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Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again

March 6th, 2014 - 10:36 am

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testified that he’s not exactly pleased with the plans outlined by the new Quadrennial Defense Review:

Dempsey predicted that it would become increasingly difficult to balance the competing demands of protecting allies abroad, securing Americans at home and deterring future wars.

“The smaller and less capable military outlined in the QDR makes meeting these obligations more difficult,” he said. “Most of our platforms and equipment will be older, and our advantages in some domains will have eroded. Our loss of depth across the force could reduce our ability to intimidate opponents from escalating conflicts.”

Dempsey added: “Moreover, many of our most capable allies will lose key capabilities. The situation will be exacerbated given our current readiness concerns, which will worsen over the next three or four years.”

It’s cool. The Professor ends wars, yo.

More seriously: We always do this, don’t we?

We got sick of the world after WWII and cut our forces. Next thing we knew there was a major land war in Korea. We got sick of the world after Vietnam and cut our forces. Next thing we knew the Soviets were all over Africa and Central America. We got sick of the world after the Cold War and cut our forces. Next thing we knew, 9/11 and Afghanistan and Iraq. Here we are today, still planning blithely to cut our forces to levels not seen since before Pearl Harbor, while the Russians are playing Annex Thy Neighbor with the choice bits of Ukraine.

The only conclusion to draw is that we’re very slow learners.

Well, that and Democrats can’t be trusted with military budgets in peacetime. They get a pass during wartime only because of FDR.

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All Comments   (3)
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I guess you missed a couple classes on Colonial American History, Stephen. :) We've done exactly the same thing after very war this country has ever fought. The Cold War conscript-populated standing army was the exception, not the rule. The historical rule is: have a war, spend insane amounts of money in a short amount of time, then complain about profiteers afterwards.

By 1792, the entire Federal Army was less than 2,000 men. In 1860, it was less than 30,000. You could put the entire 1860 US Navy into a Nimitz-class carrier and still have room.

After the War for Independence, we didn't really need a large Army until 1860. One could easily argue that the War of 1812 & Mexican-American war were filibusters to enlarge our territory.

After the North won the Civil War, why retain a large standing Army? The units we did have were sufficient to oppress Native Americans.

The Spanish-American War was another easily-avoidable filibuster, and something the Republican Party should avoid discussing as much as possible

So -except for an avoidable civil war- a large standing force wasn't needed for most of our history.

We didn't need said forces after WW1 (perhaps Navy excepted) as long as we were actively engaged in world politics. That didn't happen. And it was Europe who empowered Hitler, not the United States. Britain and France could have easily crushed Nazi militarism in 1935. Hell, FDR was called a warmonger just for instituting conscription!

We didn't disband completely after WW2, but the difference between 1945 forces and 1947 forces perhaps over-dramatizes the downsize. Our 1947 levels were far larger than 1940. We depended on Soviet cooperation internationally. Back then we didn't know any better. These days we do.

Another reason for the huge cutback was possession of nuclear weapons. The contemporary thinking was that we didn't need large forces any more. Just nuke 'em till they glow. Ah, the Pentomic Army!

Point being that there was a huge technological jump, which made it difficult to anticipate the direction of warfare at the time. Add to this the expected Soviet cooperation in international peacekeeping, and the lack of foresight with respect to the end of the British Empire, and it's easy to see how up in the air everything was.

After Korea we followed a policy of armed containment, with divisions in Japan, Korea, and West Germany, among other places. Don't know that I'd call the late 50s a time of disarmament.

The cutbacks after Vietnam were easily predictable. A "lost" war and peacetime revulsion resulted in a typical cutback in American forces. This was one of the less-excusable drawdowns, given then-self-evident Soviet intentions to fund "world revolution" across the globe. Nixon's detente was a poor choice of strategy.

The post Cold War "peace dividend" is more defensible. One of the more famous historical works of the time was the "End of History." Even P.J. O'Rouke foresaw an easy future. Go back and re-read his "Give War a Chance." Everyone enjoyed the euphoria of the time. We could deal with the little stuff easy.

Even today's draw-down is defensible given our financial problems. The problem is really more of how to cut back without vitiating our forces. The current administration is less than qualified to make intelligent judgments on that score.

I don't know if you read him very often, but CDR Salamander has been discussing this for several years; he could see our current expenditures were unsustainable and predicted the cuts a while back. Alas, no one wanted to face the truth and kept kicking the can down the road. We just don't have the money for a large welfare state and a large Defense Department at the same time

The problem is that the Cold Was distorted our thinking (military, diplomatic, and financial) from 1945-1991. We never really adjusted to the fall of the Soviet Empire.

These days we need to live in a multi-polar world environment with limited resources compared to the flush Cold War budgets. Something to remember (given the many high-tech systems on hand or in development) is that high-tech saves lives. It doesn't win wars. Hard, realistic training does. That's expensive. History also shows that it's better to have a small, good army than a larger, less-well trained force.

Again, the need for cuts in unavoidable. The problem is getting the mix right.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Back in the 'Olde Days' pre-WW II, you could, almost justify that kind of Isolationist thinking. The Two Ocean Frontiers that guarded us from European and Asian bad manners. But what with missile subs, ICBMS, Bio Weapons and Manpac Baby Nukes those days are long gone. Now when we actually need Unassailable Strength we gut the forces that provide it.

I actually heard the Laughter of the Gods last week when after announcing the scrapping of the Air Forces A10 (after all there's no NEED for a flying weapons platform designed to kill Russian tanks on the North German Plain anymore). And the rapid deployment of Fighter forces to Poland and Lithuania to warn the Russians to keep their tanks on their side of the property line. It would actually be funny if it wasn't so terrifying.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
... And can you provide a scenario wherein we would face hundreds (if not thousands) of enemy tanks? I hope you aren't anticipating a land war with China?

Love the icon...
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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