Time To Put Defense Cuts On The Table

With just over a week to go before the 112th Congress convenes, battle lines are already being drawn in battle over the defense budget.

In a Christmas Day Op-Ed in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that it’s time to look seriously at cuts in defense spending:

We face wrenching budget cutting in the years ahead, but there’s one huge area of government spending that Democrats and Republicans alike have so far treated as sacrosanct.

It’s the military/security world, and it’s time to bust that taboo. A few facts:

• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?

• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.

This is the one area where elections scarcely matter. President Obama, a Democrat who symbolized new directions, requested about 6 percent more for the military this year than at the peak of the Bush administration.

Moreover, as Kristof notes, there’s a fairly decent body of historical evidence that massive military force isn’t always the best answer to our problems:

After the first gulf war, the United States retained bases in Saudi Arabia on the assumption that they would enhance American security. Instead, they appear to have provoked fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden into attacking the U.S. In other words, hugely expensive bases undermined American security (and we later closed them anyway). Wouldn’t our money have been better spent helping American kids get a college education?

Paradoxically, it’s often people with experience in the military who lead the way in warning against overinvestment in arms. It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” And in the Obama administration, it is Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has argued that military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny; it is Secretary Gates who has argued most eloquently for more investment in diplomacy and development aid

Of course, while the professional military men argue in favor of restraint, the armchair generals are already saying that even one cut in defense spending is tantamount to 1930s era isolationism. Take, for example, Mark Halperin in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Based upon nothing and ignoring the cautionary example of World War II, we are told that we will never face two major enemies at once. Despite the orders of battle of our potential adversaries and the fact that our response to insurgency has been primarily conventional, we are told that the era of conventional warfare is over. And we are told that we can rest easy because military spending is an accurate index of military power, and we spend as much as the next however many nations combined.

But this takes no account of the nature of our commitments, the fading contributions of our allies, geography, this nation’s size and that of its economy, conscription or its absence, purchasing power parity, exchange rate distortions, the military trajectories of our rivals individually or in combination, and the masking effects of off-budget outlays and unreported expenditures. Though military spending comparisons are of lesser utility than assessing actual capabilities, they are useful nonetheless for determining a country’s progress relative to itself.

Doing so reveals that from 1940 to 2000, average annual American defense expenditure was 8.5% of GDP; in war and mobilization years 13.3%; under Democratic administration 9.4%; under Republican 7.3%; and, most significantly, in the years of peace 5.7%. Today we spend just 4.6% of GDP—minus purely operational war costs, 3.8%. That is, 66% of the traditional peacetime outlays. We have been, and we are, steadily disarming even as we are at war.

What Halperin’s analysis leaves out, of course, is that, while the percentage of GDP devoted to defense spending has shrunk, the actual amount of spending has steadily increased, especially in the nine years since September 11th. The fact that we aren’t spending 8% of our GDP on defense anymore doesn’t mean we’re neglecting anything, it means that we were a much richer country than we have been in the past and thus can afford to devote a smaller percentage of our resources toward defense. That’s a good thing.

Former U.N. Representative John Bolton said pretty much the same thing as Halperin today during an appearance on Fox Business Channel:

Host: Can America cut its defense spending in a meaningful way?

Bolton: I don’t think so. I think you’ve got to be just as much on the outlook for waste and fraud in defense spending as anywhere else. But the fact is that we are entering into a very uncertain period in the world. We’ve got a lot of threats out there that we’re not ready for – not just nuclear proliferation, but chemical and biological weapons. We’ve got a Russia that’s using it’s oil revenues to upgrade it’s strategic nuclear and conventional capabilities. Coming back to China they’re expanding their blue water naval capabilities. They’re upgrading their ballistic missile forces.

This is not the time to cut back. I understand there’s a lot of pressure to get deficits down – I’m all in favor of it – but national security comes first, pure and simple, as far as I’m concerned.

This is the same argument we’ve gotten from the neo-con right, or whatever you want to call it. for years now. We can’t cut defense spending one red cent because of the threats we face. whether it’s al Qaeda, or Iran, or China, or Russia, or, you know, Upper Volta. As Daniel Drezner notes, though, the truth of the matter is that the threats aren’t nearly as overwhelming as the fearmongers would have us believe:

When the closest great power rival to the United States has difficulties supplying an anti-piracy flotilla, I think it’s safe to say that the gap in capabilities is not going to shrink all that dramatically anytime soon.

More, importantly, it’s not the same threat environment as the Cold War.  If the Wall Street Journal is going to recycle the same tired argument about going back to Cold War era defense spending, then I’ll just cut and paste what I said the first time this argument was made:

Terrorism and piracy are certainly security concerns — but they don’t compare to the Cold War. A nuclear Iran is a major regional headache, but it’s not the Cold War. A generation from now, maybe China poses as serious a threat as the Cold War Soviet Union. Maybe. That’s a generation away, however….

I’m about to say something that might be controversial for people under the age of 25, but here goes. You know the threats posed to the United States by a rising China, a nuclear Iran, terrorists and piracy? You could put all of them together and they don’t equal the perceived threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And until I see another hostile country in the world that poses a military threat in Europe, the Middle East and Asia at the same time, I’m thinking that current defense spending should be lower than Cold War levels by a fair amount.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the fearmongers look at Russia, and China, and even Iran and they see a threat that is far beyond the ability of any of these nations to actually pull off. Russia’s conventional military is a shadow of it’s Cold War self, and the Chinese conventional threat is close to non-existent at this point considering that they are unable to project force far beyond their own borders and are at least decades away from even coming close to having the kind of naval capability that would make that possible. And, Iran ? Iran is barely a regional power at this point.

There is, of course, another part of this argument. The GOP rode to victory in November on a message of fiscal conservatism and bringing government spending under control. If they are really intent on reining in Federal spending and cutting the budget deficit, then nothing can be off the table, including the defense budget. To say otherwise while claiming the mantle of fiscal conservatism is to be a completely hypocrite and, if GOP takes the position that defense spending is untouchable, and similarly serious that other item of GOP gospel, that tax increases are out of the question, then they are essentially abandoning the effort to bring the Federal Budget under control before it has event started.

This isn’t to discount the potential threats that we face in the world. However, to argue that there is no room to cut defense spending, or that we shouldn’t question why we continue to provide blanket protection to nations like England, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Australia is simply absurd. We aren’t living in 1955 anymore, there isn’t a superpower threatening engulf Western Europe, or any other part of that world for that matter. We can afford to cut back, let our allies start paying for more of their own defense, and concentrate on the real threats in the world rather than pretending the Cold War is still going on.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Congress, Military Affairs, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Ike looks very wise from where we sit today.

  2. Boyd says:

    While I don’t disagree that we could trim the budget for a lot of our military’s conventional capability, Drezner presents some faulty logic, in my opinion:

    And until I see another hostile country in the world that poses a military threat in Europe, the Middle East and Asia at the same time, I’m thinking that current defense spending should be lower than Cold War levels by a fair amount.

    Why does it have to be a single hostile country for Drezner to be concerned? It seems to me that the same overall threat from multiple countries would require a greater investment.

