Dec 5, 2007

The Future of Our Military

In the last year we’ve read about how our military has been “broken” by the war in Iraq. Various writers and television analysts, many who are prior-service, have been presenting a variety of scenarios where our armed forces are about to collapse under the weight of equipment shortages and long deployments

There is a lot of truth in their comments, but using doomsday, worst-case forecasts is an easy way to prove one’s point. Let’s look both the near battle and the far battle, and see if we can cut through the clutter:

1 - The Near: Yes, the Pentagon needs to invest billions of dollars to replace the Army and Marine equipment being chewed up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent, some Air Force equipment. Is the money available? Yes it is, but now it's being spent on other items.

Sooner, rather than later, they’ll be pulling more troops out of Iraq. That’ll help reduce the stress from multiple deployments from which the troops and their families are suffering.

A considerable amount of money needs to be invested in expanding and rebuilding housing and facilities on the Army and Marine bases, with still more money needing to be spent on married housing and family services. It’s disgraceful that families of soldiers, say in Fort Hood, need to participate in the WIC and other welfare-type programs in order to augment their income.

1A- From where will the money come? From the Pentagon’s bloated budget. Too many unnecessary hi-tech weapons programs suck up billions of dollars that could be put to better use. Cutting back on one nuclear submarine, or any number of anti-missile programs (that haven’t worked for 20 years) would help pay for the basics. In a budget that’s larger than that of the next 28 countries combined, it’s time to get the priorities straight.

Let’s not also forget the growing procurement scandals; from Boeing to the current investigation of the Air Force’s latest “consulting” mess that’s resulted in both jail time and a suicide, it’s obvious that the military-industrial complex is out of control and getting worse.

2 – The Far. We now have a Marine Corps and Army filled with officers and SNCO’s who have multiple deployments. What a wealth of experience with which to populate and educate the next generation of Marines and Soldiers!

At the same time, we’re finally getting some politicians in Washington who have served in the military, and even some with combat experience. From Adm Joe Sestak. CO of the task force that invaded Afghanistan and now a congressman from Delaware County, Pa., to Virginia Senator and former Marine Jim Webb; there are growing numbers of legislators who can see beyond the Administration’s patriotic hype and ask the hard questions necessary.

Even better for the military is Robert Gates as the current Sect. of Defense. Non-partisan, thorough, and low-key; Sect Gates ignores the “Iranians at our door- WW3” hysteria and focuses on the very real problems of a fundamentalist and nuclear Pakistan, along with the Chinese build-up. He’s also helping the military understand and utilize “soft power” in its battle in these 3rd-world countries. We’re never going to fight the Russians in the Fulda Gap; but we are going to be chasing and killing these nasty terrorists and ‘freedom fighters’ in Waziristan, Somalia, Asadabad, and other assorted climes and places – and the adroit use of economic leverage, essential services will serve American interests far more successfully than fielding yet one more multi-billion dollar weapons system. Just remember that when the Stealth bombers fly home from completing a bombing run; it’s my son and your son either kicking in doors – or drinking chai and talking to the sheiks –that wins the support of the local tribes and townspeople. This is 4th-Generation Warfare, and thankfully, Sect Gates is pushing the military to respond to it.

And how great is that as he focuses the military on actual threats to American security, in speech after speech he continues to acknowledge and honor the men and women who do the actual fighting.

To conclude: Is our military under stress? Yes, but in ways that can be handled. Is the military broken? Absolutely not - and when you look at the pride in which our Marines and Soldiers continue to re-up, and the battle skills and knowledge they’re passing to the newest generations of boots, it would be fair to say that the future of the American military could not be brighter.

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