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Two "Old" Soldiers Speak

"Hard not to see this coming" and "Here we go again":

I know I said I wouldn't be posting. I lied. Coming on the heels my last post I just couldn't resist giving as much exposure to the following two opinions that are rooted in historical-mindedness and reasoned dissent.

I want my grand-sons to someday be able to read this blog post  for themselves in answer to the questions they may have of "why" and "how" did this happen:

Forgetting The Lessons Of History, By Robert H. Scales
The Washington Post, January 6, 2012

Here we go again. President Obama made the same mistake Thursday in announcing his new military strategy that virtually all of his predecessors have made since the end of World War II. He said:

"Moreover, we have to remember the lessons of history. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past - after World War II, after Vietnam - when our military was left ill-prepared for the future. As commander in chief, I will not let that happen again. Not on my watch."

Unfortunately, Obama's plan does exactly that. It forgets the lessons of history. Some facts: Harry Truman seeking to never repeat the costs of World War II reduced the Army from 8 million soldiers to fewer than half a million.
Without the intervention of Congress, he would have eliminated the Marine Corps entirely. The result was the evisceration of both land services in Korea, a war Truman never intended to fight.

With Dwight Eisenhower came the "New Look" strategy that sought to reduce the Army and Marine Corps again to allow the creation of a nuclear delivery force built around the Strategic Air Command. Along came Vietnam, a war that Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson never wanted to fight. But by 1970
our professional Army broke apart and was replaced by a body of amateurs. The result was defeat and 58,000 dead.

After Vietnam, the Nixon administration broke the Army again. I know. I was there to see the drug addiction, murders in the barracks and chronic indiscipline, caused mainly by a dispirited noncommissioned corps that voted with its feet and left. Then came Jimmy Carter's unique form of neglect that led to the "hollow Army" of the late '70s, an Army that failed so miserably in its attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

The only exception to this very sad story was the Reagan years, when the land services received enough funding to equip and train themselves to fight so well in Operation Desert Storm. Then tragedy again as the Clinton administration reduced the ground services, intending to rely on "transformation," a program that paid for more ships and planes by reducing the Army from 16 divisions to 10. In the George W. Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld continued a policy that sought to exploit information technology to
replace the human component in war. Had it not been for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Army would have gone down to fewer than eight divisions.

So, here we go again. The Obama administration will reduce its long-service, professional land force to pay for something called "Air Sea Battle," a strategy that seeks to buy more ships and planes in order to confront China with technology rather than people. This strategy shows a degree of a-historicism that exceeds that of any post-World War II administration. So much for remembering "the lessons of the past."

Here's what the lessons of the past 70 years really teach us: We cannot pick our enemies; our enemies will pick us. They will, as they have always done in the past, cede to us dominance in the air, on sea and in space because they do not have the ability to fight us there. Our enemies have observed us closely in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have learned the lessons taught by Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and Saddam Hussein: America's greatest vulnerability is dead Americans. So our future enemy will seek to fight us on the ground, where we have traditionally been poorly prepared. His objective will be to win by not losing, to kill as an end rather than as a means to an end. And we will enter the next war again tragically short of the precious resource that we have neglected for six administrations: our soldiers and Marines. Pg. 15

The writer, a retired Army major general, is a former commandant of the U.S.Army War College.


Gutting Defense: Obama's lame claims that we're safer, By James Jay Carafano
New York Post, January 6, 2012

Hard not to see this one coming. President Obama orders about half-a-trillion dollars in defense cuts, and then asks for a strategic "review" - which, surprise, tells us that the Pentagon didn't need that money after all, and the White House now has a strategy that will keep us safe without it.

Why exactly will we be able to get by with a smaller and less capable military than we had when Obama came into office? Because, the president told us yesterday, he has made the world safer for America.

Unfortunately for the White House, the evidence Obama presented for this claim was laughable.

He cited operations in Iraq, for one. Bad example: Thanks to the imprudent total withdrawal of US forces, the fragile coalition trying to hold that country together may now fall apart - squandering a decade of effort to make the Middle East less of a threat to US interests.

Meanwhile, the coming US pullout from Afghanistan is rapidly looking like a replay of the Paris Peace Talks - the negotiations that set the stage for the collapse of South Vietnam. Apparently, all the president wants is for there to be enough of an interval after we leave that he'll be able to argue that the next collapse into an orgy of violence and terrorism wasn't his fault.

He also trotted out the killing of Osama bin Laden - who even before Obama took office had been reduced to al Qaeda's propagandist-in-chief. Are we to believe that half-a-trillion in defense dollars went to getting al Qaeda's chief speechwriter?

The president makes all these comments with a straight face, even as Iran taunts the US over its withdrawal from the Middle East and the US Navy goes apoplectic over the rise of China's regional power. Meanwhile, the world's most inexperienced and unpredictable leader has his finger on North Korea's nuclear trigger.

Not only is the world not a safer place than when Obama came into office, the strategy his Pentagon has produced to deal with today's challenges may well make it far worse.

Let me translate the Pentagon report into English: The administration is going to gut the Army and Marine Corps, while hitting the Navy and Air Force less (for now). The "strategy" basically says, We have a four-legged stool; we're going to cut off two legs.

