It seems to me…
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ George Santayana.
We never seem to learn some basic facts about national defense. Many of the current conservative presidential candidates’ beliefs are strongly rooted in the past and not appreciative of the extent that the world has changed. This is in no way more true than in their lack of understanding how psychology and technology have changed the nature of warfare. Even worse, they failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam and detrimentally repeated the same mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The world has evolved since the large land-battles of World War II but political and military leaders remain firmly rooted in the past not understanding tactics must change to meet today’s threats. Battlefields now are based on beliefs rather than territorial control. No longer is victory assured by the number of boots on the ground; today success derives instead from gaining populous support. While difficult to convince those either still living in the past or not comfortable with this new reality, now is the time to transition to the defensive force of the future.
Our military needs to evolve and develop new types of weapon systems better suited for today’s battles. Iraq and Afghanistan were not wars in the classic sense – they are more like police actions in that there never can be a victory, only an ongoing struggle for control. We do not know how to combat these types of activities any better than Mexico does in combating organized insurrection by drug gangs. Our military is not trained to provide police protection but this is the capacity in which they will increasingly be used. So far, we have, with only limited success, attempted to use the military in this capacity but our consistent response has essentially as noted by Bernard Baruch “When all you only have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. We need to develop special units able to engage combatants in this capacity.
Rather than always increasing the size of our military, we need smaller special purpose units trained to provide faster response. We need to increase our defense-oriented research and innovation. We need increased automation. The big battles of the future will be wars of ideas fought with software and propaganda.
It is time to stop listening to the military hawks who jingoistically wish to respond militarily to every real or imagined threat. Increasingly, the battles of the future will be waged not with tanks, planes, or boots on foreign soil but on the electronic soil of cyberspace to curry the favorable opinion of world citizens. Battles will be waged not only between nation-states but with groups of individuals bound only through ideological agreement. Attacks can emanate from anywhere at anytime necessitating a constant state of preparedness unlike at any time in the past.
As the world continues to shrink, how we are perceived by others throughout the world becomes increasingly important. No longer can we act as the world’s police force. In the future, we will need to act in unison and coalition with other nations as equal partners if the world is to progress forward to everyone’s benefit. We can not be considered as egocentric bullies only concerned with our own welfare. The so-called “ugly American” has long been an unfortunate caricature which we as a nation can not afford.
While many disagreed with President Obama’s decision to allow NATO to assume the operational lead against Moammar Kaddafi in Libya, it must be the way of the future. It will not always work to our satisfaction and will be an awkward, sometimes difficult, learning experience for all involved. Gratefully, at least in this case, it appears to have been the correct course to follow.
No nation or political power can survive purely as a result of military strength. Eventually investing a substantial percentage of a nation’s GNP into its military only can result in the decline of that nation. While every nation must maintain sufficient strength to defend itself, any commitment above that required to sustain such a capability only serves to weaken the nation as that funding is removed from its ability to invest in infrastructure and innovation.
Every nation that has attempted to remain the dominate world’s power has failed. Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia did not succeed. Through out history only Rome retained it position of importance over a prolonged period but they succeeded though funding of their armies by their controlled territories rather than by Rome itself. The lesson of history should be obvious – do not have any military involvement anywhere in the world if it is not fully funded by the country in which it is stationed.
Conservative hawks are quick to advocate military intervention and only reluctantly consider non-military alternatives. While the cost of maintaining the most powerful military force in the world is extremely high, we have yet to accept that the cost of maintaining the peace can be just as high. We failed to fund the recovery of Afghanistan following the Mujahidin defeat of the Russians and consequently have paid that price many times over. The world has changed; we have much to learn. Let’s not once again fail to learn the lessons of history.
That’s what I think, what about you?