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Last Thursday Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that our two-war
fighting strategy isn’t working. Well, if you underfund your military and
reject any increase in defense spending, then something has to give.
OK, if current defense policy isn’t working, then what is the solution?
Secretary Rumsfeld says we should probably abandon our current military
goals. That’s right. Although he didn’t say this openly, it is implied.
The Bush administration feels we can safely ignore the actual capabilities of
potential adversaries and base our defense on domestic political and economic
considerations. China, after all, is our trading partner, and Russia is our
trustworthy friend. Because of this, we can dismiss hostile statements or
moves from these two great powers. We can ignore their actual capabilities
and leave ourselves open to attack because no attack will ever take place.
After all, no attack has taken place so far.
In a baffling formulation, suggestive of the notion that more is less
in defense, Rumsfeld appears to foresee a century without big wars. Perhaps
only low-intensity wars remain to us. Cyber-terrorism and the chest-pounding
of rogue states is apparently what we should focus on. Besides, such threats
are cheaper to deal with. And the new Republican battlecry, ever since Newt
Gingrich pronounced it, is that Republicans are “cheap hawks.”
One pictures a small bird that cries, “Cheep, cheep, cheep.”
In his testimony before the Armed Services committees of the House and
Senate last week, Secretary Rumsfeld hinted at plans to downsize the U.S.
military. The problem has to do with money (a major Republican obsession).
We do not worry so much about guns as we do about green promissory notes. We
also do not see the Russian and Chinese formula for the 21st century with any
clarity. This formula is based on the notion that the Americans can have all
the money as long as Russia and China can get hold of all the guns. Then it
will be “stick ’em up” time. In the end Russia and China will have all the
money and all the guns. But the cheap hawks of the spare Republican wing are
addicted to continued military downsizing. While the Chinese and Russians
are whispering “guns, guns, guns,” the U.S. leadership is whispering “money,
In terms of defense spending this sounds like: “Cheep, cheep, cheep.”
Rumsfeld noted that, “Too much of today’s military planning is
dominated by what one scholar of Pearl Harbor called ‘a poverty of
expectations, a routine obsession with a few dangers that may be familiar
rather than likely.'”
But Rumsfeld has inverted the meanings here. The big threat was the
one that got ignored precisely because it was thought “unlikely.” And that
is precisely what Rumsfeld is doing. Instead of taking a hard line against
the cheap hawks in Congress, the U.S. Defense Secretary has accepted certain
fiscal limitations. Instead of challenging President George W. Bush’s
failure to support the Pentagon, he has joined the little Republican birdies
in their chorus.
“Cheep, cheep, cheep.”
The threats of the future, Rumsfeld thinks, will not come from great
powers like Russia and China. America therefore doesn’t need to plan for
simultaneous breakouts in Korea, the Taiwan Straits and the Middle East.
After all, our enemies would never be smart enough to coordinate their
“Cheep, cheep, cheep.”
What we should prepare for, say the little birdies, are threats from
cyber terrorists and rogue states with low-grade ICBMs. As for defending
ourselves from Russia’s large nuclear arsenal or China’s growing war machine
(the largest on earth), Rumsfeld is apparently contemptuous of the
capabilities of the other great powers.
Perhaps I am mistaken, but this contempt sounds like something out of
the beak of a little bird.
Currently the U.S. military has fewer than 1.4 million active duty
personnel. China has over 4 million. Combine that with North Korea’s 1.1
million and the millions currently on duty within the Commonwealth of
Independent States (formerly known as the Soviet Union).
The U.S. Army, even if underfunded, is the best in the world. The
Russians and Chinese supposedly have junky forces by comparison. But
didn’t Clausewitz say that “quantity is a quality unto itself”? For that
matter Russia and China have been modernizing after their own fashion. A
source in Europe reports that Russia has miniaturized and is mass-producing a
new vacuum bomb that can be fired from an artillery tube. This new type of
artillery shell has the power of a small tactical nuclear warhead. It can be
used to clear minefields. It can be used to demolish regiments and
divisions, to break large holes in defensive lines.
