Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do What You Can, Stick to What You Know

Now that our SEALs have put down the diseased dog and dumped him in the ocean, talk of getting out of Afghanistan has increased.  Regardless of where you stand on that issue, this is a time for us to reassess our strategic posture and shape our military accordingly.

Americans are good at war and not very good at remaking other countries in our image. It's an invaluable revelation that has yet to be incorporated into our approach to foreign policy and national security. (Steve Chapman - Bin Laden's Big Mistake)
Remaking a society that does not want to be remade is a fool’s errand and we should officially take the pledge and swear off any future nation building.

We should retool our defense establishment with recent lessons in mind. We can continue defense cooperation with willing partners, dispatching special forces teams, intelligence gathering, and terrorist bug swatting as needed. Big footprints and occupations should be regarded as relics of the past, to be dusted off only in case of an immediate and existential threat to the United States of America.

Bogging ourselves down in stone age toilets diminishes us, wasting valuable national resources and killing good soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Technology is a double-edged sword.  We exploit it well when we swoop down out of the shadows, lean, light and lethal.  It works against us when we deploy big static masses of troops, 70% of which are support tail, sitting vulnerable to the bad guys' employment of cheap, available technology.  A big fat presence no longer plays to our strengths.

Keep our superstitious enemies paranoid

A big foreign presence also removes the mystique of US power.  The 21st century US military needs to be about speed, stealth, mobility, and surprise.

I want the bad guys and the superstitious hordes who cheer and shelter them to think our soldiers are hiding underground right now spying on them, ready to come up through the soil and strangle them at any moment. I want these 7th century obscurantists to believe we can read their thoughts, see through the walls of their grimy cinderblock huts, and swoop down and grab them at any time with trained invisible eagles. I want them jumpy at the thought that every crawling bug and slithering reptile is a trained US spy.

It's not so far-fetched. The primitive Muslim throngs blamed the shark attacks off an Egyptian coastal resort on Mossad-trained predators. If the gullible dingbats actually believe Israel made a pact with King Poseidon to produce a trained flotilla of sharks just to wreck Egypt's tourist industry, they'll believe anything.

The Stage is Set for Smart Defense Cuts

Defense cannot be exempted from budget cuts. Vietnam veteran Col. Douglas MacGregor (US Army, ret.) lays out some smart ideas on how to do it. Reducing overseas presence, eliminating whole headquarters while downsizing others, as well as collapsing the creepily named Department of Homeland Security and returning some functions to where they came from while abolishing others. He also recommends consolidating intelligence functions and reducing redundancy.

I worked at a combatant headquarters in the Middle East. We were lean and mean with no bureaucratic overhead. Paperwork was minimal. We actually did real stuff like engineer combat communications solutions, and then we deployed into the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq to build and fix commo used by the warfighters.

I’ve also seen non-combatant headquarters, and they are the complete opposite. They are stilted, sclerotic bureaucratic sinks that are increasingly reliant on contractor support, even as they grow their military and DoD civilian rosters.

There is plenty of fat there to cut as we put our military on a leaner, deployment-focused footing. Especially if we swear off global community organizing.


Fredd said...

Don't get me started on this 'surgical strike' garbage, either.

Our military is a shadow of its former self, now that we spend trillions that we don't have ensuring that not one hair is harmed on the innocent standing next to the targeted dirtbag.

When did those good ol' days dissappear, when we just shot the hell out of everyone and figured it out later?


Silverfiddle said...

Well said Fredd. As General Sherman said, war is hell.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere along the line someone said "war is hell, so how about we make it less hellish?"

I wouldn't call the days of indiscriminately bombing civilians as the "good old days."

I can assure you that if your family were bombed into dust by some country's military, you would not count those days as "good."

I don't mean to be acerbic, but before you go advocating things like killing everyone and asking questions later, perhaps you should imagine yourself on the business end of such a doctrine.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

We need to get back to the basics of Sun Tzu and shun our current approach of long term occupation. When will it ever end?

Silverfiddle said...

Jack: There is no such thing as a humane war. Was is a human rights violation.

The internationales have raised a false expectation. People die in military actions, sometimes non-combatants.

Of course we should try to avoid civilian casualities, but as I said, there is this false expectation of "surgical strikes" that just doesn't match reality.

