We are, without doubt, on the cusp of yet another "brave, new world." The global environment seems to be changing at a faster pace than with the post-World War II independence movements. New safe harbors are popping up, as are new dangerous waters. And, as we approach the adolescent years of the 21st Century, an old superpower is once again flexing its arms, and an ancient superpower is waking from its centuries-long slumber.
On top of all that, terrorism has taken on a new life. No longer dedicated regional acts of violence, terrorism has walked on the world's stage as a superpower unto itself. And American needs to be prepared.
The old saying goes that, "to secure peace is to prepare for war," and it remains as accurate today as it was when it was coined. American needs to be ready to fight wars on two fronts. Only these are not the fronts of western and eastern, or Pacific and Atlantic. These are the fronts of conventional and unconventional warfare.
America has oft made the mistake of downsizing her military when things "seemed safe," usually after the conclusion of a large or protracted war. And, every single time she's done that, she's had to remobilize. Every single time. Bar none.
I assure you, that pattern will not change.
The danger here is that we might make the mistake of downsizing while currently engaged in combat zones. Yes, one can argue that downsizing now would be an effective way of forcing ourselves out of the conflicts we are in, but, regardless of politics, that would be a serious mistake.
Terrorism isn't going anywhere. Trust me, it's not. As long as people somewhere, anywhere, disagree with other people, terrorism and guerrilla warfare will exist. Somewhat thankfully, our government and our military realize this, and our armed forces are transitioning themselves to fight such wars (what the Pentagon painstakingly refers to as "long wars"). This is fine, for we need that capability.
However, we're placing too much emphasis on the so-called "long wars." And we're doing so at the expense of our ability to fight conventional ones.
Russia is clearly staring NATO in the face, waiting for NATO to blink. China is clearly preparing itself to do the very same thing. And what's our response? To downsize.
Already, the Navy has canceled its admittedly ambitious 21st Century destroyer program, and the Army is cutting funding for its Future Combat Systems. Of the FCS, the portions of it that aren't getting the axe are primarily geared for, you guessed it, "long war" operations.
Most people don't seem to realize exactly how small our military has become. Yes, for a number of years, it was probably too big, but no longer. In the 1980s, the military was nearly 600 ships and over 30 combat divisions (including reserve forces). Today, the Navy stands at just over 200 combat ships, and 18 combat divisions (10 active, 8 national guard). Simply put, we don't have enough manpower to do anything.
Both the Russian and Chinese navies are growing, with each indicating that they are constructing new aircraft carriers to support blue water operations. Already, both the Russian and Chinese armies outnumber ours by an alarmingly disproportionate amount. And we're not talking combined, mind you. Including organized reserves, each outnumbers us on their own.
The solution is obvious, though expensive. Cut the fat out of the programs that have obvious fat, but don't further shrink America's military. In fact, grow it. This can be partially funded by doing away with the independent Air Force as well as taking the Marine Corps away from the Navy. The rest can be funded by slicing the fat from those programs that need it.
We need "long war" capability. That is clear. But we also need conventional capability, for at least as long as Russia and China remain possible enemies. For those critics who feel China poses little threat, please inform me exactly why they're expanding their military at a rate rivaled in the past 100 years by only the mobilization efforts of World War II.
Let's not be stupid, here. Let's secure peace.
Unfortunately, to do that, we must prepare for war.
* This is the first part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that's happening over at The ...
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