  3. anjin-san says:

    > that the same overall threat

    What combination of threats that we face today adds up to the single one presented by the Soviet Union at the peak of its power?

  4. john personna says:

    That’s actually pretty funny.

    It’s time? Now? At the end of 2010?

    Seriously?

    (The time was actually at the end of the cold war, when the “peace dividend” could have been cashed and banked, and NOT blown on decades of neocon crusades.)

  5. Pete says:

    Why don’t we scrap the Air Force and use part of the savings for a space defense system? Why do we need all these special ops divisions of the Army, Marines and Navy? How about one special ops force?

    In any case, we’ll need more national guardsmen soon when people start acting up over the implosion of our economy.

  6. Boyd says:

    What combination of threats that we face today adds up to the single one presented by the Soviet Union at the peak of its power?

    That was Drezner’s statement, and even he wasn’t saying that such a combination of threats exists. I was disputing his implication that a monolithic threat along the lines of the Soviet Union would justify greater spending than multiple threats. That makes no sense to me.

    But as far as the overall premise that we’re overspending on conventional arms, I agree (and agreed in my original comment).

  7. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, as it turns out even the Soviet conventional threat as the height of the cold war was absurdly inflated. The armchair generals insist on denying the huge qualitative difference between US weapons systems and Soviet equipment.

    Now we have carrier battle groups whose purpose no one seems able to explain, air superiority fighters with literally no foreign competitor, tanks that proved superfluous even in tank battles in Iraq — the Bradleys killed more Iraqi (Soviet) armor than the Abrams did.

    The current Russian threat is against Georgia. And not the one that is the headquarters of CNN.

    The Chinese? They’ll be lucky if their army isn’t used to keep their own people under control. And if the Chinese army is an active threat outside their borders, it’s to India, not us.

  8. marvin music says:

    We should not only cut the defense budget – we should cut it substantially. End the wars. Cut all defense spending that isn’t actually for defense.

    We should put that money towards a national health care program (ie: Medicare For All)

  9. ponce says:

    A smart American 50 years ago:

    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. “

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Ponce:

    Sounds like some weak-kneed, commie pinko draft dodger.

    Or else one of the greatest military commanders in US history and arguably one of the men most responsible for saving the world from the Nazis.

    Definitely one of those two. I’m leaning toward commie pinko.

  11. george says:

    It’d be a lot cheaper if the US only had to police itself, and not the whole world … for all the talk of the founder’s intentions that come up constantly in other regards, why is their intention that the US not get involved in foreign wars so completely ignored?

  12. john personna says:

    um, isn’t “nation building in the middle east” in the Constitution?

    How else did those conservatives find it? I guess they’re going to read it out … it must be in there somewhere.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Pretty sure “preventive war” is in the Constitution. No way the right would have gone for Iraq otherwise…

  14. anjin-san says:

    An interesting quote from Eishenhower…

    “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.”

    I wonder how long it would have taken Beck and Hannity to question his patriotism…

  15. john personna says:

    “Pretty sure “preventive war” is in the Constitution. No way the right would have gone for Iraq otherwise…”

    Actually, I’m fine with preemptive war if it genuinely is. Unfortunately, I think ol’ Saddam was pretty well boxed in. Jeez, he was roped and tied, but the scary stories of “smoking guns in the form of a mushroom cloud” still scared the “real Americans”

    The key here is that it was not actually even a preemptive war. It was neocon adventurism, probably centered on oil.

  16. john personna says:

    (To put it in a literary context, Han Solo shot first.)

  17. ponce says:

    “It was neocon adventurism, probably centered on oil.”

    I think of the Iraq “war” as very expensive therapy for right-wing Americans.

    War just seems to make them happier.

  18. Terrye says:

    I can not believe that people are still cherry picking Eisenhower to make some point about defense spending today. Eisenhower was in the military when defense spending took up 45% of the budget.

    I think an across the board cut of about 3 or 4% would go a long way to balancing the budget…but I also think that some people are incredibly naive if they think we can just shut down all those bases and come home and the world will remain the same. Not true, without the US Navy it is highly unlikely we could even maintain world trade.

    As for Saddam being boxed in…that was not going to last anyway. We could not keep the no fly zones going, the sanctions regime was collapsing the Food for Oil program had turned into a big fat scandal. In fact the diplomatic community had years to resolve the situation with Saddam and they failed to do so. Just like they failed to deal with Iran or the growing threat of terrorism. Like it or not the military often as not does the work that the politicians and diplomats fail to do.

  19. Wayne says:

    Always wanting to cut defense while not suggesting in cuts in anything else. Probably be the first ones to complain if our troops end up without the body armor, armor vehicles, proper communications, personnel, lack of SOF, etc that we will end up finding that we need in the next conflict.

  20. john personna says:

    Terrye, the “box” was vastly cheaper in blood and treasure than what came after.

    And arguments that it had to end worse than THIS ring pretty hollow.

  21. john personna says:

    Think about it, our “victory” is that we now have to occupy Iraq long-term with boots on ground to make sure it doesn’t grow another Saddam.

    Brilliant.

  22. anjin-san says:

    > the Food for Oil program had turned into a big fat scandal.

    Wow. A scandal. Well it was certainly worth thousands of dead troops and a trillion dollars to straighten that out.

    > I can not believe that people are still cherry picking Eisenhower

    And I can’t believe that you read what he said and apparently did not understand it at all. It’s sad that you are so ready to dismiss the parting words that such a great American had for his fellow countrymen because it does not support right wing talking points. No one is talking about shutting down all our bases. That you would even bring that nonsense into the discussion tells us a lot about the weakness of your position.

  23. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    If it is not listed in the constitution as a responsiblity of the federal government, defund it. It is not the job of the federal government to fund your sorry ass with my tax dollars. If you want to rob me, try it yourself do not send the government. National defense is a legitimate use of tax dollars. Any amount for defense, no amout for tribute.

  24. Wayne says:

    The reason we have SOF for each branch is the same reason we have logistic, aviation, etc for each branch. Each branch needs them. Each branch has unique needs. Each branch SOF forces are unique. Even the Army Rangers and Army SF (Special Forces) are different. They as well as the Navy Seals share pretty much the same missions but what they concentrate on and how they conduct those missions are different.

    Now they do all fall under one command now but they are not interchangeable. Some do certain jobs better than others and vice versa. Combining them all IMO would be a mistake.

  25. tom p says:

    >”Probably be the first ones to complain if our troops end up without the body armor, armor vehicles, proper communications, personnel, lack of SOF, etc that we will end up finding that we need in the next conflict.”

    Sounds suspicously like… hmmm, I don’t know, Iraq? Afghanistan?

    Wayne, when will you come to the realization that a 12th carrier does not equal more body armor? That the F-22 is not the same as mine resistant vehicles? Proper communications? Nothing a cell phone couldn’t fix….

    For years, the Pentagon has been trying to come up with a “high-tech” replacement for the slow as molasses Wart-hog, and yet with every conflict we get into, out comes the still ugly as sin Wart-Hog as the best ground support aircraft ever made.

