The QDR:Dreaming of the USSR
Posted by Lorelei Kelly
Big sigh...it looks like any forward thinking hopes for the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) are unwarranted. This is the every-four-years defense document that supposedly re-orients the US military to think creatively in the face of new threats. From early press reports, it appears the inspiration for this document is circa 1985--when we just counted the Soviet's toys and then made more for ourselves. The USSR remains-- like a phantom limb that we chase until we collapse-- in the QDR. All the Cold War platforms were spared--and will supposedly be paid for by cutting personnel. This, despite the manpower crunch in the military and the need for human intelligence, civil affairs, policy, public health, foreign force training and languages.
I would carp on about the defense industry (who are unaccountable slackers these days in contrast to their role in developing strategy post WWII) but most of the blame for these priorities still lays squarely with Congress. The members, after all, control ALL the money. And when they aren't busy protecting the symbols and traditions of Christmas--they talk a good deal about China in order to justify the hardware heavy defense priorities that provide the whistle stop for the gravy train in their districts. Yet the US spends as much on its research and development every year as China does on its entire defense budget. Tom Barnett writing in Esquire nicely demolishes the "China is coming" hype. Yet --as he points out--there sure are lots of Members of the Armed Services Committee on the new congressional "China Caucus" hmmmmmm....
"Why the Strong Lose" is a current Parameters article by Army author Jeff Record. His premise in the article is that all major failed US uses of force since 1945—in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia—have been against materially weaker enemies and also that "the US military’s historical aversion to counterinsurgency is a function of 60 years of preoccupation with high-technology conventional warfare against other states and accelerated substitution of machines for combat manpower, most notably aerial standoff precision firepower for large ground forces. " Here's the long version for a good overview.
The QDR looks like it will fly in the face of other positive developments--like the recent White House directive that gives the State Department lead-agency responsibility in post conflict peace building (what they call "transformational" diplomacy) This directive dovetails nicely with the Defense Department's new directive on Stability Operations--which makes post conflict skills a core military mission. But none of these ideas will get any traction if Congress does not start leading the charge.
Speaking of defense manpower, here are two hopeful items from West Point: a new project called "Beyond War" and news that the West Point Model United Nations team has finished its most successful year in team history--taking first place at every conference in 2005.
Like Clausewitz said, it's people, stupid.