Phi Beta Iota: The author, Michael O’Hanlon, remains one of our most respected commentators on defense, and his suggestions within this document are entirely reasonable. However, he does not go far enough. A 10% reduction of a military-industrial complex budget that has nearly tripled in 30 years is not serious, nor is there innovation in this document. The military-industrial complex must be reduced by 40% if not 50%: one third direct cuts; one third reallocation to Program 150 (diplomacy & development); and one third to thinkers and actual shooters–Cyber and Advanced Information Operations, Civil Affairs, Multinational Decision Support Centres, and long over-due investment in tactical intelligence, surveillance, & reconnaissance that is Of, By, and For the Strategic Sergeant, NOT Of, By, and For Lockheed, Harris, or the U.S. Air Force.
By IAN LIVINGSTON, HEATHER MESSERA, MICHAEL O’HANLON and AMY UNIKEWICZ January 2, 2010
In 2009, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated American military and foreign policy. Which themes emerged over the last year?
In Iraq, 2009 was the year of relatively smooth transitions.
In Pakistan, 2009 was the year of the offensives.
In Afghanistan, 2009 was the year of decisions — by President Obama, of course, by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and by the Afghan people as they re-elected Hamid Karzai as president.
Phi Beta Iota: Although a puff piece in some ways, since it is well-known that Karzai is massively corrupt and the election was so fraudulent as to remind one of Idi Amin’s elections, the statistics are indeed looking good, especially in Iraq. Our concern is that the US will finally de-occupy Iraq only to create new occupations in Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia. Neither CIA nor JSOC is actually up to the challenge of global operations without blow-back, the US has no strategy and no Whole of Goverment capability for waging peace so as to calm the context in which we do one man – one bullet operations, so on balance, we are very concerned.
Great Minds, Good Intentions, *Very* Incomplete,
The authors are strongest on the politics of national security–there is nothing wrong with the substance where they address it, but I will end with my observation on how incomplete the book it.
The book can be summed up–and questioned–on the basis of its eight chapter headings–the book’s focus is in capital letters, my alternative focus in lower case:
NATIONAL SECURITY AS PRIMARY ELECTORAL ISSUE–not so, electoral reform and the integrity and legitimacy of government is the primary issue
MYTH OF REPUBLICAN SUPERIORITY–quite so, but what about Peter Peterson’s view in “Running on Empty,” to wit, BOTH political parties are inept and two sides of the same coin–they represent corporations, not the people.
MANAGING THE MILITARY–is not enough. Must manage ways and means, must manage the inter-agency matrix (Cheney ignores the policy bureaucracy, and the only agency actually fighting in Iraq is the military–everyone else is going through the motions).
HOMELAND SECURITY–TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL–physical security is not enough, even if private sector is willing to cooperate. The next level is about immigration control, tracking non-citizens, revoking citizenship as appropriate for those who do not adopt our values, tracking sermons by hostile imans, and rejecting visitors who are not bonded by their home government.
WINNING THE LONG WAR–strong on understanding next generation, weak on how to actually stabilize and reconstruct the world. The authors are too focused on terrorism, which is a tactic, not an enemy, and while they boldly propose approaches to stabilizing the Islamic nations, with a positive emphasis on education, they do not address the fundamentals of virtual colonialism, unilateral militarism, and predatory immoral “bandit” capitalism–our greatest enemy is within, not without.
THE REAL TRIPLE THREAT; ENERGY & SECURITY, GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE, AND TERRORIST FINANCING. Simplistic, conventional wisdom. Sure, we have to have energy independence, start doing real-time science and climate stabilization (changes that used to take 10,000 years now take three), and focus on terrorism financing, but these are a *fraction* of the national security challenge, and out of context, they are not realistically achievable.
COPING WITH CHINA–all well and good, but what about Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards such as Turkey and South Africa?
PROLIFERATION–fine on the bio-chem and nuclear weapons, what about small arms, the real weapons of mass destruction that make the 17 genocides real (I am sick and tired of hearing about Darfur in isolation–it is ONE of 17 genocides now on-going).
