11 July 2009

Links of the Day...

Not much to post here...about to go back outside, but thought it was wise to pass along a few links. Two of them concern what is often referred to as "The Long War", a term (originally coined by the Neocon think-tank The Heritage Foundation) which is often thrown about to refer to the Overseas Contingency Operation. While "The Long War: A Generation-long Struggle" has a more romantic Hollywood-style sound than "overseas contingency operation", it's hardly a realistic view of America's global defense strategy. In many ways, re-naming our overseas commitments from the grandiose "The Long War" to "Overseas Contingency Operation" reflects the change from the optimistic idealism of the early Bush era to a more pessimistic pragmatism we should expect in our defense strategy.

Two writers discuss the Overseas Contingency Operation. First is Dr. Andrew Bacevich (of the Center for a New American Security), a retired Army colonel, who discusses the need for the US to name a "strategy czar" of sorts. We have "czars" for everything in the US it seems--from drugs to poverty. Why not have a czar that deals with grand strategy, he argues. Bacevich lays out the following five points in a grand strategy for the US:

First, the Long War may be long, but it should not get any bigger. The regime-change approach -- invade and occupy to transform -- hasn't worked; simply trying harder in some other venue (Somalia? Sudan?) won't produce different results. In short, no more Iraqs.

Second, forget the Bush Doctrine of preventive war: no more wars of choice; henceforth only wars of necessity. The United States will use force only as a last resort and even then only when genuinely vital interests are at stake.

Third, no more crusades unless the American people buy in; expecting a relative handful of soldiers to carry the load while the rest of the country binges on consumption is unconscionable. At a minimum, the generation that opts for war should pay for it through higher taxes rather than foisting a burden of debt onto their grandchildren.

Fourth, the key to keeping America safe is to defend it, not to project American muscle to obscure places around the world. It may or may not be true that a "mighty fortress is our God"; had the United States been a mighty fortress on 9/11, however, the 19 hijackers would have gotten nowhere.

Fifth, by all means let the United States promote the spread of freedom and democracy. Yet we're more likely to enjoy success by modeling freedom rather than trying to impose it. To provide a suitable model, we've considerable work to do here at home. Meanwhile, let's not deny others the prerogative of defining for themselves exactly what it means to be free.

Link #2 comes from William Lind, an acolyte of John Boyd, who also discusses the potential end state of Afghanistan in "The Long War". Much like a point/counterpoint article between John Nagl and Bacevich back in February or so, Lind notes that turning Afghanistan into a liberal democracy simply won't happen, and argues for a more realistic end-state for Afghanistan. It seems that the Obama administration is split on this issue (examined here earlier and at Defense and the National Interest). Lind notes:

According to the July 3 Cleveland Plain Dealer, President Barack Obama said something very interesting last week. He told the AP that he has “a very narrow definition of success when it comes to our national security interests” in Afghanistan. “And that is that al-Qa’ida and its affiliates cannot set up safe havens from which to attack Americans.”

Well. If his words were reported accurately and he really means them, President Obama may have built the golden bridge we need to get out. That definition of success may be attainable.

But here’s the rub. Adoption of a realistic strategic goal in Afghanistan means reversing a decision the administration reportedly made last March, at Hillary’s insistence. Hillary demanded, and reportedly got, a commitment to the opium dream of a “secular, democratic, peaceful” Afghanistan.

Has President Obama already figured out he was had by the Clintons? Will he dare assert his authority over Hillary? How long will he stick to his guns when the Clintons ramp up a guerilla campaign against him among Democratic activists?

As I said in my last column, problems in court politics are often more difficult than problems on the battlefield. Dumping the Clinton’s dreamy-eyed idealism in foreign policy in favor of realistic strategic objectives promises a battle royal at court. Of course, Obama may have just been musing aloud, in which case Hillary will soon set the record straight. But if the President really meant what he said and sticks to it, it would represent a major step forward.

Finally, I don't feel like delving too deep into the issue of racist organizations within the military--if you want to know more about that issue, Greyhawk does a good point-counterpoint at the Mudville Gazette. Like most of us, he's skeptical that groups like this have infiltrated the military in large numbers, but I will say up front that one nazi in the US military is one too many.

Instead, I'll leave you with a fun link from David Axe. Axe discusses something that aviators have known for years--that each individual aircraft has its own personality, and its own quirks that make it tick. They're like autobots, in a way. You could start up three different Black Hawks, and one would ride smoothly, one would shudder, and one would have to have the engine power control lever shaken in just the right way in order to start.

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