Friday, December 15, 2017

Margin of Victory Review in the Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report/Remarkable-victories-517944

REMARKABLE VICTORIES
BY MARTIN SIEFF
DECEMBER 13, 2017
Douglas Macgregor’s new book draws lessons from five key battles, including the Yom Kippur War
 
RETIRED US Army Col. Douglas Macgregor commanded US armored forces in the Battle of 73 Easting, the decisive tank engagement of the 1991 Gulf War, and is now a leading military tactician.

Macgregor’s groundbreaking books, “Breaking the Phalanx” (Praeger 1997) and “Transformation under Fire” (Praeger 2003) have profoundly influenced thinking about transformation inside America’s ground forces, NATO, the Israel Defense Forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. His books are available in Chinese and Hebrew.

Macgregor is widely recognized as an expert on organizational design and grand strategy. And his most recent book, “Margin of Victory: Five Battles That Changed the Face of Modern War” includes a chapter on Israel’s “come-from-behind” victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Macgregor discusses his latest book’s lessons for the US and Israeli militaries and the factors that were responsible for Israel’s remarkable victories in 1973.

Macgregor is now Executive Vice President of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC in Reston, Virginia.

The Report: What is your book’s message? Macgregor: The message of “Margin of Victory” is simple: Washington and its allies must reorient the US Armed Forces’ (especially the US Army’s) thinking and modernization toward fighting future wars of decision; nation-state wars that are fought against opponents with armies, air forces and air defenses, not open-ended interventions to suppress weak insurgents or build nations where none exist. Wars of Decision are fought with the expectation of eventual conflict termination based on the attainment of a defined political-military end state. These are wars the United States cannot afford to lose.

The hard truth is if today’s US Army Ground Forces were hit and hit hard, if American Commanders faced an air defense threat, rocket artillery, cruise missiles, and a capable armored ground force, these troops and their commanders would be shocked, even paralyzed.

It’s why “Margin of Victory” warns that change inside military establishments before and during war is always painful because adjustments to warfighting organizations and modernization threaten more people and institutions than we can count.

Inevitably, in the fight for badly needed changes in thinking, organization, structure, technology, and human capital, the enemy is not external. The enemy is us.

The Report: In “Margin of Victory,” you devote an entire chapter to the fighting in the Suez region during the 1973 War. Despite the early defeats and the severe air and armor losses, what turned the tide for the Israelis? Macgregor: What reversed the disasters of the first ten days of the Sinai campaign and eventually secured battlefield victory for Israel was Israel’s human capital in uniform.

I explain that Israeli forces prevailed in 1973 because Israeli officers did not send their men into battle; they led them into battle.

As I write in my book, “Senior commanders routinely went to the points on the ground where the action was critical and ensured the Israeli fighting forces received the resources they needed to be successful.

In the Egyptian military such behavior was the exception, not the rule.”

Israel’s unified military command structure with supporting general staff ensured that the two-front war did not overtax Israel’s military resources. These actions combined to ensure unity of effort on the strategic and operational levels creating a margin of victory Egypt could not match.

The Report: What are the lessons of the 1973 war for the IDF and Israel’s security today? Macgregor: To survive and prevail in 21st century close combat, the vast majority of Israeli, American and European soldiers must be protected; ideally, mounted in tracked armored platforms equipped with accurate, devastating firepower.

When tightly integrated with Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) and Strike (Stand-off Attack) capabilities, a smaller number of more highly trained mobile armored combat formations manned by intelligent soldiers can accomplish more in the future than the mass armies of the past.

Human capital is a recurring theme in “Margin of Victory.” National culture is responsible for the pool of high-quality soldiers, sailors, and airmen that populate the armed forces and for the emergence of tens of thousands of exceptional leaders at the tactical and operational levels who can analyze, synthesize, and inspire.

Culture is the foundation for human capital.

For example, the quality of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) training together with superior, aggressive leadership compensated for the IJA’s numerical inferiority on the ground in its fighting with the British in Malaysia during 1942.

