Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Hagel’

Would a smaller Army mean a smaller mission?

February 24, 2014

The Obama administration wants to shrink the U.S. Army to the smallest number of troops since prior to World War Two, according to the New York Times.

But, in my opinion, this does not necessarily mean a reduction in the number of U.S. military operations overseas.  I think it means a greater reliance of flying killer drones and Special Operations assassination teams.  I would be happy to be proved wrong about this.

The U.S. Army is already on track to reduce the number of soldiers from the post 9/11 peak of 570,000 to 490,000.  The New York Times reported that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans to further reduce the Army’s forces to between 440,000 and 450,000.  This is ample to defend the U.S. homeland, he said.

Hagel also announced plans to eliminate an Air Force wing whose primary mission is to fight enemy tanks — a vital capabililty in case of a Soviet invasion of western Europe, but less likely to be needed now.

Special Operations and cyberwarfare will be exempt from budget cuts, and the Navy will keep its 11 aircraft carriers.

I would be glad if this signified the Obama administration and the Pentagon generals have adopted more modest military goals.  But what I suspect it means is that the new policy is a recognition that U.S. ground forces cannot cope with insurgencies, and that the quest for global military domination will be pursued by other means.

President Obama and the Pentagon budget

January 15, 2013

Double click to enlarge.

Give President Obama credit where credit is due.  He is making a good-faith effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, including reducing the Pentagon budget.  Ross Douthat wrote a good article in Sunday’s New York Times about Obama’s goals.

As both his critics and admirers argue, the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense last week tells us something important about Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy.  But so does the man who was nominated alongside Hagel, to far less controversy and attention: John Brennan, now head of the White House’s counterterrorism efforts, and soon to be the director of the C.I.A.

Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat

Both men were intimately involved in foreign policy debates during George W. Bush’s administration, but had very different public profiles.  As a C.I.A. official, Brennan publicly defended some of Bush’s most controversial counterterrorism policies, including the “rendition” of terror suspects for interrogation in foreign countries.  As a senator, Hagel was one of the few prominent Republicans to (eventually) turn against the war in Iraq.  Now it’s fitting that Obama has nominated them together, because his foreign policy has basically synthesized their respective Bush-era perspectives.

Like the once-hawkish Hagel, Obama has largely rejected Bush’s strategic vision of America as the agent of a sweeping transformation of the Middle East, and retreated from the military commitments that this revolutionary vision required.  And with this retreat has come a willingness to make substantial cuts in the Pentagon’s budget — cuts that Hagel will be expected to oversee.

But the Brennan nomination crystallizes the ways in which Obama has also cemented and expanded the Bush approach to counterterrorism.  Yes, waterboarding is no longer with us, but in its place we have a far-flung drone campaign — overseen and defended by Brennan — that deals death, even to American citizens, on the say-so of the president and a secret administration “nominations” process. … …

To the extent that it’s possible to define an “Obama Doctrine,” then, it’s basically the Hagel-Brennan two-step.  Fewer boots on the ground, but lots of drones in the air. Assassination, yes; nation-building, no.  An imperial presidency with a less-imperial global footprint.

via The Obama Synthesis.

I’d like to add that military spending should be sufficient to allow the armed forces to carry out their mission.  The requirement is necessarily going to be much more if the mission is to dominate the globe as the world’s only military superpower than if it is to defend the homeland from attack and protect American citizens.

What is President Obama’s concept of the military’s mission?  As near as I can tell, he wants to wind down the war in Afghanistan as he did the one in Iraq, and he does not intend to invade any new countries, but he retains the option of using covert action and flying killer drones to attack America’s enemies, real and perceived.  I’d guess that this is what the American public would want him to do.

I am reminded of the Eisenhower administration, which reduced Pentagon spending, ended the Korean War and refrained from intervening in Vietnam, but used the CIA to overthrow the governments of Iran and Guatemala and threatened America’s Communist adversaries with “massive retaliation” with nuclear weapons, as a cost-saving alternative to use of ground troops.

President Eisenhower in the end met with Nikita Khrushchev, and all the Presidents after him also held summit meetings until Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War.  I wish, but do not expect, that President Obama would do the same with the rulers of Iran.  He would need much greater moral courage than President Eisenhower did, because he would not be able to count on the bipartisan support that Eisenhower received.

I expect President Obama will continue to wage economic warfare, covert warfare and cyber warfare against Iran, while refraining from invading with troops or bombing from the air.

Click on The Obama Synthesis for Ross Douthat’s full article.

Click on What Chuck Hagel needs to know for analysis by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post, and the source of the chart.