Ed's Blog

"Some people know everything, but that's all they know."



Like most conservatives, President Obama’s proposed reductions of the U.S. armed forces disturb me. Since after World War I, every time we have reduced our military strength after a war, we’ve regretted it. Nevertheless, it’s time to rethink the mission, size and composition of the U.S. military, preparing for the next war, not a repeat of the last one. It all comes down to the correct assumptions.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)


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16 Responses

  1. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    I would also add that our disappointments about reducing the military go back much further than WW1. Regardless of you views on the morality or lack thereof of the U.S. Indian Wars — we couldn’t even bring those to as rapid a conclusion as we might have because of our rush to disarm after the Civil War. We also suffered regrets — going back to the Revolution, really.

    By James Harris, Jr., M.P.A., ITILv3

  2. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    In general, I agree with all said — with one minor caveat: It has become fashionable to say that we shouldn’t prepare for “… the last war…” I disagree with that statement, especially in the contexts in which it is often used/abused.

    The intent is, often, to convey that we shouldn’t have such a narrow focus that we ONLY prepare for the last war. Unfortunately, it is also often “abused” (for want of a better term) to narrow preparation focus (or lack thereof) in another specific direction — something that is somebody’s fad at the moment, whether it is counter-insurgency, maneuver warfare, or whatever — or often, as an excuse to diminish military spending altogether.

    I think a better way to say it is, because WE DON’T KNOW what future conflicts will be, we should prepare for the full range of military actions from Global Thermonuclear War to just showing the flag at port calls and VFW Parades — and all in between.

    But again — other than that, I agree with the whole article. And, philosophically, I think this comment and the article are in agreement.

    By James Harris, Jr., M.P.A., ITILv3

  3. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    How do you measure your deterrence effect?
    Did a potential rational enemy not attack you because you deterred them, or did they not attack due to many other reasons that had nothing to do with your deterrence efforts?
    If an irrational attacker attacks you (9/11) you can be the biggest military in the world, but your deterrence and $trillions of military Capability was a total waste of money and effort!
    A deterrence only works if the message you are sending is understood, deemed credible, and it is considered realistic you will use the big stick if provoked: see Ukraine at the moment – who will ‘blink first’?

    By Maurice Dixon

  4. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    Surely Defence policy is tied directly to both National Security and Foreign polices. The military and therefore defence, are an extension of civil society within a democracy. Society votes in the politicians on the basis of their policies; i.e. Defence policy. Deterrence, can take many forms, not just military conventional or nuclear capabilities. It can be political through sanctions, treaties and argument. This is all part of the process and it would be naive to think otherwise.

    For our Armed Forces to operate efficiently there has to be economies of scale, efficient procurement cycles and a clear understanding of what the mission is at all levels; top down. Iraq is a good example of where the mission from the politians down, was not clear. The political and social environment at the local level within the country was not understood. Let’s hope that the politicians read the situation in the Ukraine carefully, certainly better than they did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It is not a question of who has the biggest stick, or who blinks first. Western Europe is heavily dependent on Russia’s oil and gas, much of which comes via pipelines in the Ukraine. It is a complex situation. Today the Russian stock market fell sharply. This is hopefully going to make President Putin take stock, reduce the level of sabre rattling and open discussions on the next move to deescalate. Far better we try our best to keep the political dialogue open for as long as possible.

    By James Hazou MRAeS

  5. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    Certainty isn’t an option, and the military and intelligence communities have numerous methods for estimating the probability of a deterrent effect. Use those until you get something better.

    Don’t get me started about why we are powerless in Ukraine. But if you thing “Red Line”, it might set you on the right track.

    By Terry Savage

  6. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    Too bad nobody in a position of authority is asking these common sense questions. Peace did not break out when the Soviet Union collapsed. It is actually a more dangerous and frightening world today. Getting our defense posture and strategy right really does matter.

    By Michael Henson

  7. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    The Defense Budget is only part of what we spend on defense. Add in the VA etc, and the total exceeds a trillion dollars. As for what we spend the money on, there is vast room for improvement across the board. For instance, we have way too many bases. We still haven’t integrated ground and air – and haven’t decided what we want the Marines to do. We absolutely can afford to cut what we spend on National Security – and should.