The Report: Given the weakness and instability in Iraq and Syria and the reemergence of Iran, what should Israel’s military concerns and responses in force planning of force structure and training of units be today and in the immediate future? Macgregor: Israel’s experience in a series of wars has repeatedly taught the critical lesson that “one size does not fit all” – diversity of capability is vital to success.

However, I caution that in a future conflict with the Turks, Iranians or Russians, the exponential increase in the lethality of modern weapons makes light infantry – whether airborne, airmobile, or amphibious – a niche capability, not the foundation for a 21st century ground maneuver force.

IT IS more important to remember that target sets do not automatically equate to strategy or influence. With the IDF’s opponents in Southern Lebanon in mind, I would add the reminder that carefully concealed sites are also notoriously hard to target.

As I write in my book, “Only the decisive use of mobile armored forces in offensive maneuver operations, combined with the striking power of the Israeli air force and high-angle mortar, artillery, and rocket fire, can fix these mobile targets for armor and armored infantry to finish them off.”

The Report: Since 9/11, the global focus has been on counter-insurgency operations rather than land battle and major scale combat operations. Is Israel following this trend and should it continue to do so? Macgregor: If today’s US Army and Marine four-star generals have not figured it out, at least the American people know there is no point in trying to breathe new life into the comatose body of the perpetually failed states that litter the eastern hemisphere with American military power.

This is why “Margin of Victory” argues that the last major war’s technologies, force designs, and human capital strategies are seldom, if ever, perfect solutions for the next major war.

With the enemy at the gates, Israelis understand this point better than most.

The Report: Israel is focused on the Iranian threat. Are there other major conflicts with neighbors such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Russia it should also either a) make provisional plans for, or b) take exceptional efforts to avert? Macgregor: How [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s policies will play out in the shadow of Russian military power in Syria and on Turkey’s Caucasian border is hard to predict. After 1967, the Israelis gave little serious thought to the possibility that the Egyptians would do anything rash like start a war. Tel Aviv should not make this mistake when dealing with the Turks.

Erdogan’s readiness to cooperate with Moscow and Tehran suggest Erdogan is willing to set aside his visceral distaste for Shi’ite Persians and Orthodox Russians in favor of an arrangement that promises to constrain, undermine or destroy Israel and the West.

In addition, unlike the Iranian population that is resolutely non-martial and largely insulated from Iran’s military adventures in Iraq and Syria, the Turkish population is intensely proud of its Ottoman military heritage and stands behind Erdoğan.

Tel Aviv and Washington should also monitor Erdoğan’s close relationship with Islamabad and Islamabad’s potential to assist Ankara with nuclear weapons on short notice. Ankara’s confidence in this relationship is one of the reasons why Tehran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon never worried Ankara.

In summary, I believe that Israel confronts a new strategic environment in which Tel Aviv is unlikely to enjoy a nuclear monopoly.

This development will put a premium on the IDF’s capabilities for high-end conventional warfare to ensure the necessity for nuclear weapons does not arise.

For Washington, the key lesson of the last 16 years is that bungled military interventions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan could distract the warring Islamist parties from their struggle with each other and impart cohesion to the anti-Israeli/anti-Western coalition of Turks, Russians and Iranians
 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