This column reported last year that Russia has developed a rifle fired
vacuum grenade which can give a Russian infantryman the firepower of a 155 mm
howitzer. This is enough firepower to knock down a three-story building.
And the Russians are making these grenades in cooperation with the Chinese.
But the cheap hawks, led by Secretary Rumsfeld, are not making an issue
of this. It is of no account that the Russians dropped a vacuum bomb on
Chechnya that was so powerful it registered as a strategic nuclear
detonation. Nobody in Washington seems to notice that Russia has used
Chechnya as a massive training ground for new weapons and new tactics.
America’s political establishment doesn’t want to spend more money on
defense. The left doesn’t want to spend on defense because it would rather
create more indigence and dependency through federal welfare programs. The
right doesn’t want to spend more on defense because it wants a bigger tax
break. Yet the U.S. military is called upon to remain on peacekeeping
assignments around the world. We are obliged to defend Europe, South Korea
and Japan. President Bush even says he will defend Taiwan.
So many commitments, so much underfunding. In the background we hear
nothing but, “cheep, cheep, cheep.”
So the money for force modernization, which Rumsfeld desperately needs,
must now come at the expense of force size. It must come at the expense of
today’s capabilities. In the end we will be asked to give up two Army
divisions and three carrier groups. In the end we will rid ourselves of
5,000 deliverable nuclear warheads. In exchange we will get a better defense
against hackers and “rogue states” with a few nuclear devices.
Secretary Rumsfeld was honest enough to explain the situation in clear
language. “First,” he said, “because we’re underfunded and [we] overused our
forces, we find that to meet acceptable levels of risk, we’re short a
division. We’re short of airlift. We have been underfunding aging
infrastructure and facilities. … The aircraft fleet is aging. … The Navy
is declining in numbers.”
Perhaps I am mistaken in this assumption, but it seems that Rumsfeld’s
solution is to further shrink the size of our underfunded forces, accepting
that we cannot win two regional wars simultaneously, in order to come back
with qualitatively superior forces at the end of the decade. This is the
“cheap hawk” solution.
If this is Rumsfeld’s plan, it is full of danger.
Russia’s is presently supporting and coordinating various anti-American
powers. This means there could be a coordinated outbreak. Russian President
Vladimir Putin announced over two weeks ago that “new regional centers of
power and security are forming” and that Russian “military-technical
cooperation is a tool for influencing these formations.”
Now why would Russia be interested in cooperating with and influencing
“new regional centers of power”? What do you suppose these would be? The
implication is that a power-vacuum has formed due to America’s unwillingness
to maintain its defense commitments.
And what are these “new regional power centers” that Putin refers to?
I list them as follows: Venzuela, Cuba and the FARC insurgency in Latin
America; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Congo in sub-Saharan
Africa; Iran, Iraq and Syria in the Middle East; India, China, Vietnam and
North Korea in Asia – plus other odds and ends like Libya and China’s
extension into Sudan (and don’t forget Panama).
The Center for Security Policy recently put out a report entitled,
“Clinton’s Legacy: The Dangerous Decade.” This report goes into detail about
multiple emerging threats across the global chessboard. It explores the
failure of arms control, the proliferation of mass destruction weapons by
Russia and China, the reversion of Russia to Soviet-era policies and the
emerging aggressiveness of Beijing. It details how a Russian Oscar II
submarine successfully stalked three U.S. carriers during naval operations
near Seattle in September 1997. It seems the Russian submarine was in
position to strike at all three carriers, and was specifically made for
exactly such a mission.
Readers are encouraged to check out The Center for Security Policy and see what Putin was referring to when he spoke of
“new regional centers of power.” To base the policies of the next decade on
cheap hawkism, to reflect the demands of the Clinton gang on the Republican
side, is to compromise the country’s security for a few billion dollars. And
as we all know, every unspent defense dollar will be sucked into social
spending until the cancer eats us hollow.
That’s the real budgetary achievement of the cheap hawk.