  26. gawaine says:

    Just a nitpick – doesn’t affect the overall thrust of the article – but the intelligence community’s size is not related to the number of people with TS clearances. If they were talking about TS/SCI, then sure, but plain vanilla TS clearances are needed across the board for many defense jobs. (Including documenting, building or testing new weapons systems, keeping IT going, security officers, and anyone stationed in many roles, such as nuclear submarine crewmembers.)

    On the same point – since there are probably less residents of DC proper who are involved in Defense than residents of Connecticut, I don’t see why this is relevant. If you were to talk about the DC metro area, then that may be more interesting.

    Anyway, it’s an unfortunate statement that weakens the discussion, and removing it wouldn’t hurt any of the remaining points.

  27. Brett says:

    The armchair generals insist on denying the huge qualitative difference between US weapons systems and Soviet equipment.

    Most of that difference didn’t happen until the late 1970s/early 1980s, when the US started implementing weapons programs taking advantage of the new technologies that arose with the Revolution in Military Affairs. Before that, the Soviet military (and particularly its army) dwarfed US military forces, and the US more or less relied on its far superior nuclear deterrent as its main defense against any major Soviet push into western Europe.

    As for cuts in defense spending, I’d support them – as long as they happen after a comprehensive review of US overall strategy, and with a plan on actually implementing the changes in overall strategic doctrine. Simply cutting the funding solves nothing – you’ll just end up scrimping on supplies and weapons, with floating coffins for ships as military technology evolves, and so forth.

    One thing to keep in mind – if you’re going to cut funding and capabilities, that’s going to come at some expense elsewhere in what your military can do. I support heavily slashing active-duty Army numbers after pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that would definitely hurt our ability to fight any sort of conventional conflict over the short term (that includes stuff like Gulf War I).

  28. Dave Schuler says:

    I think I’ve made my position on this subject pretty clear: I think we should make sizeable cuts in our military budget. However, I think that we need to think very seriously on what our grand strategy is and how the composition of our military can effect it.

    To that end I think that most of the cuts will necessarily come from the Army and the Air Force. Do we really need that much ability to take and hold land? In the future will we actually be doing the kind of bombing that the Air Force has prepared for?

    Considerations of this sort will make us re-think the activities we undertake and, as has been suggested above, cuts in our budget will necessarily mean we must be more judicious in what we undertake.

    It hasn’t been mentioned but bears mentioning: the UK, France, Germany, and so on are able to sustain the much small military budgets they currently do because we sustain the budget that we do. Our spending as much as most of the other countries in the world put together is strategic not accidental or perverse. When that changes after the initial euphoria wears off there will be no joy in Mudville.

  29. anjin-san says:

    > Always wanting to cut defense while not suggesting in cuts in anything else.

    Total crap Wayne. Everyone knows across to board cuts are necessary. What is not on the table is kill social security and throw the poor under the bus while maintaining corporate welfare and tax cuts for billionaires.

  30. anjin-san says:

    > If it is not listed in the constitution as a responsiblity of the federal government

    Are you still getting unemployment checks?

  31. anjin-san says:

    > Before that, the Soviet military (and particularly its army) dwarfed US military forces

    Kind of a massive over simplification. Our navy, for example, was so vastly superior to theirs, it is barely worth discussing.

  32. Boyd says:

    What is not on the table is kill social security and throw the poor under the bus…

    Why is it the government’s job, at any level, to keep the poor out from under the bus? Conflating “society” (or maybe even “civilization”) with “government” is where the Left often goes awry. And the Right, for that matter, although on completely different subjects.

  33. george says:

    “Not true, without the US Navy it is highly unlikely we could even maintain world trade. ”

    Because the Somali pirates will shut down world trade? And no other country in the world has the technology to protect their own shipping?

    I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve ever heard that the US Navy is the only thing keeping world trade alive.

  34. george says:

    “It hasn’t been mentioned but bears mentioning: the UK, France, Germany, and so on are able to sustain the much small military budgets they currently do because we sustain the budget that we do.”

    Yup. And they will increase their spending to protect themselves if they’re forced to do so. They’re no longer war torn states trying to recuperate from WW2, their combined economy is as big as that of America. Let them look after themselves. Same for Japan, they can afford to defend themselves.

  35. anjin-san says:

    > Why is it the government’s job, at any level, to keep the poor out from under the bus?

    What kind of country do you want to live in Boyd? One where people are dying on the streets? Where children starve? Old people freeze to death in slums? Can you offer compelling evidence that “society” will step up to prevent these horrors if government programs for the poor are ended?

    When people reach a critical mass of desperation, violence is right around the corner. The situation we have now is essentially the halves paying off the have nots to keep the peace. Not a perfect solution, but on a lot of levels, our society works extraordinarally well. What do you suggest?

  36. Boyd says:

    So, nobody did anything for the poor before the last century, eh? Good to know.

  37. Steve Plunk says:

    Cut the military? Smart. Cut social services? You’re killing people. The Left can’t have a grown up conversation anymore.

    We need all spending on the table where it should be analyzed and judged for value. At all levels of government and on a regular basis. We don’t get this broke overnight and we won’t get out of debt overnight but for gosh sakes the present administration and former congress didn’t even try to control spending so I don’t want the liberals to try and take the lead here. They have already failed us and have no sense of responsibility for what they have done.

  38. anjin-san says:

    > So, nobody did anything for the poor before the last century, eh?

    They died in droves. When they became violent, they got their skulls broken. So are you a typical “building a bridge to the 19th century” conservative, or do you have any actual ideas on how do deal with this problem?

  39. michael reynolds says:

    Boyd:

    Honest to God: read some history.

    Is it your impression that we came up with welfare despite no one needing it?

    Is it your belief that we created Medicare because old people were getting perfectly good medical care prior to that?

    How about social security? Everything was just fine with the old folks and along came government and invented a program no one needed?

    How about the TVA? Everything was going pretty well up in hillbilly country?

    Ever read Dickens? Yeah, he was writing about England but much the same situation existed here. Poor houses, streets thick with beggars, staggering rates of infant mortality brought on by poverty, and maternal mortality as well from the same. People starved to death. Women whored themselves out as the only way to feed their hungry children. MIners worked themselves to death in unsafe conditions while the mine owner robbed them blind with a monopoly on everything they consumed. Sharecroppers worked as slaves for slave wages. Old people died of the cold in their homes or survived on cat food.

    100 years ago? No, a lot of that was in my lifetime.

  40. tom p says:

    >”Why is it the government’s job, at any level, to keep the poor out from under the bus?”

    Just a question Boyd, if it is not the govt’s job to keep the poor from being exploited by the super rich, does that mean you are all in favor of organized labor? Including busting the heads of any scab who tries to cross a picket line???

    In other words, are you willing to give them the means to fight back?

    yeah…. I thought so….

  41. Boyd says:

    The welfare of the poor has been improved primarily by technology, not by the “benevolence” of governmental “from each according to his means, to each according to his needs.”

  42. Brett says:

    I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve ever heard that the US Navy is the only thing keeping world trade alive.

    What the threat of US naval force does is deter other nations from constricting the trade lanes in certain areas, or doing stuff like mining the harbors of hostile nations. Think of what China has been making noise about in its “Economic Exclusion Zone”, or in the South China Sea.

    So, nobody did anything for the poor before the last century, eh? Good to know.

