Like the British in the run-up to WW I, Americans spend a great deal of time congratulating themselves on defeating enemies that are the contemporary equivalents of the Sudanese Tribesmen at Omdurman in 1999 while dismissing (as most Europeans did before 1914) the possibility that large, powerful, modern Nation States and their supporting allies would ever actually engage in war. Asking people to ponder the seemingly incomprehensible—Real War—is not rewarded with much attention on the hill or coverage in the press. Here is a statement of part of the problem from this month’s AFJ:
U.S. casualty lists since 9/11 show that more than 6,700 Americans were killed and more than 45,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet in contrast to the major battles of World War II, Korea, and even Vietnam, the vast majority of these casualties were caused by improvised explosive devices during mounted and dismounted patrols, sniper fire, hit-and-run ambushes, accidents and “friendly fire” from some Afghan troops.”[i]
The point is simple. When it comes to military power, we Americans are living in fantasy land.
We are the only modern scientific-industrial state without a national defense staff and a chief of defense with the authority to act on behalf of the president and SECDEF to determine strategic military requirements, plan and conduct military operations. Instead, we revel in the absence of national leadership and strategy, an environment that encourages destructive inter-service fights for resources, needless military redundancy and political tampering on the Hill with defense spending for self-enrichment and political benefit. Like the British in 1914, we’ve got something akin to a war cabinet, but no national defense staff capable of assisting the President and the SECDEF with the execution of their responsibilities.
Like the British War Cabinet in 1914, our appointed and elected leaders referee the fight among the services. In the run-up to 1914, the competition was between the Army and the Navy with the Navy routinely capturing the resources. Today, the inter-service competition is won by the service or services offering the best spending opportunities to congress and industry, preferably F-35 like programs that are too big to fail. As a result, too few people are willing to accept or even address the vulnerabilities, let alone, the irrelevance of their pet rocks.
Instead, we are maintaining an Army that now consists of more wheeled armor and infantry than it does of survivable, tracked mobile armored firepower. We are investing in a weak, infantry-centric Marine Ground Force that is designed to assault defended beaches, a mission Marines have not executed for 60 years. We are funding prohibitively expensive aerospace programs like the F-35 and ship building programs like the LCS or slow diesel mini-carriers for the Marines that are excessively vulnerable to any opponent with a modicum of capability and add no useful capability to the Navy. Meanwhile, we are investing defense dollars in ASB’s precision-guided munition salvo for use against a continental opponent, China, that will absorb the strikes like a sponge absorbs water.
Without defense reform led by people other than the usual suspects inside the beltway, the American people are screwed. It’s that simple. Cheers, Doug