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Posts Tagged ‘cold war’

Obama’s noises about abandoning nuclear weapons, his release of torture memos, and his sucking up to Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Cuba at the Summit of the Americas all have the same source:  his belief that the U.S’s disproportionate strength, global perceptions of our arrogance, and our shoddy record all combine to make the rest of the world hate us.  If we only show that we understand them and are sympathetic, so this thinking goes, they will respond by scaling back their venom.

This is not completely unreasonable thinking.  There are times when gestures of humility and magnanimity are effective, particularly in certain kinds of interpersonal settings like the boardroom or in an academic environment, where give and take is the name of the game.  There is no doubt his sensitivity in this area had much to do with his electability.  However, when such a  technique is applied in a world with real and motivated enemies, competitors, hostile strange alien peoples, and Islamic terrorists who believe they are undertaking a religious mandate, it is a formula for disaster.  It may make us some friends, but more likely it will invite contempt by our enemies, and such easily bought friends with lack the respect and fear that the U.S. has always commanded and will instead be cowed by our enemies’ threats.

The standard leftist narrative of foreign policy excludes any acknowledgement that our military strength and the sometimes dirty deeds of our security forces are why we have been safe from major threats under Bush’s presidency, and that these actions are also the reason why the Cold War did not end at a summit or conference, but instead ended with the implosion of the Soviet Union after a decade-long and quite controversial arms race.

For someone who has spent as much time in Chicago as Obama has, I’m surprised that something like the following has never affected Obama’s view of human nature:  every single time that I gave a panhandler a dollar in a moment of Christian compassion, the response was never–NEVER—an appreciative thank you.  It was always a request for more money, a more greatly embellished tale of being down and out, or, sometimes, it was the prelude to a physical confrontation.  I learned.  Obama should have concluded from the hustling and violence all around him in Chicago that the response of the toughest of the street thugs to weakness is not to scale back, but instead to pounce. Indeed, didn’t his mentor Saul Alinsky teach him exactly that?

In dealing with our friends in Europe, it’s perfectly appropriate to engage in some bonhomie to restore these essential, centuries-old relationships.  In dealing with Latin America–a land of prickly poseurs and blowhards that are alternately envious of and fearful of our nation–a certain circumspection is called for.  Such jealous lands, with such different histories and values, cannot be completely trusted, especially when they’re indulging in their periodic flirtations with dictatorial caudillos. Any outreach must be tempered by self-respect and reminders of their own failures, crimes, and our relative even-handedness in places like Panama and El Salvador since the 1980s.  Finally, when dealing with lunatic nations like North Korea, Somali pirates, al Qaeda thugs, Iran, and other undeniable enemies, strength and clarity are what is called for.  It’s this last tool that Obama seems to lack appreciation for entirely, embarrassed as he is by our allegedly sorry history.

Obama is continuing to act out the 1970s psychodramas of the far left, a movement that scuttled its credibility during the Cold War.  If Bush looked at the world and mistakenly saw an inviting place where throngs of the oppressed were itching for the imposition of U.S. style government, Obama cannot imagine that if we are sometimes wrong, so too are our enemies.  Further, he does not see that while a nation such as ours may at times be selfish, short-sighted, ham-handed, over-eager, and a bit ignorant, other nations transcend these venial sins and can become positively satanic–hostile not only to us, but to civilization itself.  The coddled and charming Obama seems unequipped to learn that in dealing with such beasts, one must become the hunter not out of charity or an inflated sense of self-importance but from the primal duty of self-preservation.  Or, more ominously, perhaps he thinks some kind of golden mean of U.S. weakness and Third World invigoration can be found, and that in this newly balanced world, conflict will soon evaporate.

In spite of his “community organizin'” background, Obama is first and last a lawyer.  And lawyers, as a class, love procedure, words, meetings, resolutions, and all the rest.  They do a good job of restraining strong men and would-be tyrants in domestic matters.  But men that would become tyrants are also the men that would become generals, leaders, war heroes, and cut-through-the-bullshit problem solvers.  Obama and the Europeans are “arresting” pirates that should instead summarily executed.  They’re begging for North Korea to stop its provocative actions, when such compliance should instead be demanded and coerced.  They’re “reaching out” to Iran, when this crazy nation run by fanatic theocrats should instead be isolated, perhaps by throwing a bone or two to the far less troublesome Russians and Chinese, who share our Islamic extremism problem.