    Perhaps you’d like to go back to the period when labor violence and turbulence, along with rioting, was very common and frequent in the US. I’m talking about stuff like bombings and the like, which makes modern day labor disputes seem like tea parties.

    That’s what a big part of welfare is for. It ameliorates much of the dislocation and conflict that happens as a side-effect of rapid societal, technological, and economic change.

  43. tom p says:

    >”for gosh sakes the present administration and former congress didn’t even try to control spending so I don’t want the liberals to try and take the lead here.”

    for gosh sakes the PREVIOUS administration and former REPUBLICAN congress didn’t even try to control spending so I don’t want the SO-CALLED FISCAL CONSERVATIVES to try and take the lead here….

    Fixed that for you Steve.

  44. An Interested Party says:

    “…but I also think that some people are incredibly naive if they think we can just shut down all those bases and come home and the world will remain the same.”

    Oh absolutely! I mean, if we close the bases in Germany, Russia will invade immediately! And if we close the bases in Japan, North Korea will overtake them in no time at all!

    “It is not the job of the federal government to fund your sorry ass with my tax dollars.”

    That’s rather funny coming from a person who cashes unemployment checks from Uncle Sugar…

    “The Left can’t have a grown up conversation anymore.”

    Well, considering that you constantly scream about tax cuts AND reducing the deficit, neither can the Right…

  45. anjin-san says:

    > The welfare of the poor has been improved primarily by technology, not by the “benevolence” of governmental

    Who said anything about benevolence? It’s a payoff. Like a lot of things in the real world, it is imperfect, but it is certainly better than what came before it.

    As for technology, well, access to the benefits of technology costs money.

    Do you have anything at all to contribute beyond stale right wing boilerplate?

  46. Boyd says:

    …he said while parroting stale, left-wing boilerplate.

    See? Ad hominem gets us nowhere beyond, “You’re a poopie-head, too!”

  47. Dave Schuler says:

    A while back I wrote an an account of the life of the poor in the early years of the 20th century from the experiences of my own family. This is true stuff; multiple firsthand attestations.

    Government doesn’t always do everything right and a government solution isn’t always the best one. But in public health and bettering the conditions under which the poor lived in this country government efforts have scored an enormous triumph.

  48. michael reynolds says:

    Boyd:

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Technology? What was the technology that allowed old people to start paying for medical care? Did some technology come along which drastically cut medical costs so old people could afford it? Because I must have missed that trend.

  49. Boyd says:

    So the only effects are direct effects, eh, Michael? I thought you would have been more aware of and attuned to indirect, downstream benefits.

    I guess when it doesn’t fit your pre-determined conclusion, emanations and penumbras aren’t that important.

  50. anjin-san says:

    How about a few specifics Boyd?

  51. Boyd says:

    “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

    The advance of post-war technology caused our economy to surge forward. This, more than anything, benefited everyone, poor and rich alike. You may think that governmental programs, based on taxing those technological advancements, were the key factor in alleviating the plight of the poor. I’ll disagree, because those funds wouldn’t have been available without that economic boon. And I oppose the coercion of government in this regard, as well.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    Boyd:

    You’re talking nonsense. A rising tide does not lift all boats as is quite evident even now with a social safety net.

    If the effect of technology somehow allowed grandma to get her medical bills paid for without government then explain how that happened. Not in rhetorical evasion, but in one dot leads to the next.

    No more BS, just explain how technology would have made it possible for a 70 year old retired woman to get medical care without medicare or SS.

  53. anjin-san says:

    > “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

    Ummm. That’s a platitude.

    So you can’t give a single specific? Now there is a shocker…

    > The advance of post-war technology caused our economy to surge forward

    Which technologies? How? Automobiles and television were big drivers in the post-war boom. autos had been around for decades, and TV was not a post-war technology, though its implementation was almost entirely post war. Give us one or two post war technologies and some examples of how their rise helped the poor. And for God’s sake, let’s have something a bit more insightful than “they were taxed”.

    Come on Boyd, you can do it. Or can’t you? Depends on if you are thinking for yourself or just spewing out half-baked right wing dogma…

  54. floyd says:

    Since noone mentioned actual figures……

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007.png

    Now a legitimate discussion can begin!

  55. mannning says:

    I agree with cutting our commitments to NATO way down, and beginning a phased withdrawal of our troops and equipment in Europe.

    There are most likely many other foreign contingents that could be reduced to military attache status only.

    India has just agreed to buy 350 SU-50 fighters from Russia. This rival to the F-22 may not be quite as superb as the F-22, but there will be a lot more of them flying, apparently in a number of nations. Of course, the F-35 is not an air superiority fighter, and would not fare well against the SU-50. I do hope Lockheed still has the plant and facilities to build F-22s or something better.

    Despite the euphoria of the day on the linker kant there are several hotspots on the planet that could well involve US forces at some heavy level: North Korea could flare up once again, and we do have a mutual defense treaty with SK. Taiwan has been a continuing sore point between China and the Taiwanese, and we have yet another defense treaty with them too. Having a strong military is very like an insurance policy in case of need to live up to our commitments here.

    Then, too, the issue of Iran’s nuclear developments has not cleared up, and the Israelis are still able to start a war with Iran on their own that would inevitably involve us, as well as Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Syria–and perhaps Egypt too. No one focuses on Turkey either as they should. In a few more years they may well be fully in the Islamic camp, which would be a very threatening event.

    Our Mexican compadres are having an insurrection of their own just south of the border. If Mexico is in danger of failing, it is odds on that we would be called in to right the situation with troops on the ground.

    There has been tension between India and Pakistan, and India and China for years, with Pakistan a vital bridge to our Afghanistan forces. The detant in this area is fragile.

    So, sure, let’s reduce our standing forces significantly, so that we cannot respond to these deadly hotspots in a proper way: with overwhelming force. We have disarmed to the bone each time we stopped fighting, only to have to ramp up in crisis mode within a very short time later, which has cost us in terrible losses of men and untold dollars to get back our dominating military muscle.

    The so-called peace dividend was not only spent before it was realized, but we also had to double our outlays to make up for the shortages, and even then sorely missed the old hands, the noncoms, that knew how to get things done that were let go as surplus to our needs. We missed terribly the three divisions or so that Clinton dismissed out of hand with his 40% reduction within a very few years later during Gulf I.

    But, already the wise old men are clamoring for yet another peace dividend. Cut real surplus, sure. Cut redundancies, sure. But maintain the forces at a proper level and equipage to meet our needs and commitments downstream.

    What is the average time between our conflicts? About 6 or 7 years? We can’t even field a new fighting vehicle in less than 8 years or a new tank in less than 9 years. A new fighter is a ten-year-plus proposition. So we will be forced to fight the next war with outdated weaponry, while the Russians are equipping potentially enemy nations right now with better, next gen weapons all around.

    We must not listen to the peaceniks and myopic intellectuals yet again to our sorrow. Some conflict is inevitable.

  56. mannning says:

    Gulf II

  57. john personna says:

    Someone is clamoring for a dividend, mannning? No more like there is grumbling in the hole that has been dug.

