No matter how skilled the author, US geopolitical analysis so often looks like something from Oz

Summary:  The professional literature of our military frequently displays both skillful analysis and unlikely assumptions.  This article exhibits both traits, giving it that Oz-like character.

Striving for Balance in Defense“, Thomas G. Mahnken (Commander, US Navy Reserve; Prof US Naval War College), Proceedings (US Naval Institute), June 2010 — Here are two excerpts from this interesting article, a logical thinker writing within the framework of US military policy.

First, Mahnken looks at the big picture.

Now that the new Quadrennial Defense Review {QDR} has been unveiled, the United States needs to do more to address current (Iraq and Afghanistan) as well as potential future (Iran, North Korea, and China) security challenges. … One crucial task for DOD is to strike the proper balance between the imperative of winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while simultaneously acquiring the capabilities the United States needs to deter and if necessary defeat future adversaries.

… One way to judge the adequacy of the 2010 QDR is to ask how well it positions the United States in each one of these competitions. Secretary Gates’ ongoing campaign to get the Pentagon bureaucracy on a wartime footing is vital to our success in Afghanistan and Iraq. Reflecting that priority, the 2010 QDR does a good job of securing what the U.S. armed forces need to win in Iraq and Afghanistan and position the United States for irregular conflicts in the future.

Another crucial task is to strike the proper balance not just deciding how to spend DoD’s funding, but deciding how much DoD should spend.  We spend roughly as much as the rest of the world combined (see this report for details).  Including foreign intelligence, probably more than all combined.

What does winning in Iraq mean today?  And what cost in money and blood would “win”?  The winners to date are obvious. 

  • The Kurds got their land.
  • The Shiite Arabs got the dominant position in whatever Iraq becomes.
  • Iran moved up in the regional pecking order, gaining strong influence in what had been their chief rival.
  • China gained a new and reliable source of oil, as it wins development contracts in Iraq and Kurdistan.

The losers are equally clear.

  • The Sunni Arabs went from rulers to oppressed minority.
  • Women in most of Iraq suffer from Iraq’s transformation from secular society to theocracy.
  • America has spent both money and blood, gaining nothing in return.  What could change this?

Later he focuses on the major threat to America’s hegemony.  Red emphasis added.

China Rising

The new QDR leaves the United States poorly positioned to deal with the most consequential challenge of the 21st century: the rise of China. The document forthrightly acknowledges the challenges that adversaries equipped with anti-access and area-denial capabilities pose to U.S. national security. It notes that “Without dominant U.S. capabilities to project power, the integrity of U.S. alliances and security partnerships could be called into question, reducing U.S. security and influence and increasing the possibility of conflict.”

This establishes as our strategic goal preventing challenges to America’s hegemony.  We will allow no other nation physical security, as we have as an existential right to project power over every nation .  This makes conflict inescapable — and defeat inevitable.  Other nations will catch up; other great powers will arise — and this puts us in opposition to many of them.

For more information see these posts about our defense strategy

  1. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy, 1 March 2006
  2. Adopting the tools of our enemies, a path to victory, 4 September 2008
  3. How can America adapt to a new world? A conference about national security lights the way., 18 October 2008
  4. The 2 most devastating 4GW attacks on America, and the roots of FM 3-24, 19 March 2008
  5. Can we defeat our almost imaginary enemies?, 10 December 2009
  6. More Chirstmas Eve war advocacy – bombing while we sing, 24 December 2009
  7. Stratfor’s strategic analysis – “Jihadism in 2010: The Threat Continues”, 17 January 2010
  8. Where is the outer boundary of our military operations?, 21 January 2010 — Coast guard to the world!

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