Thursday, November 13, 2008

In Response

I decided to write a post vice just responding to a comment because the subject is part and parcel of the state of this nation. The question was raised whether we needed such a large modern military. This question is very loaded because you first have to decide what is important to this nation and then decide what type of military is needed to support that decision.

I truly believe that there are many paths, which we can follow in this area and some are better than others. First, we must step back and take a hard look at our place in the wide world and decide what we want our role to be. Should we be the world's policeman or should we be isolationist or maybe somewhere in the middle. Think that where we decide to fall in that spectrum truly dictates the level of military we are going to need (I will hold modernization for later).

As it stands right now we support (spend lots of money) on the UN, NATO, and our own military, this to me seems to be redundant. Why are we still supporting NATO, when the other countries seem to reap all the benefits and we pay all the costs? This doesn't make a huge amount of sense to me because we are footing the bill and providing the equipment to prevent Russian aggression, but as we have recently seen that NATO is not going to stand with us if the crap starts hitting the fan. They have their own self-interests to worry about like Russian oil and gas. So this leaves us with the question of why do we bother spending money and troops in their support? This is where things get more complex like that it is good to have lots of friends around the globe who will allow you put your toys in a time of need and supply needed support for your global objectives. This leads us back to the where on the spectrum we want to be.

As for the UN, this organization is not our friend and does very little in reality other than drain resources around the world. In a recent report they have billions of dollars that most countries don't realize they have, but lots of it is wasted on their self-licking ice cream cone of administration. The UN is helpful in organizing relief or other feel good things, but when it comes down to anything globally productive there is just too many fingers in the pie and nothing is ever accomplished because of national self interests. We need to stop supporting the parts that don't work. This once again leads us back to our decision on global strategy. Do we keep going through the motions at the UN, wasting our time and money just so that we have a legitimizing front man(which it no longer is) or do we gather our paid for friends around the globe and enforce our will.

The fact that we provide a service to the rest of the world on our dime and then take crap for it really chaps my butt, so maybe a little isolationism is not such a bad thing. I know that we can't really do that and expect positive results because evil isn't going to take a vacation. The real question is where is Pres. Obama going to place us on the spectrum, can we really afford to be there and for how long. Next we have to tackle modernization, which is a very tricky beast to tackle.

There are parts of our military that could do with some serious modernization or else they will start to fail in a big way and we might not be able to quickly fix them at a later date. The question about submarines came up as part of the discussion, so I will try to address it. We are losing submarines to decommissioning faster than we can build them at the moment, so in reality we are reducing this capability without any additional action needed. This may or may not be the right answer based on all the missions that keep getting laid on the submarine force. There are some bright spots in all of this, like the fact that we are building them faster and cheaper then we planned for and that we are re-utilizing the Tridents as they are no longer needed for the strategic mission. The submarine force is leading the way on doing more with less and maximizing the stuff they have, but a point will be reached where there is just no more blood that can come from that stone without serious loss in capability. That is the reason that we as a nation must decide what our role is going to be so we can prioritize the losses of capability.

As we look at other programs across the military there are things that are in need of replacement or there will be a complete loss of capability, like tankers. If we don't start building some new ones there will be a time when the ones we have will no longer be able to fly, so what do you do then? What about those dirty little nukes that have been around for ever and need to be replaced? Congress has spoken and there will be no new nukes, but at some point if we still want that capability then we are going to need new ones, so why not build safer and more reliable ones? Right now we are pretty solid on tanks and machine guns, but there are plenty of other stuff that we are going to need to replace and/or upgrade just to make sure that we don't end up fighting Panzers with Shermans.

That isn't to say that we need to maintain huge fleets of ships and aircraft, but it does mean that we have to set priorities and replace the stuff that truly needs replacement. Additionally, we need to seriously consider the level of craziness that we are adding to these new systems, such as F-22 verses F-35 or Seawolf verses Virginia. In both cases, we shot the moon, but soon realized that all the bells and whistles are really expensive and we needed to back down to good is good enough. It is great that we have built some of the very best fighting machines in the world, but they come at a cost. We need to take the parts we really need and incorporate them into actually cost effective mass produced machines (think concept car vs production car). We need a few super cool versions and then a whole bunch of mortal version, but then take the super cool versions to the next level to start the process all over again.