  58. anjin-san says:

    > We must not listen to the peaceniks and myopic intellectuals yet again to our sorrow. Some conflict is inevitable.

    No one is saying otherwise. Your charachterization of “peaceniks and myopic intellectuals” is yet another helping of right wing drivel. Obama has significantly increased the defense budget, and far more Democrats than Republicans in DC have actually served in uniform and seen combat.

  59. mannning says:

    Which item is a non sequiteur. We can go hunting for peaceniks if you like, and there is a book on myopic intellectuals and why they are called that in factual terms. So these types exist and do get heard now and again in the halls of congress, mostly in democratic circles. That Obama has increased the defense budget is oh by the way if that budget is placed on the cutting table. You seem to be throwing marshmellows tonight.

  60. An Interested Party says:

    “Now a legitimate discussion can begin!”

    Indeed…perhaps someone would care to make an argument as to why the federal government needs to spend almost a quarter of the budget, $782 billion, on defense and how in the world the budget deficit will ever be reined in without cutting into that quarter of expenditures…

    “We have disarmed to the bone each time we stopped fighting, only to have to ramp up in crisis mode within a very short time later, which has cost us in terrible losses of men and untold dollars to get back our dominating military muscle.”

    That pattern seems to have ended after WW II, with the development of nuclear weapons…I mean, does anyone really expect WW III to happen anytime soon?

    “So we will be forced to fight the next war…”

    A war against whom?

    “We must not listen to the peaceniks and myopic intellectuals yet again to our sorrow.”

    We must also not listen to the warmongers, armchair generals, and neocons yet again who see bogeymen in every corner of the globe…

  61. anjin-san says:

    > So these types exist and do get heard now and again in the halls of congress, mostly in democratic circles

    Just as neocon warmonger chickenhawks do on the right. Who has harmed our national security more in this century? A trillion dollars down the drain in Iraq. Iran emerging as a regional superpower when Iraq is removed as a counterbalance. The necessary Afghanistan war going off track as Bush takes his eye off the ball to chase windmills.

    > there is a book on myopic intellectuals and why they are called that in factual terms

    Hummm. yea. there are books on how ghosts are real too. A marshmellow looks like a Randy Johnson fastball compared to the cheese you are serving up.

  62. ponce says:

    “I mean, does anyone really expect WW III to happen anytime soon?”

    Nope.

    But once the U.S. military inevitably folds up shop in its hundreds of overseas bases, who knows?

    We may see many smaller conflicts erupt, some of which could deeply affect American prosperity and maybe even our security.

  63. Don L says:

    Since the entire world hate us and we elevate their cultures and life values to the level of ours- if not envy and emulate them (multiculturalism etc) why do we need any defense at all?

    If anyone attacks us and takes over our nation imposing their society structure upon us -won’t it be an improvement over what we have now?

    (just testing my Chrissy Matthews writing skills)

  64. Rock says:

    Don, actually that’s not a bad idea, especially if the conquerors can assume our national debt and provide free medical care.

    Start speaking Arabic … and maybe Chinese as a third language.

  65. george says:

    “What the threat of US naval force does is deter other nations from constricting the trade lanes in certain areas, or doing stuff like mining the harbours of hostile nations. Think of what China has been making noise about in its “Economic Exclusion Zone”, or in the South China Sea.”

    So you’re saying that China, which probably benefits more than any other country from the current trade conditions (which are actually unfairly tilted in their favour, though that’s a different issue), is going to shut down global trade? They’re going to mine foreign harbours that are filled with their own trade goods? Seriously?

    And that if the Chinese went insane and decided global trade in its waters must stop, the US Navy is powerful enough to ignore Chinese fighters, nuclear weapons and the like, and impose peace in China’s own back yard?

    Look at all the problems fighting overseas in Iraq caused – how is the US going to militarily impose its will on China? Invade? Threaten nuclear destruction on a country with its own nuclear weapons?

    The US doesn’t have the economic capabilities to impose its will on the rest of the world … and in a nuclear age, neither does it have the military capability – unless you call a nuclear holocaust in which little is left of anything (including the US) imposing its will.

  66. floyd says:

    “Now a legitimate discussion can begin!”

    23% sounds about right…… once the other line items are brought into line with what the taxpayers can afford.

  67. Trueofvoice says:

    Our country maintains military capabilities far in excess of what is needed for our defense. It is time to accept that the purpose of the United States military is to defend the United States, not to project power on a global scale.

  68. Brett says:

    So you’re saying that China, which probably benefits more than any other country from the current trade conditions (which are actually unfairly tilted in their favour, though that’s a different issue), is going to shut down global trade? They’re going to mine foreign harbours that are filled with their own trade goods? Seriously?

    No, I’m saying that in the advent of a serious conflict, without the threat of US naval force, there would be a strong incentive for them to do stuff like that. And even in the absence of a conflict, there’s much more opportunity for them to do stuff like what they’ve been doing in the EEZ (harassing other countries’ ships).

    And that if the Chinese went insane and decided global trade in its waters must stop, the US Navy is powerful enough to ignore Chinese fighters, nuclear weapons and the like, and impose peace in China’s own back yard?

    Short of the Chinese going to nuclear weaponry (and even then, it’s no guarantee for them), yes, the US Navy is powerful enough to clear out anything China has in their surrounding seas. The PLAN is still mostly a joke (the best part of it is their submarine fleet, and that’s still inferior to anything the US has).

    However, it would not be a joke if the US Navy was significantly weaker, and it won’t be a joke as it modernizes unless the US does the work to keep its qualitative edge.

    Look at all the problems fighting overseas in Iraq caused – how is the US going to militarily impose its will on China? Invade? Threaten nuclear destruction on a country with its own nuclear weapons?

    It depends on your objectives. We can do a lot of damage to them in a conflict simply by using our superior Navy and Air Power to interdict their coasts.

  69. Brett says:

    What is the average time between our conflicts? About 6 or 7 years? We can’t even field a new fighting vehicle in less than 8 years or a new tank in less than 9 years. A new fighter is a ten-year-plus proposition.

    This. Of course, that partially has to do with how the US does Research and Development for military hardware. We tend to do the “big bang” method of trying to get everything and anything into a fighter with cutting edge technology, which drags out the development process and cost. It would probably be cheaper and better just to design and procure more types of planes over a shorter time period (along with fixing and upgrading the planes we have when possible).

  70. john personna says:

    “Don, actually that’s not a bad idea, especially if the conquerors can assume our national debt and provide free medical care.

    Start speaking Arabic … and maybe Chinese as a third language.”

    Why would a guy named “Rock” be ready to surrender after a mere spending cut?

    (We can have the best military in the world for a lot less. The argument is all about what multiplier over second-best and third-best we really need.)

  71. mannning says:

    This is all puffery.

    Why not address the specific threats that we face in the next ten years? NK, and China behind them, and Iran, and its hangers on. NK is a client of both China and Russia, and their Mig-21s must be getting fatigued by now. Did I read correctly that the NK is importing Su-26s? That plane is in the league of the F-15. We had a big surprise in NK last time–the Migs. Had to play catch up, and fortunately then we had such coming along..

