the difference between winning and losing.

I'd have to agree, despite the side of my bread that's buttered. Despite the fact that production cutbacks only make the average cost per aircraft go up, you've got to know where to draw the line. I think maybe we've got enough. There hasn't been anything resembling an air superiority war since...well, I can't remember. Vietnam was a little before my time. JSF will do, for the nonce, against any opponent we are likely to encounter in the next couple of decades. My opinion, of course.

DDG-1000, sort of likewise. All of the DDG-51s will be in service for the next two decades, nearly, before they start getting slated for decommissioning. My data might be a little off, but I think we're going to have a Navy that no one else can match for the next quarter century, without having to invest heavily in new systems. Littoral vessels are another conversation entirely

Nuclear weapons: cut them back. It's not as if there was every any scenario where using them was going to win us a war that we wanted to win.

Missile defense I'm going to stay out of, because most people don't know enough about it to make a dent in discussing viability. I don think what we're deploying currently is...premature. Still, there are systems out there that are viable AND more mature, such as SM-3, PAC-3 and THAAD. These tend to have specific roles, though, that are force-defense in nature. I'd tend to lean toward addressing the low-hanging fruit first, before going after missile defense, but I'm probably not going to have much company there.

I am unaware of anyone on the left (except Scoop Jackson) who ever advocated actually increasing defense spending--except Obama.

Then I don't think you've been following along as closely as you claim.

First, not a single ally has the depth to station 3000 sailors and pilots on a single ship, much less provide the support ships a carrier requires to discharge its mission.

This is nowhere near the truth. Currently, allies such as the UK, India, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, and Thailand have carriers. It also wouldn't be a stretch for allies such as Canada, Japan and Australia to operate carriers as they currently have large deck helo platforms. Second, a carrier crew is closer to 6000, not 3000.

I wouldn't be in favor of selling off any carriers as it would limit force projection.

My (relatively uneducated) objection to Missile Defense is less about a waste of money on a non-viable technology, and more that if it does become viable, it changes the calculus for a lot of other countries regarding nukes. Mutually Assured Destruction seems to have held the line fairly well, but if the US is seen to become immune to considerations of that sort, other powers will want to develop arsenals that could overwhelm any shield. I think we should step back from that brink.

Mutually Assured Destruction seems to have held the line fairly well

Not to be snarky, but it's a little jarring to see nostalgia for the days of MAD.

Not that MAD and missile defense are either/or, these days, but still...jarring. The word 'brinksmanship' came into common use during the MAD era.

For those folks suggesting that we chop missile defense, let me note one point. Missile defense opponents often use the phrase to denote Star Wars-like interception of ICBMs protecting an entire continent. In contrast, a lot of others use the term to refer to a much broader set of programs, including programs the Navy has developed for killing short range sea skimming anti-ship missiles. While the Star Wars-like systems have massive technical problems (IMHO) that will never be solved, some of the smaller scale programs have demonstrated significant successes and are being deployed right now. It helps to be specific. If you want to cut all missile defense programs, that's fine, but that probably requires a dramatic rethinking of naval force protection, among other things.

Well put, Turbulence.

Whatever is currently holding the National Missile Defense slot (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense, and possibly MKV) is/are probably the least mature of everything that's in the works.

For the curious, here's an overview of what's in the works. If you don't want to read it all, page 7 has a chart that summarizes (and pictures!) fairly well what's currently in the mix. What was previously known as "Star Wars" isn't really any of those; Star Wars tended to focus on space-based systems with capability to counter a massive first attack.

Slarti -- Not meaning to be nostalgic; I'm not old enough. Simply pointing out that it seems to me that a space-based missile shield is a step in the wrong direction.

I think the real disagreement here is over what it is we're supposed to be defending. If it's an empire on which the sun never sets, or our veto over who gets to govern countries in the Middle East and Latin America, then maybe we're not spending enough; but it's not considered comme il faut to acknowledge that that's what we're doing, so one side needs to keep inflating global and extraregional annoyances into existential threats, and the other side can't get a hearing in elite opinion or mass media for any proposition stronger than "it's not that big a deal" (which still gets treated as Chomskyite America-hating). That's the question that needs to be answered before we can even consider how big our missiles need to be.

Slarti -- Not meaning to be nostalgic; I'm not old enough.

