People nine months ago were asking: is Obama Bush III or Carter II ? The answer is now obvious; he is channeling Jimmy Carter. Dictators and others might be having a field day, but the rest of us need to start thinking about how we can repair the damage. It is not going to be easy and it is not going to be cheap.
The timing of the repair job will inevitably shape what actually happens. Whether it begins in 2010 in Congress, or in 2012 or 2016 in the executive branch, will determine how much work is needed, but as of now we should start thinking about some basic principals and the broad outlines needed to restore America’s strength.(Getting our economic house in order is critical, but that is not the subject of this essay.)
We must assume that Obama will not totally fail in Afghanistan and will allow the US success in Iraq to continue. This also means that he will not choose a defeatist ‘counter-terrorism’ strategy for Afghanistan. If America is defeated in either of these campaigns, all bets are off.
The GOP, which would lead this initiative, should make a serious and highly focused effort to reach out to the national security Democrats, listen to their concerns, and if possible include them in the policy-making process. This must be different from the usual so-called bipartisan charade. The consulting process should be comprehensive and for the most part, private. No one should be expected to stick his political neck out, until everyone is 100% comfortable with whatever policy is agreed on.
In the old days, a few sonorous centrist Senators, Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar, for example, exercised a near monopoly over the establishment’s conventional wisdom. In the 1980s, Reagan had to fight --not only against the radical pro Soviet left, but also against a moderate consensus that wanted to trade a moderate arms build-up for a moderate amount of arms control. With his insistence on Missile Defense, Reagan broke their taboo against defending American civilians. This taboo was an essential part of Mutually Assured Destruction, to which they had been fully committed. When the man they regarded as an ‘amiable dunce’ proved to be one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th century they were shocked. It is forgotten that during his first couple of years in office he was supported by one of the greatest democratic senators of all time, Henry “Scoop” Jackson.
So the first question that Republican leaders looking toward the Post-Obama landscape should ask themselves is: “Who are today’s Scoop Jackson’s?” Obviously there is Senator Joe Lieberman, but he is no longer an official Democrat, so who else? The GOP leadership should be ready to spend a lot of time and effort listening to what the moderate Democrats have to say; they may have some good ideas. After all, if there is one lesson that can be learned from recent transitions, it is that the other party’s ideas about strategic and foreign policy are not always all bad.
The Bush administration, for example, might have realized that by speaking bluntly about US interests and hard power they were needlessly antagonizing the global elite. Of course there are times when these folk need to have their toes stepped on, and the Post-Obama era will undoubtedly provide America’s leaders lots of occasions to do so There will always be a “B.S.” gap across the Atlantic, but we should not increase it without good reasons and considerate timing.
What follows are some ideas that are offered as the basis for a renewed debate over US strategic policy. The expression is carefully chosen; ‘Grand Strategy’ is one of those ill-defined terms that probably has more to do with culture and geography than with questions of near-term military and political realities. Strategy by itself applies to generalship at the highest level -- something that politicians should be wary of involving themselves in. What is meant here by strategic policy is the process by which civilian leaders match their national goals with the resources available to carry them out.
NATO has proven itself a weak, and in some ways dangerous, organization. The US commitment to the defense of Europe has generated a set of engrained emotional attitudes against America that make our long-term presence in that part of the world problematic. One only has to remember the joy with which many in Europe greeted the mass murder of American civilians on 9/11 to recognize this.
The Democrats have already begun to downgrade the US commitment to NATO; there is no real reason why the GOP should not continue to do so. In particular, they should examine withdrawing the last combat elements now based in Germany, the air units at Spangdalhem and the Stryker Brigade based at Grafenwohr and associated Headquarters units -- leaving only the logistics base at Rhin Main, Ramstein, and the hospital at Landshul.
In the Middle East, the two big issues will be, as always, Israel and Oil. The Obama administration, like others before it, claims to be committed to energy independence. They say they want to do it with ‘green’ technology, some of which may be truly useful, but most of which will be of marginal effectiveness. Real energy independence will come from new sources of oil off the US coasts, alternative liquids from coal, gas and alcohol and some truly exotic large scale sources such as space-based solar power and fusion.
The US Navy should “Home Port” a pair of missile-defense destroyers in Haifa, Israel, and the US Army should pre-position supplies and equipment fir a brigade-sized power-projection force on ships in the eastern Mediterranean.
In a Post-Iraq-and-Afghanistan-Wars Middle East, this will give the US three critical “point d’appuis” or strong points: Israel in the west, Kuwait and Bahrain in the center, and Diego Garcia in the south - - as well as a new quasi-ally, India, in the east. There can be no question of US bases on the subcontinent, but a strong program of mutual exercises and cooperation would be the next best thing.
In Asia, the establishment’s wisdom: “Neither a Panda hugger nor a Dragon Slayer Be” is, amazingly enough, good advice. Taiwan is ambiguous about its own self-defense; the US cannot be more assertive in their defense than the Taiwanese are themselves. Any US commitment to Taiwan’s defense must depend first of all on their demonstrated unambiguous desire to maintain their independence - which could begin with a vigorous and successful counter-intelligence effort.
Beyond that, the need for absolute air-supremacy in the Pacific is the single most urgent requirement. This means reversing the shutdown of the F-22 production line and committing to build a force of at least 400 airframes. US leaders, including both Bush and especially Obama, have lost sight of just how vital it is for the US to completely dominate the skies -- not only over the battlefield, but over the enemy’s homeland as well. Future US strategic policy must be built on a foundation of complete and unchallengeable air supremacy. For the next decade or two, only a strong force of F-22s can provide this.
However this does not mean that the US Air Force should be allowed to follow its current corporate vision. Why should a single service, the Air Force, control most of America’s space and cyberspace warfighting organizations? Cyberspace is a domain where military actions and doctrine have significant civilian implications. The Air Force’s role as the military’s principal cyber-command stretches its abilities to the limit and beyond. The Cyberwar mission is probably best carried out by a new joint service agency, roughly on the model of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Just as important is the failure of the Air Force to support its obligation to the space mission. Over the last few decades, the Air Force has allowed many, though not all, of its space missions to get bogged down in what may be termed the programmatic swamp - a nightmare of out-of-control requirements, cost overruns, program delays, and worst of all, high-level neglect. The cancellation of the next-generation communications-satellite system, “T-Sat,” is an example of the problems that the Air Force’s leadership has not been able to overcome. The failure to develop an affordable and timely space-based radar program is a national embarrassment. All the more so as both Canada and Israel have been able to build radar satellites -- and with a fraction of the resources available to their US counterparts.
The time has come for the Defense Department to establish a fifth service (or sixth if you count the Coast Guard. ): We need a United States Space Force, dedicated to the mission of supporting America’s national strategy and the men and women whom we send into harm’s way. This new service should not only control the nation’s current generation of satellites, but should lead the transition towards a new space-based deterrence, including space-based missile defense systems, space-control systems and space-to-Earth weapons.
It is time for the US Government to accept that space is now the decisive theater of war, and that without space-dominance the US will not be able to accomplish any military mission. In the Post Obama environment, there will not be any possibility of a “Peace Dividend;” Instead, the need to rebuild the Air Force and the Navy -- and create new 21st century organizations for space operations and cyberwar - - is imperative.
Even more important will be the need to recover from a nearly thirty-year neglect of basic military Research and Development. For too long, the US has been living off the R & D effort that was made during the Reagan era, decades ago. This must start now.