North Korea won't start a war - Trump shouldn't launch an attack

By Douglas Macgregor | Fox News

Listen to the mainstream media and President Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and you would conclude that war on the Korean Peninsula is imminent, right?
You’d be wrong. The only way a war breaks out in Northeast Asia is if Washington starts it. Let me tell you why.
The 50-year war between North Korea and its neighbor South Korea is over. North Korea lost. Dictator Kim Jong Un now presides over a dying society in the North – a prison camp full of about 25 million miserable, starving people masquerading as a country. North Korea lags in economic terms somewhere behind Ethiopia.
In contrast, South Korea is an economic juggernaut; a nation of roughly 51 million with an economy larger than that of Russia, which has a population of about 144 million. In terms of per capita gross domestic product, South Korea ranks 31st in the world, while Russia ranks 68th and North Korea ranks nowhere.
Kim’s armed forces mirror his society’s tragic condition. They are an aging tribute to the Soviet forces of the 1970s. Any attempt to employ them against South Korea’s modern armed forces would end in devastating defeat for North Korea.
Kim also knows that missile attacks launched from his soil against the South Korea, Japan or the United States would result in the immediate and total destruction of his Stalinist regime.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Kim in very clear terms that if Kim launches an attack on his neighbors or the United States, he is on his own. The Chinese armed forces will stand by and watch as Kim’s regime is systematically annihilated.
To reiterate, the only way war breaks out in Northeast Asia is if the United States starts it. And this insight explains Kim’s strategy. His best chance of survival is to goad President Trump into attacking him. Then Beijing – despite the Chinese distaste for their North Korean neighbor – will be obligated to intervene to defend Kim’s regime.
With this point in mind, Kim has turned to Moscow, not Beijing, for help. Moscow sees Washington’s renewed interest in bringing down Kim as an opportunity. From Moscow’s perspective, North Korea is useful insofar as it can be leveraged in a high-stakes game to bring Washington into conflict with not only North Korea, but more importantly with China.
While China will not support North Korea in a war unleashed by the Kim regime, Beijing has said the Chinese Armed Forces will assist Kim if Washington attacks North Korea.
To promote conflict with China – something President Trump made less likely with his wise diplomacy toward China – Moscow is willing to provide just enough technical assistance to create the illusion of capability in North Korea. 
The North’s recent missile launch is a case in point. The liquid-fueled rocket that North Korea launched into space recently lacked precision guidance, as well as a viable warhead. And, like its predecessors, the rocket broke up on reentry and crashed in pieces into the sea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in summed up the 50-minute rocket test by saying it was not clear “whether the communist nation has in fact built nuclear weapons, let alone perfected its missile technology.”
For Washington, the right course of action is obvious. Don’t take the bait. As former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates warned some time ago: "Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
The sole beneficiary of a conflict between the United States and China is Russia.
Like Serbia in 1914, North Korea is unpopular with virtually every nation in the world, including China. On the eve of World War I, the Guardian newspaper noted sarcastically that “if it were physically possible for Serbia to be towed out to sea and sunk there, the air of Europe would at once seem cleaner.” Most of the world would readily apply this description to North Korea.
Of course, in 1914 not a single European statesman regarded Serbia as a country so important that every major power in Europe – and eventually the world – would go to war over its future. Yet, thanks to Russia’s decision to mobilize its armies and back Serbia, that’s exactly what happened.
My advice to President Trump is simple: Mr. President, Moscow is inciting Rocket Man. Don’t take the bait.
Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, a Ph.D. and the author of five books; his most recent is Margin of Victory (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/12/10/north-korea-wont-start-war-trump-shouldnt-launch-attack.html 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

General: Army Needs More Futurists to Better Predict Conflict

 Douglas Macgregor's comments regarding the article below:

Some observations about General Hix’s assertions in the article at the bottom of the email:

·         Hix is wrong to suggest that Urbanization is a new trend. It’s been going on since the Industrial Revolution. Colonel General Gareev was no futurist, but correctly identified the trend lines in technological development in the late 1970s. Our approach to ‘urban operations’ reflects the heavily politicized approach taken in the permissive environments of the Middle East and Afghanistan. In a future war against a modern opponent with armies, air forces and air defenses, urban combat operations would result in a high-tech version of Aachen in DEC-JAN 1944-45, or Manila in FEB-MARCH 1945. It would still be ugly, dirty and require enormous quantities of firepower and mobile armored platforms. Civilian losses would be very high.

·         Hix is wrong about Ukraine and Crimea. An objective study of history would have shown why Moscow’s seizure of Crimea should not have been a surprise. In addition to figuring prominently in Russia’s wars against Muslim Tatars and Turks from the 11th Century to 1776, Crimea was treated as strategically vital by Moscow in 1941-42. It cost Moscow hundreds of thousands of lives before the war ended. Its symbolic importance with its history and large Russian population made it an ideal target for Putin’s liberation.  However, pushing further East into Central and Western Ukraine would present Putin with the same stiff resistance the Tsars, Bolsheviks and Soviets encountered over several centuries.