I am, or near enough. MAD was no joyride. Read a little on the subject, sometime. Imagine that nuclear weapons are not just some evil things in cold storage, somewhere, but sitting on top of missiles sitting in manned missile silos, ready to launch on short notice. Now imagine a very, very large number of such missiles. And cruise missiles and gravity bombs, and bombers designed to deliver them and return safely to base so that they could be re-crewed, which was necessary because the previous crew was radiation-sick and dying. Imagine that we had missile defense programs back then, but not to defend cities. They were under development to defend the silos.

Simply pointing out that it seems to me that a space-based missile shield is a step in the wrong direction.

We're not developing any of those, farmgirl. Not that anyone is talking about, anyway. I think the last one of those in progress got de-funded back in 1991 or so.

Slarti -- Sorry, I guess my use of "space based" terminology was incorrect; as I said this is not an area of expertise.

I was talking about the efforts to develop missiles to shoot down incoming missiles in space. There have been several (public and spectacularly failed) tests *much* more recently than 1991, and it is my understanding that work continues and the controversial sites proposed for Poland are for this technology.

I get the concept of MAD, I just wasn't subjected to the horror at the time it might still have been an issue. Tensions seem to have subsided recently -- didn't we finally stop manning round-the-clock bomber crews a few years back? What missile defense removes is opposing parties' assurance that we won't act agressively with nukes because reciprocal action can be taken. If that assurance is removed, it changes the equation for them and creates an incentive for them to be much more hostile and suspicious.

There have been several (public and spectacularly failed) tests *much* more recently than 1991

Yes, this is in agreement with my comments to the effect that the current ground-based national missile defense is less mature than its more portable brethren.

Failure doesn't mean it can't work, though; it just means something didn't work. Generally, flight test programs have failures, because you're in engineering development and trying to find and remedy problems in the systems. The THAAD Dem/Val phase was just about as failure-prone as it's possible to be, but they regrouped and they've been pretty rock solid in Operational Test & Evaluation.

I note once again that I think the current incarnation of NMD isn't mature, and has been emplaced prematurely. I think 99% of the reason it was emplaced prematurely, though, is because these things tend to get killed for political reasons before they ever get built. The question of whether we actually need NMD these days is, of course, one worth discussing.

Slatri:

For the curious, here's an overview of what's in the works. If you don't want to read it all, page 7 has a chart that summarizes (and pictures!) fairly well what's currently in the mix

Think ya omitted a link there...

Oh, hell. Here it is: *.

How quickly we forget. Remember this speech by well known leftist agitator Dwight D. Eisenhower?


...
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.


Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.


Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.


But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.


The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.


...A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.


Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.


Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.


This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.


In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.


We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


...Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.


Yeah, that Eisenhower, I can't understand how a crazed leftist like him with his crazy fear-mongering about the military-industrial complex or the risks of deficit spending could have ever become a five star general, the commander of SHAEF and later SHAPE and a two-term president of the United States. Dwight was clearly out of touch with current Republican thinking which believes that deficits are irrelevant and that wasteful and stupid spending programs are A-OK as long as they're conducted by the Pentagon.


I have to wonder if the reason so many modern Republicans are so mindlessly pro-defense is because so many of them chickened out when their country called upon them. Has anyone at National Review since Bill Buckley retired served in the military? How about anyone at Fox News? Are there any Republicans out there who believe that patriotism requires something more than just wearing a flag pin and spending money borrowed from the Chinese?

I don't see what Eisenhower is supposed to have to do with the modern GOP any more than Lincoln, or Wilson and the democrats. You can draw lines to certain modern strains of thought, but its too far in the past.

"I don't see what Eisenhower is supposed to have to do with the modern GOP any more than Lincoln, or Wilson and the democrats."

Well, Ike was President when I was born and alive, and the others weren't.

More to the point, all the significant apparatus and structure and philosophy of our current military-industrial-intelligence complex was put into place in 1947, with precursors during WWII. Ike was present for and part of much of it, and inherited the rest of it. The rest, not.

So there's an overwhelming difference in that Eisenhower had a lot to do with our current set up, and knew what he was talking about, whereas Wilson and Lincoln lived in an entirely different day.

If you don't see this, all I can advise is reading some more history of the last 70 years.

The people are currently run the GOP are the intellectual heirs of the people who believed Eisenhower was a Communist agent.

More to the point, all the significant apparatus and structure and philosophy of our current military-industrial-intelligence complex was put into place in 1947, with precursors during WWII.

The Nitze Doctrine, and NSC 68.

"The people are currently run the GOP are the intellectual heirs of the people who believed Eisenhower was a Communist agent."

This is more or less true, or close to it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad