Obama’s Defense Cuts: 1992 All Over Again

President Obama's Pentagon is planning for an unlikely war with China rather than the small wars America will inevitably fight.

Later today, President Obama and the Pentagon’s senior leaders will unveil a new national security strategy as a harbinger to potential large cuts to the defense budget over the coming decade. Early reports are not promising.

Writing for the Washington Post, Craig Whitlock and Peter Whoriskey report that the plan “will consolidate missions and downsize the ambitions of the armed forces as they adjust to a new era of austerity” and constitute “the largest cuts to the defense budget since the end of the Cold War.”

Some real strategic decisions are reportedly called for, including “a greater shift toward Asia in military planning and a move away from big, expensive wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, which have dominated U.S. operations for most of the past decade.”

This follows last year’s announcement of a reduction of 27,000 soldiers and 15,000 to 20,000 marines. Oddly, despite having been back benchers during the two hot wars the United States has fought over the last decade, “The Navy and Air Force are expected to fare better because they will play an instrumental role in the administration’s strategy for Asia, where the United States is seeking to counter China’s expanding military power.” Indeed, “The new strategy document explicitly states that the size of the Army and Marine Corps will no longer be governed by the need to conduct large-scale and long-term stability operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

That said, “The strategy review will not spell out potential $480 billion to $1 trillion in spending cuts that the Pentagon is facing over the next decade. Details of those reductions will begin to trickle out next month, when the Obama administration releases its proposed federal budget for 2013.”

All of this should remind old hands of the early 1990s. Despite being entangled in a series of peacekeeping/stabilityoperations/operations other than war missions, the Bottom-Up Review and subsequent Quadrennial Defense Reviews planned for a future of major regional conflicts modeled on the wildly unlikely scenario of two nearly-simultaneous wars in Iraq and the Korean peninsula. Yet, the United States military has spent the ensuing two decades fighting brushfire wars.

To be sure, there was the Shock and Awe Lite invasion of Iraq, in which rapid dominance was achieved in three weeks of fighting. But we learned, once again, that a military organized and equipped for major wars wasn’t necessarily one equipped to fight sustained small wars.

In the two-plus decades since the end of the Cold War, Pentagon planners have been looking for another peer competitor around which to  ground doctrine  and plan procurement. China has been the obvious candidate the entire time and now appears to have been finally seized upon. But the notion of a World War III with Beijing as ground zero is wildly fanciful, if not outright laughable. And it means that America’s tighter defense budget will be disproportionately allocated to systems not geared to the wars our forces will inevitably fight.

I heartily endorse the idea of moving away from big, expensive wars like Afghanistan and Iraq. But we now have two decades of bipartisan elite consensus sustained over four successive presidencies that point to the extreme unlikelihood of that happening.

A wise man once noted that “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” It looks as though the Obama administration is going to build one for a future it would like to have, not the one that’s most likely.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Um, so you are saying that since militarism is a new reality, and even though you oppose it, the military should remain built for it?

    I’d think, given that you oppose militarism, that you’d accept a military tailored to the future you prefer.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    OMG!!!…How in the world could Pentagon Brass not have consulted James before planning strategy for the next decade???
    They must not read OTB.

  3. The sad thing here is that James is really suggesting that the (land?) war machine remain built for wars of choice, while opposing those wars of choice himself.

  4. Brett says:

    @James

    All of this should remind old hands of the early 1990s. Despite being entangled in a series of peacekeeping/stabilityoperations/operations other than war missions, the Bottom-Up Review and subsequent Quadrennial Defense Reviews planned for a future of major regional conflicts modeled on the wildly unlikely scenario of two nearly-simultaneous wars in Iraq and the Korean peninsula. Yet, the United States military has spent the ensuing two decades fighting brushfire wars.

    That’s because we kept the capability to fight brushfire wars, even if it was done so imperfectly. Given that capability, I think it was just a matter of time before constraining rules on intervention (like the Powell Doctrine) got subverted by civilian leadership with fantasies about international peacekeeping and anti-terrorism plans. The only way to avoid that happening again in the current political environment is to simply not have the ability to fight a bunch of brushfire wars.

    In any case, this is supposed to be part of a shift towards a more East Asia-centric defense policy, away from the over-focus on the Middle East and Central Asia that characterized the early 2000s.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: My point is that they’re two different things. Presidents will commit forces when they see doing so as in our strategic interests regardless of the configuration of the force; we’re simply not cutting it so drastically that the option to intervene is forestalled. My fear is that we’re going to fight stupid wars, anyway, but have a force constructed in a way to get more American soldiers and marines than necessary killed while doing so.

    @Hey Norm: Is there a point in there somewhere? You’re suggesting that the Pentagon never makes foolish decisions? That informed citizens don’t have a right to criticize Pentagon decisions?

    @john personna: All wars are wars of choice.

  6. I think the important point here is that cutting the budget in this matter without actually changing policy is a pretty dumb idea. The potential exists for being forced into a situation where fighting something along the lines of those “two wars” would be necessary but we wouldn’t have the capability to do it.

    I support the defense cuts but doing so is also going to require re-evaluating the way we view our role in the world, relying more on drones and air capabilities, and most important declining to intervene where we might have done so in the past.

  7. @James Joyner:

    I’d encourage you to stand four-square for what you believe. That is that Presidents should understand the deeper meaning of the words “strategic interests” and not go beyond them.

    This is the difference between the mature thinking of GHWB with GW1 and the more political thinking of GWB and GW2.

    This is the difference between a punative raid on Afghanistan after they supported Bin Laden, and a misbegotten occupation for … let’s face it, “nation building” when it is “in our image” is colonialism, and not self-determination.

    (Saying “All wars are wars of choice.” is to equate Pearl Harbor with GW2.)

  8. @Doug Mataconis:

    I think the important point here is that cutting the budget in this matter without actually changing policy is a pretty dumb idea. The potential exists for being forced into a situation where fighting something along the lines of those “two wars” would be necessary but we wouldn’t have the capability to do it.

    I despise defeatism, particularly in this case.

    I mean can you pretend that supporting a large war machine does not have feedback, and does not reinforce militarism in broader society and politics?

  9. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Note that I’m not criticizing the notion of substantial cuts but rather aiming the new smaller force against a bizarre notion of a war with China rather than a more realistic notion of a flexible force. Indeed, one could argue that this is a case where preparing to fight the war makes it more likely to happen.

  10. ponce says:

    Either way, the Pentagon will still be getting as much funding as the rest of the world’s armed forces combined.

    I think it’ll be okay.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: Not if we spend the lion’s share of it on fanciful high tech platforms that we can’t use in the fights we actually take on.

  12. Hey Norm says:

    @ James…
    Of course the Military makes mistakes…and I will defend your right to question them to my death.
    But the idea that it even matters what our capital “S” Strategy position is when the budget is $662B and dwarfs our nearest competitor by $540B (nearly 6 times) is downright f’ing laughable.
    Was the strategy right in the early ’90’s…fu** no. How in the hell can you plan ahead for idiots like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and their cronies? And yet the military was perfectly capable of doing what they were asked to do…and would have been perfectly capable of doing what they should have been asked to do had smart people been doing the asking. Should we base the our long term planning on bombing Iran because that’s what the idiots in the Republican party are hell-bent on doing? Or should we base our startegy on teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony? The answer is that with a stick that big and that flexible it matters not one whit.
    We need to cut the Defense budget and it’s getting cut. And we will still be the baddest motherfu**ers on the planet. Oorah.

  13. ponce says:

    Not if we spend the lion’s share of it on fanciful high tech platforms that we can’t use in the fights we actually take on.

    Perhaps it’s time we started outsourcing the Pentagon’s “boots on the ground” jobs French Foreign Legion style.

    The Taliban seems to be able to hire decent fighters for a few hundred bucks a month.

  14. Brett says:

    @James Joyner

    Not if we spend the lion’s share of it on fanciful high tech platforms that we can’t use in the fights we actually take on.

    Those new weapons give us the military superiority to engage in all those small wars without serious opposition or loss of life from other standing militaries. Look at both of the Iraq Wars – a US without the technological edge from the Revolution in Military Affairs in the 1980s would not have been able to do either of them without publicly unacceptable casualties.

    Besides, we don’t really have a choice. A lot of the hardware from the previous wave is 30 years old and hitting obsolescence at the same time. If you don’t want soldiers to be traveling in mobile coffins, we need the new hardware.

  15. Wayne says:

    Many thought it was is wildly fanciful, if not outright laughable when in the late 80’s our SF forces said that we were supporting the wrong side in Afghanistan and would likely in the future end up fighting those we were helping out. The same was said to many of us that said we needed to build up the SF groups up not downsize them like Clinton did.

    Problem with many in the U.S. is they always want to fight the last war. A large effective military can built in a handful of years. It just takes money. How many trillions of dollars do we owe China? Also when we end up not buying so much from them, what will they do with those workers and resources? Set on them? I don’t think so.

    Also doing a $ to $ comparison is foolish. It is capabilities that matters and having the right capability for the job at hand. Efficiency is important to. We spend millions of dollars to blow up $2,000 pickup. We have spent more money blowing things up with cruise missiles, adhering to bureaucracy red tape, and general waste than most counties spend on their entire military. I can spend millions of dollars on home security and expensive guns I shoot once then throw away but that won’t help me when someone with a $5 knife stabs me in back in a gun controlled city.

  16. Wayne says:

    Another point, many complained we didn’t have the personnel and equipment we needed when Bush went to war. Cutting budgets and downsizing tend to do that.

    I agree we need to cut the military budget some but we need to cut the budget elsewhere as well. Why is it when we need to cut the budget it is always the one place that the Federal government actually has a responsible for and not the social programs where the Federal does not?

  17. ponce says:

    If you don’t want soldiers to be traveling in mobile coffins, we need the new hardware.

    The U.S. government spends more to defeat I.E.D.s than it spends to defeat cancer.

  18. Hey Norm says:

    “…many of us that said we needed to build up the SF groups up not downsize them like Clinton did…”

    And exactly which conflict did we find ourselves unprepared for?
    Everyone wants to cut spending. But no one wants to cut spending.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    “…many complained we didn’t have the personnel and equipment we needed when Bush went to war…”

    Was that when he went to war in Afghanistan…which he mis-managed…and couldn’t finish? Or when he went to war in Iraq…which he mis-managed…and couldn’t finish? Buffoonery does not justify unlimited budgets.

  20. john personna says:

    Watch out when people name “conflict with China.”

    The scenarios where China “forces” us into a land war are few. Very few. And yet … well you all know how it works. People who want to support or expand a certain portion of the military spin a China scenario to support it. It is backwards reasoning.

    It is “what would we need China to do to support X,” rather than “what are China’s 5 most likely behaviors?”

  21. Rob in CT says:

    Why is it when we need to cut the budget it is always the one place that the Federal government actually has a responsible for and not the social programs where the Federal does not?

    What bizzaro world are you living in? The military budget is generally considered sacrosanct.

    As for where to cut, the Democrats are on board with cutting both military and non-military spending, along with some tax increases, to deal with our long term fiscal problems. Where are you getting the idea that the only cuts would be military?

    As for why cut military but not social programs (not that that is actually the argument, but if you want to have it…), how about because money spent on social programs is spent here to better the lives of Americans rather than (partly) spent on ridiculous nation-building and other assorted military adventures on the other side of the world? Adventures that may not be enhancing (indeed, may even be impairing) American security?

    As for the constitutional argument about the Federal government, I rather think the Founders would be appalled at both the welfare state and the national security state. IIRC, we’re not even really supposed to have a standing army…

  22. WR says:

    @Wayne: ” I can spend millions of dollars on home security and expensive guns I shoot once then throw away but that won’t help me when someone with a $5 knife stabs me in back in a gun controlled city.”

    Gotta love the gun nuts. Wayne’s such a keen warrior that he could shoot someone who’s behind him with a knife, as long as there are no gun control laws in the city.

  23. anjin-san says:

    The same was said to many of us that said we needed to build up the SF groups up not downsize them like Clinton did.

    How long have you been pushing this line of BS? I have lost track. The Clinton defense cuts were a continuation of Bush 41 policies. GHW was a very effective President when it came to national security, and he had a good team working under him. You need to come up with something a little better than “Clinton gutted the military”. Of course you could also simply move onto a blog with readers who are ignorant. There are a lot to choose from on the right…

  24. Dexter says:

    I am very concerned about these cuts leaving this country vulnerable to sneak attacks and other actions by communists and tin horn dictators. I am especially worried about cuts to our nuclear arsenal that deters aggression by other countries. These cuts will put this country at risk. Why do we have to re-learn this lesson every few years/

  25. ddennis says:

    @Dexter:

    This is snark, right? God, I hope so. The logistics alone to carry out an invasion of an air- & sea-locked nation, with NO forewarning, NO pre-crisis indicators are more than the next-capable military can handle. Show me one military power that is going to cross either ocean via land or air to cause grave harm to the U.S. and I’ll show you an ocean littered with foreign ships & airplanes.

