The new US defense review combines politics, economics and ideology.
The decision to make cuts in the US military forces will obviously appeal to President Obama’s base. Obama has announced that the US is ending a decade of war and is effectively going to concentrate on rebuilding the United States domestically.
The administration has renounced an American ability to fight two wars simultaneously as a relic of the Cold War. This means that the US will not be involved in more than one theater at a time simply because experience has already shown that one cannot put a military machine together at the drop of a hat, but that it requires a buildup both militarily and industrially. This somewhat resembles the United States experience when it went from isolationism to war in the 1940s.
Obama and Leon Panetta also paraded Special Forces, drones and other high tech to back the claim that the United States will be getting bigger striking power for its investment while abandoning outmoded military thinking.
Economically, in a period of budgetary retrenchment, the gigantic US military budget is an obvious candidate for cuts. Cutting the Pentagon down to size is always a recurrent theme and there is certain to be a lot of waste. Even Obama’s opponents, for example, Senator John McCain have attacked mismanagement and waste in the Defense Department.
If the United States is going to retain a one-war capability and the Obama administration has signaled that its main preoccupation is in Southeast Asia with China, this means that other areas are going to increasingly have to fend for themselves.
As the military threat from Russia appears to have receded, the administration is looking to its NATO partners to invest more in their own defense. During the Cold War, when Europe was considered the major battleground, the European countries knew that Uncle Sam would grumble but would not be willing to abandon them to a Soviet takeover, given the importance of Western Europe. Now Europe has been downgraded, accompanied by platitudes about its continued importance.
It also means that the United States will be expecting countries in the Middle East to do more, but here the problem is the reverse of Europe. Here the hopes that these countries reach a higher qualitative level in terms of combat strength will be realized, but there is no guarantee that these forces will be employed for the right purposes. When the United States was employing a similar policy during the Eisenhower era, it saw the arms it sent to Iraq and Pakistan, ostensibly to repel a Soviet invasion, used for other purposes. If these countries succumb to instability, the American-supplied arsenal could also fall into irresponsible hands.
Another repercussion of the retrenchment is that the procurement will be a more drawn-out process. Countries such as Israel, who were promised the F-35 fighter to preserve a qualitative edge, are going to be left waiting while watching countries such as Saudi Arabia taking delivery of F-15 planes by the boatload.
A final problem worth mentioning is that the policy here early resembles the Obama green technology solution for what ailed the American economy. The assumption was that only the Americans were smart enough to employ green technology. We now know otherwise. American firms were driven from the market by cheaper Chinese competition.
The opposition is also going to use drones and cyber technology.
America has employed drones in Afghanistan, but it is leaving that country without a clear-cut victory, to say the least.
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