·         Hix is also wrong about the US Army’s poor performance at the opening of WW II. Army planners still expected to use horse cavalry in 1941 despite all of the evidence against the idea. (In fact, US Army horse cavalry was used during the Philippines campaign in 1942). He also neglects to note that the ARMY leadership court martialed Mitchell for a range of reasons including arguing that airpower could sink battleships. Officers during the interwar period lived in an environment that is all too reminiscent of the current Army. As Dr. David Johnson noted in his book about the Army during the interwar period.

In a period of fiscal constraint, and in the absence of compelling threats, between 1919 and 1939, the Army’s senior leaders:
    • Focused on traditional roles—re-fought the last “successful” war or, in the British Case, the Empire - constabulary force
    • Tried to advance the Single Service way of fighting
    • Endeavored to preserve status quo
    • Fought for budget share
    • Tinkered on the margins - no real innovation
    • Experimented with the familiar
    • Until BG George Marshall was promoted to four stars and became Chief of Staff, the top leadership cloned itself—officers who did not conform vanished!

·         Today it’s the US Army’s senior leadership that clings to anachronistic WW II-Cold War organizations (Brigades, Divisions, Corps) coupled with a very unhealthy romanticism about the use of wheeled vehicles and light infantry in anything other than a permissive environment. These factors and the deeply held conviction that anything a Four Star does not say must be wrong obstructs the implementation of the ISR-STRIKE-Maneuver-Sustainment framework that the Soviet General Staff identified as the future war-winning capability decades ago. It is the Army’s Four Stars that are actively campaigning against “Integrated, All Arms-All Effects” operations and Joint, Integrated Command and Control Structures on the operational level.

·         A quick glance at contemporary Russian Force Development points to the majority of the fundamental structural and doctrinal changes outlined in Breaking the Phalanx (1997) and Transformation under Fire (2003). In fact, the 15 March 2017 testimony to the Air-Land Committee provides a far more realistic snapshot of future high intensity conventional war than the fanciful conversations held in the conference at the Atlantic Council. http://douglasmacgregor.com/15march2017testimony.pdf

·         SCIFI COMMENT: Liu is typical of Sci-Fi writers overly optimistic and overly stating scientific and technological development. He also has no business stating that history doesn’t predict. Technological progress is evolution and connections. Sci-Fi originated as a story-telling device that is focused less on science and more on philosophy and sociology.

·         Finally, ‘revolutions in technology’ operate differently from the way they are described. The revolutionary impact on society stems from the adoption and incorporation of technology developed over time. It always takes longer for militaries to assimilate new technology than it does to develop it. The first Jet Driven Fighter Aircraft was demonstrated to the leadership of the German Air Force in 1939. Unfortunately, none of the uniformed observers could figure out what to do with the new device. By the time they did, the war was lost. This is not unusual in the history of military establishments.

·         The science historian James Burke who starred in a PBS television series called ‘Connections’ in the late 1970s is much more accurate in his description of how technological development occurs. Unfortunately, too many general officers think that if something can be imagined,  the technology can be made real through sheer effort. This is how we waste vast sums of money on the railgun, EMP, laser cannons, quantum computers, ‘autonomous’ robots, swarms, water out of the air, 3D printers, etc. all of which are overstated/exaggerated.  Many come with physical limitations that won’t make them practical to real world utility. True artificial intelligence—the machine equivalent of the human mind—does not exist. What we see are better algorithms at work, not AI. Paul Allen’s comment is still valid: “Scientists attempting to create AI today are like 15th Century Sculptors trying to reverse engineer a Boeing 707.”


