Conventional Wisdom

April 7, 2009

Conventional Wisdom


Defense: Does it make sense for the U.S. to slash conventional force spending as terrorist groups become quasi-conventional entities? We must be able to defeat a China, an al-Qaida, and everything in between.

Read More: Military & Defense

As the Washington Post reported Monday, the Pentagon has sent numerous investigative teams to Israel to ascertain how the Hezbollah terrorist group managed to fend off the mighty Israeli military during their brief war in Lebanon in 2006.

Israel may have won, but by using anti-tank missiles and other facets more associated with modern conventional armies than Islamist insurgencies, Hezbollah succeeded in giving the Israel Defense Forces a surprisingly bloody nose.

And the Lebanese terrorists aren’t the only ones moving toward conventional armies. Colombia’s Marxist FARC terrorists, in spite of their bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, extortions, hijackings and drug trafficking, consider themselves a “people’s army” who must inevitably evolve from a guerrilla orientation to traditional military action. In the past, they’ve tried to move in this direction.

We may have won the Cold War — won it because we outspent and outbuilt the communists on every front, from troop readiness to missile defense — but Russia and China remain ambitious military and economic rivals who have continually facilitated the aggressive tendencies of terror states.

Both Russia and China, for instance, have aided Iran’s nuclear program. As unpleasant as it is to ponder, we may one day have to wage war against one or the other — or both. So why is Defense Secretary Robert Gates so keen to reduce our conventional deterrent and re-jigger our forces to be “closer to irregular warfare and counterinsurgency,” as the Pentagon said this week?

Gates would scale back the Pentagon’s $160 billion high-tech Future Combat Systems, which uses battlefield robots, sensors and combat vehicles controlled by a linked communications network.

It features rockets that can automatically change direction in midair and night-vision surveillance hovercraft, and would turn our military into a lighter, highly mobile force that could confront the unpredictable conflicts of tomorrow.

Strangely, with the most lavish spending spree in history in Washington, the Pentagon has embraced a philosophy of penny-pinching.

“The perennial procurement and contracting cycle, going back many decades, of adding layer and layer of cost and complexity onto fewer and fewer platforms that take longer and longer to build, must come to an end,” Secretary Gates recently groused.

Gates has rejected the Air Force’s appeals for more F-22 fighter aircraft because no F-22s have been used in the low-intensity Iran and Afghanistan operations.

The secretary has said that the low “level of risk of conflict” with Russia or China “over the next four or five years” means the Air Force can wait “until the Joint Strike Fighter comes along,” meaning the F-35, which is still years away from mass production.

But Americans could lose more than their shirts on that bet — we could lose our freedoms.

The multiplicity of threats to the free world should not let our defense spending become an either-or proposition. The Chinese military is actively expanding. To our south, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is on a military spending spree and cultivating U.S. adversaries ranging from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The U.S. must be able to engage in low-intensity warfare against Iraq/Afghan-style guerillas, and we must also be able to defeat Russia, China or any other potential adversary in a conventional war.

If we can spend trillions on massive stimulus bills featuring green make-work schemes and everything else on the liberal Democratic wish list of the past three decades, we can pay the costs of guaranteeing our liberty in the long term.

In the future, the security of the free world will depend upon a very simple but challenging variable: whether the U.S. military is so overpowering as to appear indestructible to any enemy, whether it’s a sovereign power or an extra-national armed organization.

That way, they won’t dare wage war against us or our allies. And if they do, they’ll regret it.


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