    Just how would we honor our treaty commitment with just about one division in the country? How many divisions would it take? 15? 20? We have all told 10 active and about another 10 in reserve. We can’t commit them all to SK, so what’s next? We cannot threaten nukes when they have them too, or will have soon. They could destroy Seoul, its population, and its entire industrial base in a flash. Looks to me like we are overcommitted or understaffed or both. Ok Write SK off as too hard to defend. Is that the thinking? So much for our treaty compliance. Eisenhower just turned over in his grave.

    So then there is Iran, with sidekicks Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and perhaps others, too. Shall we help defend Israel or not? What would that take? As a guess I’d say about 300,000 to 400,000 men, or over a third of our total Army combat strength, plus Marines, Navy, AF etc. etc. just for openers.. The scenario being an Israeli attack on Iran, not just a surgical strike on nuke facilities, which would be rather pointless, but a full scale attempt to reduce the Iranian military base and nukes to rubble. We would be dragged into this by Iranian counterstrikes on us, and Iraq would get into it also.giving us yet another levy on our forces. So there we are with another demand on our forces that we cannot meet very easily today.

    What if Israel hit Iran and NK attacked at about the same time, give or take a few months, each demanding substantial troop and other support from us to meet our commitments. Write them both off too? So the plan to reduce our forces involves throwing our commitments aside in the name of fiscal economy. A grand plan indeed!

    Or, do we throw our small contingents into the battle to delay the attackers, with the usual loss rates for rear guard actions, while we scramble to put together a winning force structure over there, and with draftees at that. There goes about two years.–minimum, most of industrial SK, and perhaps most of Israel falls. Another grand plan. Anyone remember Chosen, or Pusan?

    I don’t like the results of any of these plans. We lose, they gain. All because we are too weak and show it to those who would take advantage of us. We need more troop power, air power and naval power, not less.

  72. anjin-san says:

    > We need more troop power, air power and naval power, not less.

    Good, good. And when our economy collapses because we are expending too much national treasure on the military, we will need troops and tanks right here at home, because people will be killing each other for food.

  73. An Interested Party says:

    “This is all puffery.”

    This from a person who is telling us that North Korea is a “threat” to us…please…

  74. mannning says:

    You must be underage, and never faced the NK and Chinese. How easy it is to forget. And how stupid

  75. mannning says:

    Nk is a threat to Sk.. We have a defense treaty with Sk. Get it?

  76. An Interested Party says:

    “We have a defense treaty with Sk.”

    Thank you so much for that critical piece of information! I had absolutely no idea until you informed me! The “threat” that North Korea poses to us does not justify spending more on defense than we already do…talk about stupid…

  77. mannning says:

    Stick to your unjustified assertions, friend. You have no idea what you are saying.. And certainly no facts to back up your argument. Just heresay and wishful thinking. God help the US if your like gets into positions of importance to our defense.

  78. An Interested Party says:

    “God help the US if your like gets into positions of importance to our defense.”

    Doubtful, as information like this proves…

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/12/the-military-industrial-complex.html

    You need not worry about all your military toys being shelved anytime soon…

  79. mannning says:

    I am merely hoping that we do not suffer the stupidities that Chamberlein visited on the British people….”peace in our time!” nonsense. Nor the shortsighted and stubborn refusal of the Defense Ministry to build up the RAF, forcing the first contingents of Hurricaines and Spitfires to be built using private funds, which proved crucial in the Battle of Britain. Read the lessons of history. But I fear I am chatting with an avowed pacifist, that no lesson out of the many available with help.

    The first duty of government is our defense, and it should not take pacifist-championed calculated risks in doing so.

  80. john personna says:

    You are playing a game, mannning. It is different than Rock’s fear game, but a game nonetheless.

    You are saying “since I can name threats, we need unlimited budget.”

  81. Ben Wolf says:

    Manning,

    Our treaty with South Korea is not open-ended and can be withdrawn from at any time.

  82. george says:

    “I don’t like the results of any of these plans. We lose, they gain. All because we are too weak and show it to those who would take advantage of us. We need more troop power, air power and naval power, not less.”

    Suppose China attacks Taiwan at the same time too. Military will be needed for that. And what if Russia decides it wants to re-establish the Warsaw Pact, and marches in Poland and the Baltic states. Military will be needed for that. And what if Pakistan and India go to war at the same time, disrupting trade throughout the region, not to mention the possibility of a limited nuclear war in the region. More demands on the navy.

    How long do you think 7% of the world’s population can be more powerful than the total combined military of the rest of the world? What do you think happens to countries which overextend themselves to such an extent?

  83. george says:

    “The first duty of government is our defense, and it should not take pacifist-championed calculated risks in doing so.”

    Yes, the key word being ‘our’. The military should be strong enough to protect the United States from all attackers. That doesn’t include overseas ‘interests’, and it doesn’t mean trying to defend allies who won’t defend themselves.

    The Europeans, Japan, and even SK against NK could more than defend themselves if they felt the need. None of them are war torn economies any more, and though they’re happy to take the free ride, its time they learned to fend for themselves again.

  84. john personna says:

    This sure wraps up the Rock/Mannning argument, doesn’t it?

    Study: Conservatives have larger ‘fear center’ in brain

    I think we’ve heard that before. Sometimes it came out in subtle ways. Drivers of convertibles are less likely to vote conservative.

  85. anjin-san says:

    > You must be underage, and never faced the NK and Chinese

    Our forces crushed the NK in the Korean War. China was a different problem, our forces were superior to theirs, but they had a serious advantage in numbers that provided a counterbalance.

    You have to be kidding with the Chamberlain thing. I don’t know a single Democrat who does not understand that we face serious national security threats and that our military needs to be second to none and then some. you are a walking cliche…

  86. mannning says:

    No matter what the argument is, the answer is always the same: reduce our military might regardless of the consequences today and tomorrow. I find the posters here not to be authorities on our defense, but rather champions of greater spending on entitlements and probably not debt reduction at all, and to hell with the rest of the world. I find the judgements also to be totally biased based on nothing more than a feeling that we spend too much on the military as opposed to social goodies.

    But, no concrete and realistic arguments are advanced, none, to support the thesis that we should reduce our military, other than the obvious attempts to reduce waste and duplication which are a given. We are apparently supposed to let the rearmaments and the battles creep up on us before we react with design, development, test, production, and training on new and better weaponry. So the cycle repeats itself over and over: swords into plowshears into swords into plowshears….ad infinitum.

    Pacifists are the very last group of citizens that should have any influence whatsoever on our defense posture.

  87. john personna says:

    No matter what the argument is, the answer is always the same: reduce our military might regardless of the consequences today and tomorrow.

    The amazing thing is that you hear that, even when no one says that.

    Check your amygdala.

  88. george says:

    “Pacifists are the very last group of citizens that should have any influence whatsoever on our defense posture.”

    If not getting involved in overseas wars constitutes pacifism, then the founders and most subsequent Americans up until the 2nd world war were pacifists.

    You’ll note no one is talking about reducing those portions of the military budget that have to do with defending America. What’s being discussed is reducing overseas expenses, as well as the usual inefficiencies that exist in all parts of government (and the military is part of the gov’t).