Military.com

6 December 2017

General: Army Needs More Futurists to Better Predict Conflict

By Matthew Cox

Army officials, analysts and authors met Wednesday to try to improve the U.S. military's poor track record of predicting future conflict.
Maj. Gen. William Hix, director of strategy, plans and policy for the office of the U.S. Army's Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, said, "Prediction is fraught with danger," at the Atlantic Council's U.S. Army Futures Forum.
Throughout history, there have been many "sad examples" of the tendency of people to optimistically embrace the idea of decisive opening strikes and quick finishes for war, Hix said.
"Most often, those predictions have been hugely wrong and, in some cases, resulted in catastrophe," he said.
A large part of the problem is the failure to anticipate social and political change, as well as technology revolutions, Hix said, citing America's experience in the Civil War.
"Most of our officers were trained in Napoleonic methods, and we missed the fact that the industrial age was maturing," he said. "And the casualty rates that we suffered on both sides of our Civil War are indicative of the fact that we missed the importance of relatively small things like rifled muskets, artillery that fired indirectly, repeating arms, the railroad and the telegraph and what that meant to the speed of war at that time.
"Today, our failure to watch for those types of signals has led to strategic surprise in the Russian actions of Crimea," Hix said. "The Ukraine, in many respects, is a harbinger of future war ... and the long-term rise of China and the autonomy -- I think the world economic forum calls it the fourth industrial age -- suggests a potential shift in the character of war that is as profound and fundamental as the transition from the 19th to the 20th century."
Urbanization, speed, lethality, autonomy -- many things that used to be science fiction are rapidly becoming reality, and some of America's adversaries are moving quicker in these spaces than the United States, he said. 
Unfortunately, the U.S. Army has a bad habit of failing to anticipate how advanced its adversaries are and then coming up short in the opening days of conflict, Hix said.
"Our record in the opening stage of most major conflicts we have been in has been poor," he said.
The U.S.' success in Operation Desert Storm is not the norm, Hix said, adding the normal experience is Kasserine Pass in North Africa -- a major defeat for the U.S. Army in 1944 during World War II.
"We have to learn what parts of war are going to come with us in the future, and what pieces we are going to have to discard, and what pieces we are going to have to embrace," he said.
But Ken Liu, author of "The Paper Menagerie, The Grace of Kings," cautioned against the tendency to rely on history to predict the future.
Mankind's addiction to stories and storytelling is often the reason why it fails to predict the future correctly, Liu said, describing this as a cognitive bias for the species.
"We literally cannot understand the world as it is; we understand the world [by] making a story out of it," he said. "The universe is irreducibly random, but we cannot seem to accept that, so we have to construct a narrative about why things are happening."
Liu, a science-fiction author, has made a study of this with a particular focus on why most sci-fi authors "have been terrible at predicting the future."
"We have a tendency to do the following: When you are in the moment, when you are looking toward the future, the reality is -- for any problem that you are trying to solve -- there are multiple teams round the world trying to tackle that from multiple directions, and the possibilities for the future are endlessly open," he said, citing the history of touch screen interfaces, a technology the world has been trying to perfect since the 1960s.
"In the moment, when you are looking forward, it is very hard to know which of these approaches will succeed and dominate the future," Liu said. "The problem is, once you are past that point and you are looking backward -- the iPhone came out, it is very tempting, almost inevitable for everybody who lived in this situation to construct a narrative for why that particular breakthrough was inevitable. This is the way history is written.
"We like to tell history as a series of stories of plots, of causes and effects, of inevitable lines of evolution," he said.
When humans look backward, it is very easy to construct a narrative saying, "Why did everyone else miss that this was the only path that could have succeeded?" he added.
"That is not true," Liu argued. "Actually, history is all of these random reasons why one particular approach succeeded over others, and it's very, very tempting to say, 'We should be able to predict the future because if you look at the past there is a clear narrative about why we ended up here.' "
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Building the Mexican border wall


By Douglas Macgregor - - Sunday, November 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:




In a Nov. 7 Middle East Forum essay, Michel Gurfinkiel states the obvious: Border walls work. Israel operates 342 miles of barriers to protect itself from the savage conflicts that engulf its Muslim neighbors. And China maintains a 1,000 mile fence along its North Korean border to keep millions of starving and terrorized Koreans from pouring into Manchuria.

Yet despite the loss of American life to illegal aliens and violence along the Mexican Border, nearly a year into the Trump presidency, there is still no effective and consistent barrier along the 1,989 miles of America’s border with Mexico. Why?

A big reason is that too many of President Trump’s appointees in the White House, the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense are men and women who rose through the ranks during the three last administrations that focused instead on interventions into Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and, more recently, sub-Saharan Africa. None of them was ever inclined to protect the United States from the nexus of criminality and terrorism in Mexico.
Since 2001, the U.S. government has invested far more resources to protect Afghan and Iraqi citizens from their own ethno-religious, tribal, and criminal conflicts than it has invested in securing its own borders. And, though few in the administration will admit it, no amount of courageous work by the Border Patrol will suffice to secure our southern border.

