Pruning the Pentagon
Posted by Jacob Stokes
I have a new piece in The American Prospect on Obama's military strategy. Here's an illustrative sample:
The document flows from this question, posed by President Obama in his speech: “What kind of military will we need after the long wars of the last decade are over?” The answer, according to Panetta, is a force that’s “smaller and leaner, but will be agile, flexible, ready, and technologically advanced.” That means reductions in the size of the Army and Marines, reportedly almost back down to pre-9/11 levels.
It also signals that the U.S. is in no hurry to engage in another extended occupation like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, this marks a move away from the counterinsurgency operations of the last decade. Instead, America will build a military poised to respond quickly to events around the world. The operation in Libya and even the raid that killed Osama bin Laden serve as models for this strategy. To be sure, we will retain the capability to project force for long-term operations if our vital interest are at stake, but such operations will be the exception, not the rule.
Also, read Heather on the BBC. Here's the portion on what the strategy says about nuclear weapons:
Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists describes the future of the nuclear weapons complex as "cautious but suggestive". The strategy review document maintains a nuclear arsenal but hints at reductions, saying "it is possible our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force".
What might this mean in practice? In the near-term, disappointment for those on the US right who have advocated aggressive investment in new nuclear bombs and even a return to testing. In the longer-term, many Pentagon generals, especially those not in submarine, missile or nuclear bomber commands, are willing to consider shrinking the nuclear "triad". There is also a raft of influential players in the nuclear sphere who have been eager to retire the weapons.