Over the last few years, many previously respectable columnists, journalists, and media outlets discredited themselves by either writing articles calling for (or rationalizing) defense cuts or publishing such articles written by others.
The latest person among these people is NRO columnist Conrad Black. Writing on the NRO website, Black says of Obama’s latest defense cuts, “they may be defensible”, and claims that:
“It would be unfair to dismiss the administration’s latest assault on the U.S.’s defense capability as the folly and cowardice some commentators are already alleging. Without a worldwide rival of comparable strength threatening all American strategic interests, it is certainly possible to retrench gradually and support regional forces of stability and, preferably, moderation.”
No, Mr Black, it is not possible (nor wise) to retrench. This would not only be seen by America’s enemies as a sign of weakness, it would also mean cutting (and gutting) the US military. That is unacceptable. And where are those supposed “regional forces for stability and moderation”? They don’t exist. Even if they did, there is NO substitute for a strong US military. Regional allies and surrogates will not do. Which also refutes his claim (in bold letters) that:
“In these circumstances, full advantage can be taken of steadily more precise and efficient defense technology, and the steady proliferation of more capable secondary powers, eager to preserve and reinforce their independence, in every theater.”
Moreover, how is the DOD going to buy modern military technology if it won’t have enough money to do that? Bombers, ICBMs, submarines, missile interceptors, lasers, railguns, fighters, tankers, cargoplanes, and helicopters cost. A lot.
Black dismisses the threats to the US easily, while comparing them to Nazi Germany (whom the US defeated during WW2) and the Soviet Union (whom the US defeated during the Cold War):
“There is no such threat now. Terrorism is a dreadful nuisance, but it lacks central direction and a great and powerful host country devoted altogether to its conduct, and it is incapable of attracting the intellectual and moral support of more than a few homicidal psychopaths and genocidists.”
Note that this paragraph doesn’t even mention state-enemies such as China, Russia, NK, Iran, or Venezuela. Moreover, it is factually wrong. Not only are China and Russia threats comparable to the Soviet Union, terrorism IS sponsored by states hostile to the US, such as Iran (the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism), Syria, and Venezuela (does FARC ring any bells?). In fact, there is no such phenomenon as “stateless terrorism” or “stateless terrorists”. Every terrorist organization in the world is supported by some country: Hamas and Hezbollah by Iran, FARC by Venezuela, etc.
Then, Black wrote utter garbage that:
“The alarms being set off now about the Chinese navy are a little hard to take seriously. An improvised aircraft carrier, plans for catamaran aircraft carriers (an insane concept), and new anti-ship surface-to surface missiles should not overawe the United States Navy. The Chinese are never going to exchange fire with the U.S. Navy anyway, and the idea that they will keep U.S. heavy units out of the South China Sea or the Straits of Formosa with this sort of saber-rattling is eyewash.”
He provides no proof for that – because no evidence for that exists. The alarms about the Chinese navy are fully justified and must be taken seriously. Not only has China renovated an aircraft carrier, not only does it have naval aircraft (and is training naval pilots) to operate from it, not only does it have a much larger navy (and a larger submarine fleet) than the US, not only does it have anti-ship ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, it also has secret underground bases in Sanya (Hainan) and Qingdao. China’s submarines with AIP propulsion systems are undetectable for the US Navy, while the USN’s ASW skills and aircraft fleet have atrophied. China is a real threat to, and a peer competitor for, the US.
Black then continued to blather nonsense:
“China’s neighbors, led by India, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, are well able to ensure a satisfactory regional correlation of forces, especially as the first appearance of plausible forces of democratization surface in Russia to discourage Putin’s maverick, compulsive trouble-making.”
Wrong. Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia are military weak, and utterly unable to confront the Chinese juggernaut, even collectively. As for Russia, despite recent protests, it will never become democratic (or pro-American) anytime soon and Putin’s regime will not crumble anytime soon.
Black then went on to paint an extremely rosy, completely fictitious picture of the world where there are no serious threats to the US beyond the Middle East:
“The Far East and South Asia can manage with minimal American attention; most of Latin America is progressing well and there are no dangerous extra-hemispheric influences, despite Ahmadinejad’s ludicrous trans-cultural minuet with Chávez. There is no threat to Western or Central Europe, and Africa has never really been a strategic theater, or one where extra-territorial interventions yielded much of a dividend (after the slave trade was abolished).”
This is utter garbage, like most of his article. The Far East and South Asia (i.e. the Pacific Rim) CANNOT manage with “minimal American attention”; they are threatened by the Chinese juggernaut and its North Korean ally. It needs not only a great deal of American attention, it needs American military protection (and intervention if need be). Latin America is NOT progressing well (unless by “progressing” Black means the establishment of socialist anti-American regimes on the continent and their pursuit of socialist policies), and IS being poisoned by dangerous extra-hemispheric influences – namely, Russian and Chinese policies as well as Iranian meddling, including the ongoing construction of a base for Iranian IRBMs in Venezuela, which would allow the Iranians to target the Southern and Southwestern US with nuclear weapons. Africa remains highly unstable, Somalia is a safe haven and a base for pirates, and its Red Sea coast is the area where maritime piracy is ubiquitous. In short, the world is much more dangerous than it was during the entire Cold War, except the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Conrad Black concedes that we defense conservatives know Obama’s TRUE motivations in cutting the defense budget and the size of the US military:
“But the fear flourishes, rooted in a knowledge of the administration’s naïveté and half-baked notions of wealth redistribution, that the defense-spending cuts are intended not as a response to strategic realities but as a substitute for entitlement reform. Certainly, trimming the military to feed welfare bloat is one of the litmus tests of a civilization in decline.”
And that’s exactly what Obama is doing. That is his true intent.
Amazingly, Black recognizes that:
“Defense is the most effective and valuable form of economic stimulus, especially in high technology, and the country’s most effective form of continuing education, as well as the only source of national security.”
Yet he gives ammo to defense cutters, saying that “Resources allocated to national defense should be cut back only for the right reasons. There is definitely room for hope, but this administration’s record, despite the fact that Robert Gates and Leon Panetta are both competent defense secretaries, does not inspire confidence.”
There are never any “right reasons” to cut defense spending. There is never any reason to cut it. And there is no reason to hope that the Administration will cut the defense budget carefully. As for Robert Gates – no, he was not a competent defense secretary. Quite the contrary, he was one of the most incompetent, most servile, and worst defense secretary in American history. As for Leon Panetta – we shall see whether he’s a competent SECDEF or not.