    Talk about being able to throw back any potential invaders and everyone’s with you. But fighting overseas isn’t part of that. We need a military strong enough to stop anyone from even thinking about attacking us – that’s a necessity. Fighting overseas for our ‘interests’ though is a luxury, and one we’re not going to be able to afford much longer.

    Seriously, look at all the potential wars in the next ten years. Russia taking back the Warsaw Pact, China taking Taiwan or attacking Japan, NK going into SK, Pakistan fighting it out with India. Ignoring that most involve nuclear capabilities making our involvement iffy in any case (you really willing to sacrifice New York or Los Angeles for Seoul?), suppose they all happen simultaneously. Our military would have to be five times its current size to happen that scenario – you really comfortable with 80% taxes? Have you read what happened to the USSR when they tried to maintain a military beyond their economic capacity?

  89. Trueofvoice says:

    You don’t get it, Manning, American soldiers had no business facing the Chinese and North Koreans in 1950 and they certainly have no business doing so now.

  90. mannning says:

    What I am hearing over and over is that a number of you commenters are quite willing to abrogate our treaty obligations overseas simply to save money. So, in your eyes a treaty signed by our President and ratified by the Congress is nothing more than a piece of paper that can be torn up at will.

    Remind me never to sign any sort of contract with you as individuals. You are likely not to live up to your side.of the deal. I will have nothing to do with such dishonesty. Oh I get it all right, you are willing to create a Fortress America and to hell with any other involvements, however sacred they are to the given word and honor of the United States of America.

    There is no point in further discussion with dishonest people.

  91. Trueofvoice says:

    Manning,

    The fate of South Korea or Taiwan is not worth the life of one American. If that means dismantling the global empire from which you derive your self-worth and “manliness” then so be it. Our soldiers shouldn’t be placed in harm’s way so you can feel “honorable”, and our treaty obligations, like any private contract, can be terminated at any time.

  92. george says:

    “What I am hearing over and over is that a number of you commenters are quite willing to abrogate our treaty obligations overseas simply to save money. So, in your eyes a treaty signed by our President and ratified by the Congress is nothing more than a piece of paper that can be torn up at will.”

    You’ve never heard of re-negotiating treaties? Even a quick glance at history will show that its done all the time.

  93. john personna says:

    OK Manning, I disagree with those guys. And, I think obligations can be met for about a trillion less.

    All it would have taken is a short punitive strike into Afghanistan, no attack on Iraq, and a continued move to robot avionics.

  94. mannning says:

    There is something to be said for letting the past act as a prolog, yet working on now and the future. We cannot recall any errors of the past, nor can we correct them, and to find the right balance between the good and the bad we have done is for future historians. That said, we need to remember our Boy Scout days: Be Prepared!.

    I will not argue past alternatives we might have followed, since they are pure speculation, and even if we tried, we do not control the “other side” of the dream from ours, so any conclusions will be our own best outcomes, not reality. So we must work forward, not backward.

    Most of us try to work from a realistic view of the threats we face over the next ten-to-fifteen years or so, and our crystal balls are very cloudy indeed. They were in the past as our continual surprises over the start of conflicts we ended up neck deep in have not damped down very much in succeeding years, and our crystal ball didn’t help then either. We have been surprised manpower-wise, technology-wise, and strategic/tactical-wise as well over the last 60 years as anyone that has delved into our military history will attest.

    We have relied on several things to rectify any of these shortcomings when some belligerant nation starts rolling over others. First has been our insular geography that prevents land invasion; second has been our national ability to build things fast and to recruit and train soldiers just barely fast enough to survive and ultimately to prevail, usually with a time lag of several years to get things going well. That several years in the case of WWII was enough to allow the Nazis to conquer all of Europe and a goodly part of North Africa and make a start on Russia!

    Now I contend that other nations could use just such a two or three year period, or even four or five, as we took, to build themselves a comparably large military force, and to begin aggressive actions should they have the slightest desire to do so. The two obvious candidates are Russia and China.that have the industry, the manpower, the nuclear umbrella, and the will to consider such adventures, not today, but within the 10-to-15 year time frame of our threat period. In the runup period, they would be perfecting their weapons and manufacturing resources for the ultimate push, whereas I can only hope that we would do the same. Are there signs of this now? Yes, there are. Both Russia and China are continuing the research, development, test and production of more advanced weapons for all of their services. Give them 10-15 years, and we will have a very significant threat on our hands.

    Our reliance on human and other intel sources has not been very spectacular in detecting major aggressions, certainly not within our rebuild time frame of 3, 4 or 5 years. What detections we have garnered in the past have been cast aside as fear mongering.and suppressed. So I do not count on a nice long period for us to ready ourselves,.since it won’t be believed.

    We will have a basic force and equipment structure, if it survives years of liberal attack, but it will be obselescent by 2020, if not entirely obselete at the end of the cycle at 2026, without steady refurbishments and additions to the inventory of ever better weaponry of all kinds. This also means that we have preserved our abiity to turn our industry to full-scale production of weaponry very rapidly indeed, or we will fight with M-15s and the like in ’26.

    (conclusion to follow)

  95. george says:

    “Both Russia and China are continuing the research, development, test and production of more advanced weapons for all of their services. Give them 10-15 years, and we will have a very significant threat on our hands.”

    No one is suggesting that we stop doing our own research, or building our own capabilities to defend ourselves. You called it Fortress America, as if that were a bad thing, but that is in fact what we’re calling for: building up our defences, but letting go overseas commitment.

    Moreover, you seem to imply that we could somehow stop Russia and China from building up their forces if we kept large forces in foreign lands … since stopping either of them would require a nuclear war (I doubt they’d stop unless they were invaded, and if invaded its hard to imagine that either would forgo nuclear weapons). They are going to build their forces no matter what we do. We can either build up our defences so they won’t be tempted to attack, or squander our strength in a hundred overseas regions that leave us unable to protect the homeland.

    You speak of learning from the past. Take a look at what has happened to every country (or empire) that has wasted its strength on fringe areas.

  96. mannning says:

    I suppose you call Europe a fringe area too. I would hate to see Russia overrun the EU in 10 or 12 years from now, but that is what you are in effect rooting for with your Fortress America—what amounts to a new Russian Empire. The EU won’t defend itself adequately, and NATO is practically moribund, especially with our forces withdrawn..

    The Chinese have long planned for an expansion of their territory, and some way to put their excess men into useful work as soldiers.. If we are hiding behind our fortress, there is little influence we can project to stop them from sucking up Taiwan and eventually most of SE Asia.
    There would be no nuclear war: MAD works, and both sides want to capture or keep going cities and industries, not wastelands.A question arises: what about India? Would they become a fortress too, and slowly be squeezed to death? Will there be a Chinese–Indian Ocean? Japan? Starved for raw materials too,and oil.

    But we are cowering in our holes, and hoping that these new empires will be easy to do business with, but recognize that they now control a large majority of our raw material suppliers and markets, and we can’t stop them from interdicting our shipping anymore. We have no bluewater navy patrolling the seas any more, only the near ‘Atlantic and Pacific.oceans, so we are at the mercy of anyone wanting to blockade us from any port in the world or hold us up for tribute. We would die a slow but sure death as a nation as our industry is starved for materials.and unable to deliver products overseas reliably.to the two largest markets in the world. No more tungsten, no more lithium, etc etc. What about oil? No more oil from overseas.