  26. Stupid down-graders, look, this is the closing quote:

    I heartily endorse the idea of moving away from big, expensive wars like Afghanistan and Iraq. But we now have two decades of bipartisan elite consensus sustained over four successive presidencies that point to the extreme unlikelihood of that happening.

    A wise man once noted that “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” It looks as though the Obama administration is going to build one for a future it would like to have, not the one that’s most likely.

    That is exactly what I called out. It is a strange endorsement that we should keep a military sized for American militarism, even though the author opposes American militarism.

    If you truly oppose the militarism then both it, and sizing the military for it, should be unacceptable.

  27. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Again, I’m not opposing cutting the size of the force or the amount we’re spending. Indeed, we could probably cut more. What I’m opposing is allocating the resources of the smaller budget toward ridiculously unlikely scenarios. We’re looking to spend huge sums of money preparing for a fight against a peer competitor that doesn’t exist and against an enemy that has no interest whatsoever in military confrontation with us. It’s just bonkers.

  28. Right but didn’t you close with the “most likely scenario” being more Iraqs/Afghanistans?

    We agree that contrived scenarios are a circus, but I took that closing as the alternative.

  29. (I certainly think reduced militarism is most likely at this point. Iraq and Afghanistan will have a hangover effect. Thus, ground-troops will be less likely to be deployed as opposed to stand-off forces.)

  30. mannning says:

    Here we go into yet another cycle of defense cuts, trusting that the future will not overwhelm our then existing forces somewhere around the globe. When the balloon goes up again, perhaps in 10 or 15 years from now, or even sooner, we have to give back the savings of the interveaning years in a mad rush to reconstitute our forces and logistics to meet the new and unexpected threats. For WW1 we had time to build up a respectable force, For WW2 it took us several years to train the conscripts and to produce the equipment needed to win.

    We now look around to find the next nexus of a WW threat, and to predict the timeframe of its beginning. The military has picked China as the most likely threat, in part because of their very aggressive buildup of a modern armed force, and in part because of our treaty or other defense commitments to various nations in the Western Pacific, plus our national interest in keeping open seas and open markets.

    It is key, however, to ensure that within that 1- to-15 year timeframe we have the forces ready when needed without costing us a two or three year buildup time, which would be time spent by an aggressor to consolidate their gains and to prepare further to fend us off. Our rather late counterattacks would then cost us in many thousands of lives lost to regain fallen territories or to invade the aggressor’s territory. Think Normandy beaches, The Bulge, Tarawa, Okinawa, and the like.

    It is this readiness of a powerful standing force itself that tempers the ambitions of a aggressor state, and very likely deters them from military adventures against other nations large or small, albeit at a financial cost to us for the readiness that would save those many thousands of lives. For me, that is a great insurance policy taken out to save our youth from the horrors of war. That this force costs us x times the budgets of ten other nations is not the issue: the ultimate issue is saving lives worldwide through our readiness.

    There are a number of hot spots around the globe that could conceivably involve the US: Israel-Iran/Syria; Pakistan-India; China-Taiwan; China-India; The Koreas yet again; Russia-Eastern Europe; for example. Two or more of these kind of conflicts could flare up in the same general timeframe, and stress our capabilities to assist friendly nations.

    These considerations lead me to believe that any force reductions should be considered with a long timeframe, the various hotspots, and the needs of the military to be effective in them well in mind, as well as to ensure an effective R&D program to keep us ahead of the curve militarily. We shall see!

  31. It suddenly occurs to me that this relates back to the Libya cycle at OTB. I was more lukewarm about it, because I didn’t see it leading to Boots On Ground, whereas James opposed it, because he worried that it was a path to BOG.

    So really, as I attempted to parse the “mistake” in downsizing ground troops, I saw a contradiction.

  32. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Ah. No, I actually see the 1990s redux as a more likely scenario: smaller scale interventions that involve minimal maneuver warfare and some combination of peacekeeping, stability ops, special operations, counter-terror raids and the like. That means a nimble, light force supported by excellent C4ISR and increasingly unmanned air power.

  33. @mannning:

    Also, 10-15 year changes in war technologies.

    You mention WWI and WWII, those are two points in a longer curve of lower troop level, higher technology level.

    (I find “War Horse” to be a disturbing movie vehicle, I guess I’ll wait for reviewers to tell me if I’m right or wrong.)