Rob said...

If we feel that we must engage in nation building, let's set our sights at our own southern border. Want to keep the troops busy, yet close to home, let's take Mexico!

Seriously, the White House needs to issue one last warning to Felipe Calderón that either he do something aggressive about his citizens spilling over our border or we will - emphasis on "aggressive." Give him 6 months to comply and then just take that shit. Oust Calderón and his worthless government and carve the whole beotch up into a few more states.

Sure, it's waging war against primitives, but at least these primitives don't have nukes and bizarre religious crutches.

Jersey McJones said...

We have to cut back on domestic bases too. We have way too many of them. They are massive congressional pork troughs. There are 440 of them! 440!!! Ridiculous.


Jersey McJones said...

Oh, and as for 'kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out,' we were rarely like that. It's a myth. The Nazis? Yes, the Nazis were like that. Not us.

Jack is absolutely right.

Didn't you guys ever read about the big fights we had with the Brits over night bombing over Germany? Yes, we did some really horrific and unnecessary things to Japan and Vietnam, but we now recognize the tragic mistake that was (well, most of us do). Heck we found out years after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima that the Japanese were planning to surrender to us anyway, as the Russians were readying for an invasion, and with all the bad blood between the two countries, the Japanese far preferred surrendering to us.

So no, it is a rather insulting myth that our military "is a shadow of its former self" or that we ever stood firmly by a doctrine of "(shoot) the hell out of everyone and (figure) it out later." You'd really have to be utterly ignorant of American history to think otherwise. For whatever our failings in the past, we do have honor.


Anonymous said...

Those bases provide HUGE economic incentive to the surrounding areas. It basically means that the amount of people with money to spend in that area will likely never fall below a minimum.

You seriously need to examine the logic of your argument. You can say that bases are a drain on government money, but think about how much government money, your tax dollars, are being put back into the economy. Every soldier, sailor, and marine are paid by your tax dollars and other government monies, and they put that money back into the economy, into the private sector.

Silver: You are 100% right in everything that you've said. War is inhumane and wrong. I was merely bothered by Fredd's assertion that we need to "get back to the good old days," of indiscriminate killing. I wasn't trying to validate the opinion that we're so completely "surgical."

Jersey McJones said...

Well, Jack, I didn't know you were such a committed Keynesian, but we would do better with more schools, hospitals, railroads, highways, national power and broadband grids, etc. Those things pay off big time in the long and short run. The military is more cost than benefit when looked at purely economically.

Besides, we certainly do not need 440 bases!

We need serious and massive physical and institutional infrastructure development. The payoff would be far, far, far greater.


Rob said...

I kinda see Jack's point - many of the smaller towns/cities would simply dry up and fall off the map without the continual infusion into their local economies that the military bases provide.

But again, if you don't want to downsize the number of bases (or troops), let's put the military to work on domestic border defense.

I'm not letting this Mexico thing go...

Bump said...

Hi Western . . . Good blog. Some odd comments about it. During WWII the USA pushed for bombing and they weren't very choosy about the target. So we devastated Dresden, Hiroshima and other places where the target was the civilian population. Today that's not politically correct. I think it died with the blanket bombing of Viet Nam.

It defies belief that humanity hasn't learned that war is war and it should be the very last resort. Looking backward I believe the US had a number of very good reasons to go to war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I also believe that we should NEVER have gone to war in Iraq without the declaration of war by the Congress.

Pre-emptive war as declared by our President and his advisors was not the way to do it. Israel was (perhaps) the most threatened nation, but quite capable of defending itself against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We, the USA, was never threatened or attacked by Iraq.

I conclude that Mr. Bush made the wrong decision to begin the war with a pre-emptive strike. Congress (bless 'em) had plenty of time to debate and consider first, and should have made the decision yes or no.

Once at war civilians will be killed. There doesn't seem to be a way around the fact. It's not fair but there it is.

Now Iraq has morphed into Afghanistan and Pakistan. We STILL have no direct reason to be at war with them. None of these so called enemies actually threatens America. None of them seriously threatens American business and economic interests either.