Most useful to me was the authors’ knowledgeable identification of four competing Democratic constituencies focused on national security: the “hard power” elite; the “soft power” globalists; the “modest power” Democrats seeking a partial pull back; and the labor-environmental Democrats profoundly troubled by global capitalism (which I and William Greider and Clyde Prestowitz among others have found to be pathologically predatory and our own worst enemy in terms of long-term global stability).
In short, this is a book that is excellent in its narrow focus–getting the Democrats some traction in the national security arena, growing beyond Iraq, and setting the stage for an expanded dialog.
Now here is what is NOT in this book:
1) The ten high-level threats identified by the United Nations High-Level Threat Panel, Dr. LtGen Brent Scowcroft participating, and taken *together*: poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities (kidnapping starlets for Saudi debauchery, kidnapping others for body parts), proliferation, terrorism, and transnational crime.
2) The twelve policies that must be balanced in a transpartisan fashion: Agriculture, Diplomacy, Economy, Education, Energy, Family, Health,Immigration, Justice, Security, Social Security, and Water–using scarce water to produce subsidized agriculture or to flush heavy tar oil is nuts–but no one is managing the country across the board; and finally
3) The eight challengers or challenges that *must* be enlightened and assisted in avoiding our mistakes while we also learn from them: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards.
One final note: Jock Gill, who served President Clinton as a communications specialist, taught me this: we have to abandon the war metaphor–war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terrorism. IT DOES NOT WORK! I would add that we have to abandon the secrecy practice as well. In my view, the next government must be a Coalition Government because neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can govern competently without the common sense of the Libertarians, Greens, Reforms, Independents, and others; and the next government must redirect half the secret intelligence budget toward national and global education free in all languages, and half the heavy-metal military budget toward waging peace in all possible forms, to include using residual capabilities in abandoned DoD communications satellites to provide free Internet connectivity to Africa and Latin America.
O’Hanlon and Campbell are as good as it gets inside the beltway. I praise them as being the first step in a long march back to sanity, but only the first step. We cannot proceed nor succeed without them, but they need a dirty dozen iconoclastic outsiders to actually get us to an AFFORDABLE implementable Grand Srategy for a sustainable prosperous peaceful future going out seven generations.
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Core Reading, Treats Traditional Defense in Isolation,
Among the recommendations in this book that make it essential reading for anyone concerned with streamlining and revitalizing national security, I consider the following to be sensible:
1) cost savings should not be achieved through the wholesale abandonment of overseas commitments (13);
2) achieve additional cost savings as well as increased operational utility by sharply limiting spending on the most advanced weapons and mobility systems, applying the savings to maintaining readiness and buying larger numbers of “good enough” weaponry (83);
3) citing Stephen Rosen-he could also have cited Colin Gray-he urges a slowdown in the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) while emphasizing that true RMA’s are less about technology and more about the very best mix of people, time, and information to produce innovation (88);
4) in this vein, he noted the continued excessive focus on mobility platforms rather than C4I or joint service experimentation (90);
5) homeland defense needs several billion more dollars per year (129), a recapitalization of the U.S. Coast Guard by with at least a $750 million a year increase (135), and a sharply increased focus on setting C4I security standards for unclassified communications and computing networks across the nation, with roughly $100 million a year additional;
6) politely put, National Missile Defense is best conceptualized as theater missile defense (TMD, 143); and
7) Taiwan would be a nightmare for all sides.
Among the assertions in this book that give me pause are
1) defense down-sizing in the past ten years has been successful, trimming a third of the budget and manpower while retaining quality and cohesion (p. 1);
2) that 3% of the Gross Domestic Product is adequate for defense spending and we do not need to go to the less-than-traditional 4% (3-4);
3) that the Marine Corps should be employed to relieve Army troops in the Balkans (57) or Korea (80);
4) that North Korean armored forces would have great difficulty breaking through Allied lines to Seoul (71);
5) that rogue nations like North Korea would attempt to provide their infantry with chemical protective gear when using chemical weapons (73);
6) that US airpower is both a rapid-response solution for distant threats as well as an overwhelming response for sustained threats (76, passim);
7) that arsenal ships are survivable in off-shore loiter mode (111); and
8) that an overseas deployment rate of 8% of the total force is too high (227).
Having said that, and with all my reservations about a book, no matter how talented the author, that does not preface its discussion of force structure with a review of the recommended strategy, and a discussion of the recommended strategy with a review of the real-world right-now threat, I have to rate this book a solid four in terms of seriousness of purpose and utility of content.