  34. @James Joyner:

    OK. I parsed the penultimate paragraph to mean the opposite.

  35. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Well, those two points could be augmented a lot: for instance Korea, Vietnam, Gulf 1, Gulf 2, and Afghanistan. We had to scramble hard in each case to reconstitute our forces to meet the threats, including a draft, or else to decimate our forces in other places at some risk and call out the reserves, National Guard, etc. with great disruption of families. We fought in Korea with inferior aircraft to the Migs until we built enough F-4s and F-86s, as one example of scrambling.

    In Vietnam, we had to hurry the production of choppers and the development of heavily armed and armored choppers. In Gulf 1, we had to construct an extremely complex communications capability to manage the coalition fighting and to aid in scud defence. In Gulf 2, we hurried the deployment of smart bombs and guidance systems, and used stealth aircraft and Tomahawks in combat extensively, and we uparmored vehicles and developed a new vehicle, the Stryker, and others, to cite a few of the things that cost us a bundle.

    We were fotunate that many of these newer weapons had been researched and developed in relative peacetime, and even produced in small quantities, which made rushing their major production far easier. Yes, we began these conflicts with what we had available, but soon realized that there were serious deficiencies that had to be resolved at a great cost. Those deficiencies cost us many casualties. This is why a strong military R&D program is essential: to avoid technological surprise as far as possible.

  36. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    You can call it a “scramble,” but it is also what we are best at. We can transform our industry to a war footing before we run out of inventory. And of course the transformation to a technological war machine has meant that armed forces must be selective about recruits. How that would work in some hypothetical draft scenario is anyone’s guess. Though, it’s pretty unlikely that the US would have to field (in the traditional sense of the word) a million men anytime soon.

  37. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    That is true. I’d believe within ten to fifteen years, or maybe 20, though. War machines can be ramped up inside of 3 to 4 years, and with parallel training, they are ready to fight soon after.
    So my 10-15-20 years represents about 3 to 6 ramp-up period opportunities, especially for more advanced nations such as Russia and China. The challenge is to find that the ramp-up is beginning and to what end. We were not very successful in finding the end point with either Germany or Japan or North Korea, or Vietnam, or Iraq early enough on. We may be in for a surprise in the case of China also. Perhaps it was our dependence on remote sensing that led us astray most recently, instead of more traditional intelligence gathering methods.

  38. tyndon clusters says:

    OK all you loons out there who moan about the cutting of the Defense Budget….I will gladly increase the budget back to 1980s Reagan levels when:

    We face an enemy with a 3.5 million man standing army which occupies half of Europe.

    We face an enemy with 773 supersonic bombers each carrying twenty 50 megaton hydrogen tipped nuclear warheads capable of penetrating U.S. airspace

    We face an enemy with 54 hard to track nuclear powered submarines, with an aggregate of 700 ballistic missiles poised to destroy every American city.

    We face an enemy with a 5123 land based ICBMs, some of which are mobile and impossible to track.

    We face an enemy with 64,000 tanks and 78,000 infantry and armored troop carriers.

    For you dolts out there who have been asleep for oh the last 60 years, the primary lesson of the Cold War is that right makes might.

    You cannot beat the shit out of countries with force and brute military suppression. If this were the case, the USSR should have kicked our asses, but they didn’t because we have the greater culture and economic might.

    Some of you fools would have us duplicate the same mistakes as the Russians, viz. rely on military force instead of economic supremacy; bludgeon your enemy militarily, then occupy huge swathes of territory at enormous costs in blood and treasure; destroy your domestic economy by strangling it with defense/security costs which never cease.

    China, like the old USSR will disappear, as the social and ethnic centripetal forces in that country are unleashed (its already happening) and the only way for the government to survive is through bloody and violent crackdown, with the predictable result – i.e. complete international condemnation and isolation, an economic slowdown due to unrest, which creates even more social chaos, and finally a breaking up of China into regional autonomous provinces.

    The fact that we don’t slash the defense budget by 50% (defense btw includes all the indirect costs buried in other budgets i.e Homeland security, the Dept. of Energy etc) shows how powerful the military industrial complex is and how brain destroying their minions in the media and Congress can be..

    In short, the 19th and 20th century ground and pound land wars are over. Facebook did more to liberate the middle east than all our nuclear warheads and aircraft carrier battle groups multiplied by a billion.