    By Victor O’Reilly

  8. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    There is always enough defense till the enemy steps on your shores. Nothing beats “boots on the ground” and robust effective weapons systems and the willingness to use them. History is filled with excellent examples of defense through weakness and the failures to prepare for the next crisis. Recently just ask the Kuwaites, the Gorgians, the Ukrainians.

    By Roland St. Germain

  9. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    My belief is that more is not always better….more is better for planners, but I truly believe that we don’t have to keep the budget the same size we had as we fought two wars. The Pentagon has decided to do what some of the questions raise…increase capabilities, but at the expense of having as many troops on the ground, which, no matter how you look at it, is probably the most expensive part of our military.

    I also don’t believe that we “regret” every cut we’ve had in defense. You fight a major war, you spend tons of money, and you have to draw down some. The question you raise in the title…How much Defense is Enough…also has to be asked in light of what others are spending. If we spend more than the next 10-12 countries combined (realizing that both us and them probably have defense spending off-budget), is that enough, especially given that many of them are allies?

    By Larry Josefowski

  10. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    You have enough defense when others are not tempted to mess with you. You have too much “defense” when you feel tempted to mess with them!

    By Wm. Scott Smith

  11. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    A nations military is only one element of national power. Some say it is the last resort behind Diplomatic, Information and Economic power. Did the drop in the Russian stock market put more pressure on Putin then rhetoric from the west? If you believe war is an extension of politics by other means (Clausewitz); all politics are local (I think it was Truman); and politics are about gaining influence (Dr Colin Gray) then I think one can see events in a different light.

    What is the right balance for defense? Great question. What do we collectively want to do with regards to National Security and international intervention, from war to humanitarian assistance? Are you able to adapt to “Black Swan” events? e.g. 9/11

    By John Hinkel

  12. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    Charles Moore rather neatly put into context the relationship between Diplomacy and Defence in the Daily Telegraph 0n 19th May 2012: “Diplomatic power is but the shadow cast by military power” – not a million miles from Chairman Mao’s observation about power emanating from the barrel of a gun. For sure, significant UK Defence cuts in recent years will have a lasting impact on her diplomatic power and influence.

    By Michael Nicholson

  13. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    I used to remind my colleagues at State that if they failed to do their jobs, I would have to go do my job. Simplistic, I suppose, but I do agree that there are multiple elements of national power and military power is one of them. Having said that, I have often found that diplomacy is more effective when there is a carrier battle group off the coast.

    Obviously we cannot afford a military establishment that covers all risks. But we do have to reckon with certain realities. First, we have rarely fought the wars that we planned to fight, even though we have fought many wars. What we have done is used various scenarios as planning constructs to build pretty good general forces that had the flexibility and capability to be employed in the wars that we did fight. I have gone through a number of force planning exercises and the normal drill is to lay out one or more probable scenarios and the develop an unconstrained (read expensive) force to counter the postulated threat. Then you reshape the postulated force to something you actually can afford by determining where you can accept risk. Second, unlike most other military forces around the world, we spend about half of our defense dollars on personnel costs. This is primarily because we decided, as a nation after the Vietnam War, that the defense of the nation was no longer the responsibility of every able bodied citizen but, rather, that the burden should fall on the 1% of citizens willing to volunteer to serve. In order to do that, DoD must compete in the market place for talent and that requires money. Third, our defense challenges are unlike those of other great powers, given our global interests and the need to defend our political and economic dependencies in multiple theaters. So, when someone makes the observations that our defense budget is equal to that of the next seven nations (or whatever the current list is), my reaction is that this is both correct and completely irrelevant.

    We absolutely need to transform our current military from a counter-insurgency force to a full spectrum force that is capable of projecting power to various points on the globe. That will run into some stiff resistance from a number of directions since any cut entails someone’s job, someone’s company, someone’s Congressional district. But the simple fact of the matter is that we no longer need much of the large counter-insurgency force we have built up over the past decade. What we do need are forces that can (1) deter nuclear war (the only truly existential threat we face, (2) have the capability to fight at least one major conventional war and (3) still have the residual capability to handle pop-up contingencies. That places a premium on force projection capability and entails reliance on capable allies.