There's conclusive proof that all this is purely budget-driven: the president's own Quadrennial Defense Review. In that report to Congress the Pentagon must, by law, outline the nation's long-term needs. The last review, not two years old, laid out a much more robust force. What's changed?

When the president presented that report to Congress, he knew he wanted to be out of Iraq by 2011 and out of Afghanistan by 2014. He knew China was rising and that Iran and North Korea were a problem. The only thing he didn't know was the Arab Spring would erupt - and that so far appears to have left the world more troubled, not less.

It is completely unreasonable for the White House to argue the world has changed so much that we can just do all this with less.

What makes the president's strategy look even more ridiculous is that it doesn't even account for all the cuts envisioned under recent law: Defense may well still lose another half-trillion dollars. Even the Pentagon acknowledges that the new "strategy" is worthless if those reductions go into effect.

Since Obama has promised to veto any legislation that would exempt the armed forces from the threatened "contingency" cuts, that means this strategy isn't even worth the paper it's written on. It's little more than a gimmick to hide (at least until Election Day) the fact that Defense is being slammed.

The president declares this move to be the ultimate expression of "smart" power. Hmm: Smart, strategy and stupid all begin with "S"; looks like the White House confused one word for the other.

Or maybe hopes the American people are stupid. Why else think a document thick with Pentagon-speak can hide the fact our armed forces will soon be able do a lot less to provide for the common defense? pg. 27

James Jay Carafano is a defense expert at The Heritage Foundation.


And Now for Something Completely Different (NOT) - just less well said than above
One might wonder what was going on in the minds of the Chairman and service chiefs as they stood blank-faced, if not, grim-faced behind the President. I know I did. While I once served on the same post with a couple of those fellows, I must say I have no clue what they think at this stage or where they really stand on these issues of major defense cuts.  I can guess. I discount their public statements as a general rule. Having made it to the top by being the good soldiers, marines and sailors they are savvy get-alongs - plus they need to spin this thing gingerly without crushing service morale or to send a wrong signal to would be adversaries. One can only wonder too at the content, tone and tenor of their private counsel to their elected civilian leadership. Given the general nature of the announcement, I suspect the Navy and Air Force chiefs were inwardly more optimistic (and relieved), than their Army and Marine counterparts that their counsel had been heeded to some degree. If pessimistic or negative, we will not know for sometime how they really felt or what counsel they gave if it was not in line with the administration's thinking, unless they want to run the risk of being sacked. Likely, to a man, even if they do personally dissent, they feel that they can better serve their respective service by "managing" the cuts they oppose, and thus their nation, by remaining, rather than breaking ranks and squandering what they spent the better part of their careers aiming for and acquiring. I don't envy them; nor do I expect more from them even if they do personally dissent from the pronounced way ahead (my study of Korea and Vietnam and my own military experience has taught me that). In reality, most of them are confronting these macro-issues, as key players and decision-makers, for the first time in their careers (only the Air Force Chief has been in his position for some time). They may even believe they can make do with less. For better or worse they are the ultimate deciders in a military profession and culture that, while seeking to promote itself as a meritocracy, more closely resembles the self-perpetuating bureaucracy found in corporate America but with an internal and external political-correctness dynamic all its own.

The above testimonies are from two old soldiers (one a former school mate) without a "dog in the fight," other than their earnest, patriotic and experiential-based desire to see America adequately and properly defended but also, as old soldiers, mainly concerned with the welfare and prospects of survival for our soldiers and marines on some future unpredicted battlefield.
Their warnings will,  no doubt, go unheeded by the greater public (even mocked by some as unnecessarily right-wing, militant and dooming). This is also the proven American way - politics and politicians trump all comers and worst-case arguments. Political games are being played at the expense of the American soldier in the name of unsustainable entitlements and spending on the military. Oh really? Even though we spend less of our Gross Domestic Product on defense than in the past; almost half of what we spent in the 80s and almost three times less than what we spent during the Cold War 60s - and even though similar civilian entitlements are also unsustainable - we find new room for even more (Obama care)  and no headway on the sacrosanct and untouchable pillars of our entitlement system.
Do I support no cuts for all defense...on the contrary, we all know there is enough fat, waste, fraud, abuse and spending on and by the military that they don't even want, to consider first before eliminating the marrow of our ground forces.

The risks will now be run - despite the pleadings - of needless sacrifices and grievous losses to be incurred on some distant battlefield in an unsought war it was not manned or equipped to sustain over the long haul. Unable to prevail without resort to undue, inefficient waste in men, material and resources and perhaps including a return to that nightmare of the baby boomer's past - a Draft - an arguably cheaper, but at least quantitative solution to our ground problem, if properly and equitably administered unlike before - yet a political pariah no one seriously discusses (what about a bold "National Service Training" - Federal and State, Civil and Military, by a candidate?) Today's professional high-tech military opposes this for a host of internal and external factors but it once provided the largest and greatest combat-tested Army ever fielded against two major and one minor foes.
Indeed, because of this traditional and misguided American Way of War, we again encourage and invite such an outcome.