As long as it lasts the war will cause "cruel interrogation methods" and civilian and military deaths. Let's get our troops home and let's prepare our military for a DEFENSIVE capability. We are better advised to protect America and Americans, and to support the defense of our allies.


Unknown said...

The Federal governments first and foremost responsibility is defense. Both here and our strategic interest abroad.
Silver, I hope you aren't pulling a Ron Paul here. Though I don't think you are.
The middle east is emerging from a third world status and as I see it guiding it along the path of freedom vs. totalitarianism is something we must not ignore.

Anonymous said...

Bureaucracy an redundency are the the enemies of anyorganization. The military is no different. I like Col. Mac Gregor's recommendation. Excelle t post, Silver.

Jersey McJones said...

Mark Adams,

If defense is first and foremost, then then we shouldn't be doing any of this.

You have a moral high ground. But how has this worked out so far? How's Iraq and Afghanistan doing these days? Can we bring the West to the Orient? Should we?

You have to admit, its a pretty big question.


Dixon said...

Silver my friend . . . In my comment above I blew it big time. The sentence "....the US had a number of very good reasons . . ." was not what I mean't to say. It should read "...DID NOT HAVE a number of very good reasons to go to war." Sorry. Bump

Silverfiddle said...

Bump: OK. Still, your comments were excellent and spot on. Great history lesson.

Mark: It's about working smarter, not harder.

Talk to some SF and they will tell you essentially the same thing I said in this post.

BTW, Ron Paul was the only veteran on the stage at that GOP debate last Friday.

Unknown said...

Jersey, in case you missed it we have interest around the world that are detrimental to our security, here at home. And, also in case you missed it, Iraq was strategically a smart move.
Hows that moral high ground you say? Ask western Europe, I'm sure they say 'a lot better then it would have been'.

Could you imagine what our world would look like if we had pulled a Ron Paul after WWII? I am sure you can imagine....
Freedom and to remain free is not achieved overnight. It's an on going process.

Finntann said...

Jersey, you don't know jack!

Why don't we start with Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst as far as base cuts go?

Of course closing Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst wouldn't have nearly the impact of closing say...Holloman AFB and the White Sands Missile Range.

Alamogordo, a city of 35,757 people is home to both of those facilities. Lets just take a quick look at Holloman AFB. There are, according to the 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office, 4148active duty military personnel assigned. The base directly employs 6,011 people with a payroll of $266 Million.

Close the base and immediately 8731(that's the 4048 military plus their 4,583 dependents) or 24.4% of the population up and leaves town and another 6,011 are unemployed. With the base closed, a significant portion of the 6700 military retirees, left without services (BX, Commissary, Clinic), up and leave town also.

Construction, which employs 1348 people goes bust with a 25% vacancy rate. Retail trade which employs 2052 people experiences massive business failures as their customer base evaporates. Accommodation and food services which employs another 1590 people goes bust also.

The town, which is now a population of roughly 25,000 has an unemployment rate of nearly 50% (the 6011 base employees and roughly half the private sector).

There is no alternative employment available. Half of the town hospital is in a public/private partnership with the military, and half of their staff left with them. With the exception of a 1-800 Flowers call center and a Cookie bakery there are no other major employers in town.

With no employment opportunities the remaining civilians in the town who have the means leave for Las Cruces, El Paso, and Albuquerque seeking employment.

Now of course when it comes to political clout, it's the towns that don't need them that get to keep their bases. Want to see what the rest of them look like? Look no further than the old silver mining towns in Nevada or the old mill towns in northern New England.

Think these people are coming to New Jersey to work on your roads? You're an imbecile.

They aren't going to get employed in their local area in infrastructure improvement because there is no longer any need for infrastructure in Otero County, New Mexico. And we're not talking NJ counties here, last time I checked Otero County was 6,627 square miles and the entire state of NJ was only 8,721 square miles.

Honestly, it's not the DoD clamoring to keep these bases open, it's the local and state politicians, Republican and Democrat, that want to get reelected. The DoD could easily save everything the administration is asking for in cuts simply by consolidating. But we are not allowed to make those business decisions.

Honestly, what would the esteemed Democratic Senators from New Jersey, Lautenberg and Menendez and your 13 Congressmen be saying if we were closing JB MDL? They'd be screaming bloody murder and you know it.