    The future global competition will be waged on the technological and social front, pitting our values and civilization against Chinese totalitarianism or Muslim theocratic dictatorships.

    As our middle class and economic seed corn is being systematically destroyed by the brain dead right wing assholes who worship wealth inequality and greed, the need to further that decline by feeding the Pentagon beast must be resisted at all costs – for our economic existence is stake.

    P.S. why is it that whenever I see a post by Manning I treat it like a piece of dogshit on the sidewalk, that is steer clear of it and move by it quickly in order to avoid the stench?

  39. mannning says:

    @tyndon clusters:

    Such as your post has?

  40. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    Do you disagree with the part that James and I agree on? That scenarios revolving around China and a high demand for US troops are fanciful?

    What is a realistic scenario for boots on ground, with respect to China? I mean, they can have North Korea if they want it, and anything further south is under a nuclear umbrella.

  41. tyndon clusters says:

    Manning, its too bad your posts aren’t archived so we could go to the tape to see just how wrong your assertions in the past have been about just about everything.

    But of course, like so many on the flatulent right, you would just tip toe around any responsibility for the gaffes and double down on the insanity.

  42. tyndon clusters says:

    Manning, you write….”For WW2 it took us several years to train the conscripts and to produce the equipment needed to win.

    Dude, the war was over in 3 and a half years.

    By your calculations, by around VE day, we finally had properly trained troops and equipment to finally take Berlin.

    Why take seriously any of the other tripe you write?

  43. mannning says:

    @tyndon clusters:

    Dumbdude, we began preparations to go to war in 1939-40. How do I know this? My father was brought onto General Hap Arnold’s staff in 1939 at the old War Department building in DC to help plan for a 50,000 plane army air corps, for one service. So our forces didn’t reach their maximum for about three or four years or so, or in 1943-44, well ahead of the June 6th, 1944 invasion at Normandy. You shouldn’t stick your very long and immature neck out so far! The war didn’t end until Japan surrendered in 1945, and we were still then calling in conscripts and producing aircraft, ships and landing craft in preparation for an invasion of Japan right up to the day they gave up.

    You do not know your history, and your manners need a complete overhaul.

  44. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Our military points of collision with China appear to me to be Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, and the Straits of Malacca. We have a MD treaty with Japan and many bases there. We are already committed to S. Korea with about a division’s worth of troops in country. We have made promises to the Taiwanese that we would come to their defense if threatened by China, and have in the past sent naval task forces into the straits there as a show of force. The question of helping India ward off a Chinese invasion is one I have not considered in any detail, but they do have border disputes from time to time.

    China has been building up a blue water navy with, among other missions, protection of their sea routes for oil from the ME through the Straits of Malacca to China in mind. Since a open seas policy is and has been US policy; any closure of that strait by China would be a serious point of contention.

    A land war in China itself would be a great mistake, I believe, but we do face the possibility of renewed conflict in Korea, with China becoming the arms and ammo supplier to the North and perhaps troop contingents as well in a repeat of China’s 1950-51 actions. There is a MAD standoff in nuclear weapons between the US and China, but that would not stop China from supporting the North once more. Such a conflict last time out took us a lot of manpower and ordnance simply to reach a standoff.

  45. @mannning:

    Our military points of collision with China appear to me to be Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, and the Straits of Malacca.

    I think that qualifies as batshit crazy at this point. China business partner to all those and would lose billions of their own trade in any rumble, let alone open war.

  46. mannning says:

    BC defines anyone that believes China thinks business only, and not very long-range. BC defines anyone that thinks China is pacifist. BC defines anyone that mistakes a military point of collision as a war.

    BC defines anyone that thinks China, with its massive reserves of cash, would miss a few tens of billions of business to conquer a nation it covets. China is gaining a position where they can dominate Asia and grab any nation it covets in the next decade or so.

  47. Related:

    China Communist Party bureaucrats like their cars high end

    They are cashing in. Now, you CAN spin any paranoid fantasy you want about what comes decades after that, but the sane will understand that it is fantasy. No one can just decide that some “most horrible” path is “most likely.”

  48. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Here is one academic’s view of the building conflict between the US and China.
    The critical resource is oil, and it relates directly to the growth of China and the economic health of the US. We are making this conflict more likely by refusing to develop our own resources adequately as a result of this administration’s policies. So my “fantasy” seems to have some justification in fact and opinion of others.

    http://www.israelenergy.org/2011/03/us-v-china-oil-war-scientists-speak-at.html

  49. mannning says:
  50. john personna says:

    Good Lord, why on earth would the Israelis want the US to think China was a threat?