A different approach is always required; one that designates the Department of Defense (DoD) as the lead agency for security and surveillance of the border. This would more properly assign to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the task of apprehending and deporting aliens.

How would this work? The land border with Mexico (excepting selected mountainous areas) might be secured by a double concrete-and-steel barrier that is under persistent surveillance 24 hours, 7 days a week and overwatched by armed rapid response teams.

Our maritime frontiers might be secured with persistent surveillance backed by armed rapid response teams.

The obvious choice to man the border and supervise construction is the United States’ regular Army. From roughly 1846 to 1948, America’s border with Mexico was guarded by the regular Army of the United States. When 19 Americans were killed and Columbus, New Mexico was burned by Mexican insurgents under Pancho Villa in March 1916, 100,000 U.S. Army National Guardsmen were mobilized to relieve the regular Army and secure the border with Mexico.

Today’s regular Army is filled with soldiers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains that have secured Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and Iraq’s border with its Syrian and Iranian neighbors. Like their predecessors that secured the Cold War inter-German and Czechoslovak Borders, these Army veterans have both the technical expertise and the personal experience with difficult rules of engagement to rapidly secure the border with Mexico.

Naturally, the logic of this approach would collide with the contemporary use of Army forces to secure other peoples’ borders from the demilitarized zone on the Korean peninsula to Iraq and Syria.

Washington ignores the truth that a large U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army presence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East between 2001 and 20017 could not prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking power in Egypt, Iran from dominating Iraq, Syria from imploding, or anarchy from breaking out in Libya and Yemen. It didn’t work in the Middle East. But it would work in America.

Without a wall, Washington cannot halt the flow of violence and criminality into the United States from Mexico and Central America. The extreme character of criminal violence and corruption in all areas of Mexican society — much of it driven by a “War on Drugs” that ignores the role of consumer demand in the U.S — makes the wall imperative. A truly secure border will reduce cartel access to the American consumer and benefit Mexico.

A border wall would also address Mexico’s internal struggle with illegal trans-migration. Inside Mexico, Latinos (along with some Muslims from the Near East and North Africa) move routinely through Mexico to its porous border with the United States. Sealing off America’s southern border would eliminate the incentive of many aspiring illegal migrants in South and Central America to move north through Mexico.

In sum, as Michel Gurfinkiel notes, “individual freedom and achievement are the Western world’s most cherished values.” But these values will not survive if mass immigration from countries where the rule of law is non-existent destroys them.

 Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel and decorated combat veteran, is the author of “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Friday, November 17, 2017

Doug Macgregor recommends reading the statement from Rep. John Duncan


Congressman Duncan, Republican Representative from Tennessee, takes a brave stand against Washington’s bipartisan perpetual war party and its coveted imperial domain that stretches from Iraq to Korea. I urge everyone to read his statement. Doug Macgregor


Rep. John Duncan: There Is Nothing Patriotic or Conservative About Our Bloated Defense Budget


 

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. Posted on
Several times over my 29 years in Congress I have wondered whether there are any fiscal conservatives at the Pentagon.

It seems that the Defense Department is just like every other gigantic bureaucracy. When it comes to money, the refrain is always "more, more, more."
On November 14, the House passed what one Capitol Hill paper described as a "$700 billion compromise defense bill." It was $80 billion over the budget caps and many billions more than even President Trump had requested.

I opposed almost all the major initiatives of the Obama administration. But it was false to say that the Defense Department was "depleted" or "eviscerated" during those years, or that now we must "rebuild the military." In fact, public relations experts in future years should conduct studies about how the Defense Department has been able to convince the public it has been cut when it is getting more money than ever. Defense Department appropriations have more than doubled since 2000. In addition, the Department has gotten extra billions in several supplemental or emergency appropriation bills.