    By Herb Kemp, PhD

  14. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    I have a huge amount of faith in our military planners including the COCOMs, and the ingenuity of the Americans in the field and staffs to figure out how to fight the next war with the last war’s stuff. It is never a matter of if, but when…e.g. sometimes they are slower than needed to come around…like IEDs, but they always prevail.

    My big issue is not capability, but what we pay for that capability. As much as I love the military, and put 28 of my own years into it, we should not pay the prices we pay for the equipment we buy.

    Acquisition reform has failed because we have not recognized the true causes of inefficiency. Simply put, massive bureaucracies, especially when they are not driven by a profit motive, and hamstrung by thousands of regulations driven in part by politics, cannot ever deliver fast across a broad spectrum of purchases at an effective way. Examples are nearly endless and obvious. Just replacing the PPBES for a modern commercial-like large-company budgeting and execution system would save 20,000 “tail” jobs (over half in the Pentagon alone) thus preserving them for “teeth”. Let’s see….20,000 times $80,000/person (burdened rate) would save $1.6B a year. In a FYDP that would be over $11B saved.

    If we would only pay attention to efficiency on a macro strategic scale within the DoD, my bet is we could have covered the last few rounds of cost reductions entirely without any loss of AF wings, Army battalions, and Navy ships.

    By Stan VanderWerf

  15. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    What a great topic, and what great comments. I’ll try to keep my comments brief, and hopefully up to the level I’ve read.

    As John Hinkle points out from von Clauswitz, that war is a continuation of politics by other means, I think we concentrate to much on the “war”, and not enough on the politics of that statement. Caluswitz came of age and served in armies fighting Napoleon (he was on Gneisenau’s staff), and Caluswitz saw first hand total economic, political and military war. I believe we, meaning America, must look at war not just in terms of military power nor just in our diplomatic abilities, but in our total abilities. I can only imagine how much more clout Obama would have if he had forcefully moved ahead with our natural gas and other hydrocarbon industries, had sanctioned the building of more petrol refineries on the east and west coast, and had pushed for and offered to guarantee an LNG intake facility in say, Portugal or Spain? Would Russia risk this antagonism if the price of crude were $70/barrel and we supplied western Europe with 50% or more of its NatGas requirements? Furthermore, if our deficits can be brought under control, how much further economic influence can we have? How about dumping our gold and silver onto the world market to drop the price and burn a little Russian ass, since they use gold to help add value to the Ruble. Lastly, was it a smart idea to announce just last week that we’re taking our military to pre-WW2 levels? I work in CT, and though I love our ability to conduct asymmetric war you don’t impress the Russians (or Chinese) with SOF, however, if we have the correct mix of economic and diplomatic relationships then our military power is greatly enhanced.

    In summary, our future heads of state/government must look at our domestic economic policies in the context of our ability to influence foreign relations. Exploiting our natural resources may run afoul of our environmental lobby, but when the chips are down our adversaries and competitors won’t respect environmentalist threats, but a Sec State saying “we have the ability and the willingness to completely choke off your major source of revenue while at the same time completely devaluing both your currency and your precious metal reserves and oh, by the way, we have a military option, too.”

    Comments? Suggestions? Critiques are welcome.

    By Mike Ceres

  16. Reposted from Linkedin says:

    Unfortunately, it appears that we have learned nothing from history. If we want the Russians and Chinese to listen to us and respect us, we must have a viable military capable of confronting them. If we want Russia to get out of Crimea, we should vote to double the size of our military instead of proposing to reduce it to half the size of the current Russian military. When we settled in on a budget that calls for such reducitons, the Russians interpreted that as the US is unwilling to confront them militarily…the only thing people like Mr. Putin understand. You want a solid foreign policy and the respect of the world…and their attention? Pose a credible threat…

    By Richard Russell

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