    Oh, because general US militarism aids their cause. So, they dig up crazy signifiers just like you do.

    The sad thing is that you can do this all day. You can keep bringing up crazy predictions of the future, and they’ll keep working for you, because that’s where you are.

    At the margin they might worry the less informed, which is sad, but I certainly hope it won’t carry the day in defense allocation. We don’t need inmates running the asylum.

  51. john personna says:

    (There has been zero actual evidence of China using actual military in the present for any resource games. It is all future fantasy. China HAS invested widely in business ventures, which should signify the opposite, to a non-paranoid.)

  52. Eric Florack says:

    It outright amazes me that nobody has bothered asking this question….

    What government program has ever been cut by the democrats that didn’t involve defense?

    I say with some reasonable assurance that that list is either extraordinarily short or totally nonexistent.

    and, yes, you can take that as a challenge.

  53. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    A TYPICAL LIBERAL RETORT! Try shooting the messenger, and if that doesn’t work go after the originator, and if that doesn’t work use some really nastily worded rejoinders, and if that doesn’t work, they are SOL.

    Sometime you should look up the present strength and growth plans for the Chinese military, and then ask yourself why such a massive buildup? What are they planning to do when their planned growth has been reached for their army, navy and air force? They know very well that the US is not threatening their homeland, not threatening their friends in Korea, and not blocking the Straits they so prize. They know that Russia isn’t a threat, nor is Japan, nor are any of the ‘stans to the West, nor is India taking any belligerant posture, They are chummy with Pakistan at the moment, so tell us why?

    Oh! I know, they are sorely afraid of Vietnam! Scared silly, they are, from the look of it! Yes, that just must be it!

    Wait, I will save you the lookup:

    PERSONNEL

    Total Population: 1,336,718,015 [2011]
    Available Manpower: 749,610,775 [2011]
    Fit for Service: 618,588,627 [2011]
    Of Military Age: 19,538,534 [2011]……..no problem with manpower here!
    Active Military: 2,285,000 [2011]
    Active Reserve: 800,000 [2011]

    LAND ARMY

    Total Land Weapons: 22,795
    Tanks: 7,470 [2011]
    APCs / IFVs: 5,000 [2011]
    Towed Artillery: 2,950 [2011]
    SPGs: 2,475 [2011]
    MLRSs: 2,600 [2011]
    Mortars: 1,050 [2011]
    AT Weapons: 1,250 [2011]
    AA Weapons: 750 [2011]
    Logistical Vehicles: 5,850

    AIR POWER

    Total Aircraft: 4,092 [2011]
    Helicopters: 1,389 [2011]
    Serviceable Airports: 502 [2011]

    RESOURCES

    Oil Production: 3,991,000 bbl/Day [2011]
    Oil Consumption: 8,200,000 bbl/Day [2011]
    Proven Reserves: 20,350,000,000 bbl/Day [2011]

    LOGISTICAL

    Labor Force: 780,000,000 [2011]
    Roadway Coverage: 3,860,800 km
    Railway Coverage: 86,000 km

    FINANCIAL (USD)

    Defense Budget: $100,000,000,000 [2011]
    Reserves of Foreign Exchange & Gold: $2,662,000,000,000 [2011]
    Purchasing Power: $10,090,000,000,000 [2011]

    GEOGRAPHIC

    Waterways: 110,000 km
    Coastline: 14,500 km
    Square Land Area: 9,596,961 km
    Shared Border: 22,117 km

    NAVAL POWER

    Total Navy Ships: 562
    Merchant Marine Strength: 2,010 [2011]
    Major Ports & Terminals: 8
    Aircraft Carriers: 0 [2011]…..1 in refitting
    Destroyers: 26 [2011]
    Submarines: 55 [2011]
    Frigates: 58 [2011]
    Patrol Craft: 937 [2011]
    Mine Warfare Craft: 391 [2011]
    Amphibious Assault Craft: 544 [2011]

    Now THAT will just barely, just barely, take care of any old threat from Vietnam!

    The equipment is probably not up to our standards, but they make up any deficiencies with overwhelming manpower as they did in Korea. /S

    A decade from now, I wonder what this inventory will show?

    (Sources: US Library of Congress; Central Intelligence Agency; Fighting Forces (Barron’s))