There is little sign that Obama can get beyond the procedural instincts of a lawyer and just do something by speaking in the unmistakable international relations language of force.  Diplomacy and alliance-building certainly have their place, and Bush should have shown these tools more respect.  But force is a tool too–the most fundamental and reliable in fact–and Obama shows little understanding of the times and places where it sends a message with the greatest eloquence.

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I would not be so offended if Obama or any other politician said:  we’ve spent too much money on too many things for too long; we must economize, and the Defense Department too must learn to be more efficient with public funds.  But Obama, instead, has said we must spend far and wide on everything from sidewalk improvements and  “green jobs” to home mortgages and banks, because government spending is needed to lift us out of an economic crisis.  But the one area that must embrace austerity and cut its budget is the Department of Defense, which is charged with fighting two wars and keeping us safe from any emerging threats

The whole thing suggests partisan spite, a holdover from Obama’s 1980s liberalism and its contempt for Reagan’s rebuilding of the military after the painful, post-Vietnam degradation of its capabilities.  This spending has proven to be a huge bargain, leading to the end of the Soviet Union, the nearly bloodless victory in the First Gulf War, and our ability today to project unmatched conventional power in defense of our nation and its interests around the globe.  Those interceptor vests, Abrams tanks, Apache helicopters, and stealth fighters weren’t cheap, but neither should be American lives. 

It may well be debatable whether the F-22 is absolutely necessary given the state of conventional threats.  But if we’re going to be spending gazillions of dollars on everything and nothing in a Pelosi-drafted Stimulus Bill, while also surging our forces in Afghanistan, would it be too much to ask that they be given the best, most life saving weapons whether improved MRAPs, body armor, rifles, and transport helicopters like the Osprey. Is it so extravagent to update our helicopters every 40 years so that pilots don’t fly unsafe aircraft older than they are! The Pentagon must do better with the money it has and have a strategic reality check on the threats ahead.  Rumsfeld, to his credit, did away with the Crusader Artillery program and encoruaged all branches to be more expeditionary.  But to cut its budget in a time of profligacy on general principle reeks of spite and Obama’s (and his socialist father’s) college kid dreams of sticking it tot he military-industrial complex.  After all, unlike midnight basketball and housing bailouts, national defense is a constitutionally mandated federal government responsibility.

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In the wake of the Cold War, the US military was cut dramatically. We went from a 750,000 man Army to one of about 475,000 today. The Navy and Air Force undertook similar cuts. We went from spending about 5.5% of GDP on the military to 3%. One consequence has been that the “all volunteer force” is stretched thin, has had to make due with relaxed recruiting standards, and there is a great deal of grumbling from senior commanders that the Iraq War and the repeated, lengthy deployments are killing recruiting and retention.

A larger military, both now and in the future, likely would be easier to recruit for and retain manpower, even during a time of war, than the present system. There is a reason for this paradox: such a military would allow greater time between deployments, greater flexibility when a surge of any kind is needed (including for contingencies in other theaters), and it would ease the strain on the battlefield through more overwhelming force whenever a large number of forces may be concentrated. Since one of the missions our troops will likely be called upon in the future is counterinsurgency, large numbers of skilled, trained, and well-rested infantry will be needed. The basic dynamics of this type of war are less technology and more manpower intensive than their counterparts. The U.S. had over 500,000 troops in Vietnam and the French had more than 400,000 in Algeria. We have now approximately 160,000 troops in Iraq. Since our goals in the wake of 9/11 have been so ambitious–indeed, overly ambitious and utopian in my opinion–Rumsfeld and Bush’s continuation of the “peace dividend” military and their failure to demand a larger military (particularly when support would have been high right after 9/11) has proven foolish indeed.

This is not just a matter of 20/20 hindsight. Their decision-making was truly warped. Who looks at the Soviet problems in Afghanistan and blames them on troop levels rather than on the Soviet penchant for “scorched earth” tactics and the inherent unpalatability of its ideology to the religious Afghan people? Who looks at a looming occupation and thinks gratitude will grease the wheels when governance and power are necessary? Who looks at a country the size of Iraq and thinks troop levels that are a fraction of the number of (per capita) police in the peaceful United States will get the job done? The combination of incompetence and ideological blindness is the root of the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq. Some hard-headedness, including about the size of the military, will be needed in the next administration. We should not, because present-day recruiting problems avoid planning for the next conflict in a way that is sustainable, avoids a draft, and allows the military to accomplish the mission.

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