So you asked do we really need a military that costs $650 billion a year and I say it depends on what you want it to do. Do I think that we could cut some of the wasteful spending and shrink forces sizes and still get the job done, sure. Can we cut programs and eliminate modernization, not completely. Do I think that we run the risk of not being able to meet our global commitments, yes but it depends on what you want the commitment to be. We have to all sit down and look at what we want this country to be able to do and where we should spend our money, do we want affordable health care, do we want to keep people from being tossed out on the streets, do we want to keep our citizens safe here at home (or abroad), or do we want to pay down the national debt and strengthen our global financial position? Those are just few of the "priorities" the new President faces.

Let's hear how you feel about the "priorities" and what we can do to solve this nation's biggest problems.

7 comments:

  1. I think that the UN is the reason we are in this much trouble in Iraq. I mean come on, Iraq is the size of a state and you can drive across it in a day if you need to. So the mobile weapons stations that they had, were amazingly gone after 6 months of the UN saying wait to go in. If I had something that I did not want anyone to see me with and you give me 6 months to get rid of it, I am relatively certain that I could, or at least move it all to Syria. But, that is not newsworthy and actually makes sense. I personally think we should tell the UN to step up or step out. But that is merely my opinion.

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  2. Geo. Washington Farewell Address: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp or try

    http://tinyurl.com/56clcr

    Eisenhower Military-Industrial Complex Speech:
    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/eisenhower001.asp

    http://tinyurl.com/5n6v6c

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  3. This post has way too huge a scope

    You are right enough about NATO. Let the Euros run and support it. We should keep a minimal presence and back off on leadership.

    The UN is probably a lost cause. The humanitarian and peace keeping functions are so wrought with gangsterism and corruption, they do more harm than good with their interventions. We should resign. They can move headquarters to Fiji or Ghana.

    The military needs to be concerned with two separate issues.

    1) Armageddon

    2) Continuation of politics by other means.

    These are completely different endeavors and should be addressed by completely different organizations. One should have as its patron saint, Curtis LeMay and the other, Chesty Puller. One needs to focus on the cheap, effective, sustainable application of military force. The other one doesn't.

    The US military has the two all clusterfucked up. It's useless, unbelievably expensive and embarrassing.

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  4. I like all the input and there appear to be a lot of smart people thinking about this. I just hope that we unscrew ourselves on high cost low return programs. I also think that this isn't going to be easy regardless because Dumas Frank is calling for an across the board 25% reduction, which would be devasating.

    I agree the scope was very large and I kinda wanted to convey that in the post because there are no easy solutions to all these issues.

    I agree that Iraq had more than enough time to move or destroy any of their special toys (remember the burning oil pits around Baghdad).

    The UN in my mind is useless as well, but on the humanitarian and health side they do have global reach. They should stick to that and get over trying to mediate the worlds problems because when it comes down to it they aren't worth a bucket of warm...

    I appreciate each and every comment because I am always open to new ideas. I might even change my position on some things once or twice. There are a lot of tough issues facing this country and we need to start tackling them. If you want out of the financial mess we are in start paying off the national debt vice ever more spending trying to save every business in the country from going under because they didn't plan ahead.

    Keep the comments coming.

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  5. Everyone,
    Just a little update on the military and money issue. Charles Pena a senior fellow at The Independent Institute, Oakland, CA feels that we would be much better off pulling all our troops from places like Europe, South Korea and Japan. This would allow us to cut our budget in half down to a lowly $300 billion. I like the idea of other nations footing their own defense, but with that comes the reduction in our arm twisting ability. Just some more food for thought.

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  6. Sandy, I agree that our military is stretched thin. There are many issues the military is involved in here on our own soil that most people don't know about. The huge recovery efforts and supplies sent in response to Hurricane Katrina; the fire fighting in California just to name two. But the war machines are falling apart; should "good enough" be enough to protect us here on our own soil if it is decided that we become isolationist? I don't think so.

    When Obama takes office this is a very big issue that he must address. If we desert Europe and they are taken over, either by Russia or an islamist nation we will know without a doubt that they are coming after us next.

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  7. Anon,

    I agree that there are many issues that the military is involved in here and abroad that most people have no idea about. My biggest concern is that whatever position we take in our worldwide military involvement will not sacrifice our security here at home. If Russia or Islamist start making further moves in Europe, what will we be able to do about it really? Even with troop levels as they are today, we didn't stop Russian agression. Our presence in Europe is a waste of taxpayer dollars with the exception of the logistics position that it affords us for our endeavors in the desert and the mountains. Tough questions that will hopefully (need) to be answered before cutting the military to the bone as has already been proposed by Congressman Frank.

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