The military construction bill is a separate bill that has added another $109.5 billion over the last 10 years. It would be hard to find any U.S. military base any place in the world that has not had several new buildings constructed over the last few years. In fiscal year 2016, we spent over $177 billion on new equipment, guns, tanks, etc. We have spent similar amounts for many years. Most of this equipment does not wear out or have to be replaced after just one year.

It is ironic that the only President in the last 60 or 70 years who has tried to rein in defense spending is the only President in that period that spent most of his career in the military. In Evan Thomas’ book, Ike’s Bluff, when told by his top staffer that he could not reduce defense spending, President Eisenhower said if he gave another star to every general who cut his budget, there would be "such a rush to cut costs you’ll have to get out of the way."

The book also quotes Eisenhower as saying "Heaven help us if we ever have a President who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do."

Therein lies an explanation for a big part of what has caused much excessive and/or wasteful defense spending and, the willingness, even at times eagerness, to go to war and support permanent, never-ending wars. Only 18% of the current Congress has ever served in any branch of our military. Members are afraid if they do not vote for an increase in defense spending, or if they question waste by the military, some demagogue will accuse them of "not supporting the troops." It would be a huge understatement to say that I usually do not agree with New York Times editorials.

But the Times Editorial Board on October 22 published an editorial entitled "America’s Forever Wars," pointing out that the US "has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11" and now has troops in "at least 172 countries." The Board wrote that so far the American people have "seemed to accept" all this militarism, but "it’s a very real question whether, in addition to endorsing these commitments, which have cost trillions of dollars and many lives over 16 years, they will embrace new entanglements…"

The Times added that the Congress "has spent little time considering such issues in a comprehensive way or debating why all these deployments are needed." Backing these words up was a cartoon in the October 25 issue of Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper. The cartoon showed six senators sitting at a hearing. The first senator, reading a newspaper, says "Who knew we had troops in Niger?!" The second says: "Heck, we don’t even know how the military budget gets spent."

Finally, the cartoon shows a senator who looks like Sen. Ted Cruz, saying "War is hell. I say we just give the Pentagon an extra $80 billion and call it a day." Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, himself a veteran, wrote on October 23: "But there is something else at work here: the slavish veneration now accorded the military. You can see it every time someone in uniform testifies before Congress." 

Since now less than one percent of the people serve in the military, it may be that many people who never served feel, perhaps even subconsciously, that they must bend over backwards to show their patriotism. However, it is not unpatriotic to oppose wasteful defense spending or very unnecessary permanent, forever wars. President Reagan once said "our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available."

We have far too many leaders today who seem to want to be new Winston Churchills and who are far too eager to send people to war. No true fiscal conservative could ever justify spending many billions more than even President Trump requested.

Our national debt recently went over the $20 trillion level. A few days ago, it was reported that the deficit for fiscal 2017 was $666 billion. This fiscal year, it may be even higher. 

Conservatives used to be against huge deficit spending. They also used to be against massive foreign aid.Much of what we have been doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, training police and farmers, repairing electrical and water systems, even making small business loans, etc., is pure foreign aid.

Many of our foreign interventions have been done under the auspices or authority of the United Nations. Conservatives used to be the biggest critics of the U.N. and world government. Most of our so-called "coalitions" have been funded almost entirely by American taxpayers.

Most interventionists at some point resort to a slur referring to their opponents as isolationists. This is so false. Traditional conservatives support trade and tourism and cultural and educational exchanges with other countries and they agree with helping during humanitarian crises. They just don’t believe in dragging war out forever, primarily so defense contractors, think tanks, and military bureaucrats can get more money.

One last point: We have far too many officers. In Scott Berg’s biography on Woodrow Wilson, it says during World War I, we had one officer for every 30 enlisted men. Eisenhower once said we had too many officers when there were nine enlisted for every officer. Now we have one officer for only four and a half to five and a half enlisted (varies by branch).

This is very expensive, both for active duty and retirement, but it also makes it much more likely that we will get involved in every little conflict around the world and/or continue basing troops in almost every country.  We simply do not have enough money to pay for defense of so many countries other than our own nor the authority under our Constitution to try to run the whole world.

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) represents Tennessee’s 2nd District. Congressman Duncan served honorably in both the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, starting as an enlisted man and rising to the rank of captain.