It would be twice as valuable if it included a thorough discussion of what kind of Global Coverage intelligence investment is needed in order to make defense forces relevant and capable in the future; and if it included a discussion of how defense forces are but the most expensive instrument of national power, and must be designed and funded in consonance with the other instruments, and especially the severely underfunded diplomatic, economic, and cultural instruments.
The author, easily one of the top three citizen-reviewers of the national security spending program, ultimately recommends less expensive weaponry, a different two-war capability (“1+A+i”), selective reductions in overseas deployments, more defense and less nuclear offense, selective increases in homeland defense including the U.S. Coast Guard and joint experimentation, and a modest increase (roughly $25 billion) of the defense budget that would combine with his recommended savings to yield the $60 billion or so transformation delta that others have recommended.
I like and recommend this book. Out of context, however, it is a dangerous book, for it will lead an inexperienced President and a Cold War team to the conclusion that only a transformation of the traditional military (Program 50) is necessary. O’Hanlon has done it again-he has provided the baseline from within which a reasonable public debate about defense transformation might ensue. The military issues he addresses comprise both the foundation and one of the four corners of our future national security-my concern about this book is that it is completely isolated and makes no mention of the other three corners without which we cannot maintain a proper roof over our heads: intelligence (threat understanding), strategy, and Program 150 soft power-power that today is both silent and emaciated.
Brother, Can You Spare a Half Penny to Save the World?,
1) Foreign aid is not preventing conflicts from emerging (if anything, and this is not implied by O’Hanlon but is explicit in William Shawcross’ book DELIVER US FROM EVIL: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict (Simon & Schuster, 2000), foreign aid contributes to instability by giving rise to warlords and black markets);
2) Foreign aid is of limited use in reconstructing societies ravaged by conflict, especially those with limited infrastructures that cannot absorb resources as well as European nations;
3) Foreign aid’s best return on investment appears to be the education of women-even a few years of education has a considerable impact on birth control, health, and other areas of interest;
4)Foreign aid shapes both our own philosophy of foreign affairs, and the perceptions others have of our foreign role-it also shapes our domestic constituencies perception of why we should have a foreign policy arm;
5) Foreign aid does not play a significant role in most countries where there is access to open markets and stability does not frighten away investors-indeed the emerging expert consensus appears to lean toward debt forgiveness combined with private capital investment as the best approach to economic reform;
6) Foreign aid is least effective in those countries that are either unstable or have a range of harmful economic policies including trade barriers, large budget deficits, oversized public sectors, and overvalued exchange rates. Roughly half the countries receiving aid today have poor economic policies in place;
7) The U.S. is the least generous of the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members, providing just over one third as much of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the other OECD countries-0.10 percent instead of 0.27 percent.
Having said all this, the author’s document their views that our ODA investments need to rise from $9 billion to at least $12 billion a year, with other countries increasing their combined contributions from $51 billion to $68 billion per year. The authors favor increased foreign aid investments in poor countries with good economic policies, for the purpose of building transportation infrastructure, enhancing local health and education programs, and accelerating the expansion of utilities and communications services.
They also recommend a broader distribution of foreign aid for countries in conflict throughout Africa, and suggest that Public Law 480 food aid should be focused only on responding to disaster relief rather than indiscriminate distribution that benefits U.S. farmers but undermines foreign agricultural programs.
They conclude with the somewhat veiled suggestion that all of this could be paid for by a reduction of foreign military assistance to Egypt and Israel. One is left, at the end of the book, with two strong feelings: first, that U.S. foreign aid is on “automatic pilot” and rather mindlessly muddling along; and second, that this is a very small but very important part of the total U.S. national security budget, one that merits its own ombudsman within the National Security Council, and one that is worthy of no less than a penny on the dollar as we plan our future Federal investments.
What is left unsaid by the authors is whether the other $60-80 billion in foreign aid by various actors including the United Nations agencies, is well managed–one is left with the impression that the U.S. really faces two challenges: an internal challenge of improving its performance with respect to foreign aid, and an external challenge in demanding a more rational and coordinated approach to various forms of aid being sponsored by others.
Puts RMA In Its Place, Smartly–Essential Reading,