    The Atlantic would become a Russian Ocean, and the Pacific a Chinese Ocean, once we dismantle our ability to project power anywhere in the world.and retreat into Fortress America..No one else has the power to control the seas and keep them free for all to use.

    Do we let such a set of scenarios happen? Or, do we join the fight to stop it before it gets too far along?

    We would need some extra troops and tanks and ships and aircraft for that.

  97. Ben Wolf says:

    There is no point in continuing a dialogue with Manning. That last post indicates extreme paranoia and a possible persecution complex. If China and Russia didn’t exist, It wouldn’t surprise me to find him advocating a massive military buildup to deter invasion from the Klingon Empire.

  98. george says:

    “I suppose you call Europe a fringe area too. I would hate to see Russia overrun the EU in 10 or 12 years from now, but that is what you are in effect rooting for with your Fortress America—what amounts to a new Russian Empire. The EU won’t defend itself adequately, and NATO is practically moribund, especially with our forces withdrawn..”

    Europe could arm itself in five years if it wanted to – its population, its technology, and its industrial base are all much larger than Russia’s. Moreover it has a long military tradition, which has been put on hold because America has paid the bills and they’re as willing as anyone to take a free ride. They’ll pick up the slack, and easily, when it becomes clear that they’ve no alternative. I sometimes wonder if the point of NATO today is that we don’t want Europe (and Japan) rearmed, because both could become rivals. A united, armed Europe would be a superpower, and Japan also.

  99. mannning says:

    @ George

    On the point of the EU capabiity to rearm I agree fully. The question is, when would they? In time to defend themselves or a tad too late.

    I worked in that industry for ten years and I know and worked with most of the real industrial players there. I also spent a great amount of time doing NATO studies on a range of topics. My Advanced Systems Group within the Philips organization was very effective in performance predictions of weapons, having modeled many of the current items and then calibrated the models with real test results—for instance, achieving plus or minus 2% error between predicted and actual firing results. for a range of cannon and missile systems and their control systems.against realistic targets .

    Therefore, I see absolutely no inability or reluctance on the part of th EU military industrial complex to contribute quite effectively to rearming the EU nations.

    But it is the passive and communist crowd there in effective political positions that would do all they could to prevent, disrupt or delay rearmament in each nation, or at the least starving the process financially, resulting in fewer weapons systems being produced. Been there, seen that. First, they would require overwhelming proof that Russia is rearming at an alarming rate.

    It is obvious that Russia would take steps to hide their actions as long as possible, using their industrial complexes behind the Urals, and making them inacessible to aliens.and hiding them from the spy satellites we rely on. So the convincing proof would be very difficult to obtain.until major formations of tanks and personnel carriers move out from under their overhead shields and began to move out onto flatbeds for transport to the West.. It is a bit too late then.

  100. mannning says:

    Accusing me of paranoia is quite expected. That is the usual response of people that do not want to even contemplate such possibilities, because it upsets their world view. We don’t want to do that, do we?

    My projection of the possibilities for Russia are quite in line with their military mindset, their capabilities, and their industrial base, going out a few years from now.

    I would never want to underestimate what China might do given the capabilities she is building, again going out a few years.

  101. Ben Wolf says:

    1) It took the Russian military nearly a decade to subdue Chechnya. This is the equivalent of the U.S. Army being unable to control Vermont.

    2) Russia is undergoing a demographic implosion, its populace dwindling with every passing decade.

    3) You do not know that Russia has designs on Western Europe, you are simply making it up to justify your desire for global empire.

    4) You know nothing of China. You live in an ahistorical vortex of ignorance, believing yourself knowledgable while projecting your own militaristic mindset on a foreign culture. You fear China’s capabilities because YOU and your ilk would be using them for control and domination were you in China’s place.

    In short, your posts are long on projection and short on everything else.

  102. mannning says:

    Lord God I have no desires for empire!!! What a howler! I wouldn’t have the time to manage that!
    Certainly I am projecting a set of possibilities; that is what one does when attempting to see through the crystal ball. It is obvious that I am looking at the negative side also, or else you are simply dense. No, it is you who are afraid of the possibilities, so afraid that you won’t stand for it.

    It is typical that a leftie would make the argument into a personal one too! Another standard tactic to avoid facing the facts..You must remember that we are talking about 10 to 15 years in the future, not right now.

    Whatever the difficulties Russia faces today, she will overcome them and prosper in the next decade or so. She has oil, gas and many natural resources that she can exploit. Even so, she is continuing her military developments, and selling on the world market in the bilions. Selling equipment that is better than we are using now in many cases.

    .So it is not surprising to me that a Russia becoming prosperous and powerful again would think of empire. She would have the technology, the resources, the manpower, and the motive.
    all that is lacking is the opportunity, such as the abandonment of NATO..

    Anyone that equates the Russian mentality with altruism is rather far off track, especially considering the communist leadership in the Kremlin. over the past 70 years or so. Historically, this is a militaristic nation with an ideology that demands expansionist thinking. The rest is left to the intelligent student as an exercise.

    .

  103. W Williams says:

    The following might be helpful in this discussion: a reading of Andrew Bacevich’s Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.

    W Williams

  104. anjin-san says:

    > Whatever the difficulties Russia faces today, she will overcome them and prosper in the next decade or so

    Did you get a crystal ball for Christmas? Or are your thought processes actually that simple?

  105. mannning says:

    Does any leftie ever refrain from negative remarks, instead of constructive ones? I seriously doubt it. If you challenge my statement about the possible future of Russia, try to prove it impossible. You can’t, so you are merely blowing wind..

  106. Thucydides says:

    American Grand Strategy includes the need to prevent any power of combination of powers from establishing Hegemony in Eurasia. So long as effective military forces are available to prevent that from happening, the Grand Strategy can continue.

    Part of the Grand Strategy is to protect and support allies. Most of the “No Blood for Oil” crowd seem to overlook the fact that most mid east oil goes to Japan, China and Europe, so American presence in the Middle East is to ensure the smooth flow of energy to allies and critical players in the global economy. Eliminate that capability and you will live to see large scale chaos engulf the world and economic dislocations that will make the current economic troubles seem like a ripple in the water.

    Now it is possible and even useful to debate the scale and scope of military spending, and even to suggest large changes should be made, but the essential ability to carry out the Grand Strategy is lost at your peril.

  107. floyd says:

    “”Just heresay and wishful thinking.””
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    Manning;
    I love that phrase! It’s a keeper!
    It was pretty much great already, but the misspell made it PERFECT!
    Thanks, you really hit the “Bull’s”….eye! (lol)

  108. mannning says:

    Misspelling? No, I tried to coin a word for here in OTB. lol!

    “American presence in the Middle East is to ensure the smooth flow of energy to allies and critical players in the global economy. Eliminate that capability and you will live to see large scale chaos engulf the world and economic dislocations that will make the current economic troubles seem like a ripple in the water.”

    Agreed. Thus, we have a respectable blue-water navy, currently with 10 Nimitz Class carrier groups. Any less would be trouble for us.