We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Gates points are well made: both our Navy and Marine Corps must rely less upon traditional large ships and subs, and landing craft, respectively, to meet the capabilities and challenges from missiles and killer subs. Gates points out that the US Navy has more sea and air assets than the rest of the world combined, but is somewhat vulnerable to dangers from swarming speedboats, for example. The Navy and Marine Corps should, instead, gear more toward agility and effectiveness in countering and overwhelming the threats from or within smaller nations.
Gates is correct.
However, the premise is, while realistic, shortsighted.The premise is that in a time of tight budgets, our defense cannot afford the same, not to mention larger, levels of defense spending, especially when current and proposed arms are so expensive.
US defense spending, in sum or by comparison to the rest of the world, is larger than all others combined.Yet, it is also at the lowest point as a portion of GDP, excluding 1999-2000, since the end of the Cold War.
Meanwhile, it is other federal expenditures, mostly of the welfare and entitlement varieties, that has exploded.
Meanwhile, other nations, like Britain, cut their defense spending, while others, like China, greatly increase theirs.
There is obviously high need for other nations allied with the US, or of complementary interests, to increase their spending and coordination, and to stop free-riding upon the US.Still, there is no other nation than the US with reach and will to keep the sea lanes open and nations in the lee of expansionist powers, like China and Iran, from being swept aboard their crafts.And, other nations are more likely to follow the US lead in whether they increase or decrease their own contributions to global defense objectives.
Gates is on target that a failure to reform and modernize US arms priorities may result in future defeats as well as waste.
However, reform should not turn into a rout in which we abandon needed capabilities to meet larger adversaries and arms. With Obama at our helm, the big question is to what extent is Gates maneuvering or enabling.
It is a fair point that priorities must be made, but it seems to me we're taking the wrong approaches to national defense. The F-22 cancellation was a mistake as it was clearly the definitive air superiority fighter which is critical to fighting both improvisational insurgencies and large scale combat. On the other hand, the more successful approaches to modern combat seems to be small scale operations so is a large high speed landing craft absoutely necessary?
Not that we would know of course, but perhaps Sec. Gates is attempting to reorder military spending to reflect the very nature of combat and move us from bigger and badder to smaller and meaner if that makes any sense.
When you stop to think about it, one of the most deadly submarines in service today is the Kilo class and variants which are diesel electric technology. Much improved diesel electric technology.
In the brave new world of hyper-sonic cruise/anti-ship missiles and the supposedly super high speed torpedo technology the Russians are claiming to own, it might be better to adopt quick response small unit tactics to get them quickly and efficiently rather than rely on carrier groups and massive shock and awe if you will.
I'm a fan of Mark Helprin on this and he has stated for years that our defense budget is woeful especially as a % of GDP. When we need the military we won't have it and won't have any ocean walls to guard us until we do. Time will be very short. Part of the reason to be sad and angry at what our current Administration is doing to us.
I think BD has quoted Helprin in the past so hopefully most are aware of him.
The U.S., since WW II, has armed for the Big War. Since 1990 that existential threat has faded. As a consequence the U.S. needs to extricate itself from all non-American continent "collective security" treaties. Sorry, but that is the key step that must be taken. These treaties have developed a whole host of "free rider" countries who have been allowed to reduce their military expenditures to negligible amounts under a U.S. security umbrella. Europe, in particular, must be forced to accept their full defense budget responsibilities. And permanent basing of troops also must be drastically reduced. You are correct that while military expenditures have risen slightly as a percentage of GDP, we have not returned to Cold War levels. The "hollowed out" military means we can't - nor shoud we - finance a Cold War military strategy under today's geopolitical and economic realities. Duh! The U.S., according to the latest CIA Factbook is ranked 28th out of 170+ countries in terms of its military expenditure/GDP ratio. The Great Recession will, inevitably, force into the open the need for extensive and deep social, governmental and economic restructurings to adapt to a changed world. Our military must be one of the necessary restructuring objectives. Just an opinion.