Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You're in the Army Now...For Now

A recent news report revealed that the U.S. Army plans to cut its force levels by 50,000 over the next five years. Does anyone at the pentagon believe the Army is currently overstaffed after hearing for years that it was stretched to the breaking point? No this is not about too may troops it is about too few dollars chasing too many new technologies.  In the coming era of financial austerity something will have to give and our military leaders have decided to invest in big ticket weapon platforms like the next generation long range bomber at the expense of infantry battalions.  Why bother developing and fielding a new and improved rifle if you are going to whittle down the number of soldiers and Marines anyway?

I grew up during the Cold War when the military was always looking for "a few good men" and trying to get you to "be all you can be." Within the next twenty years there will come a time when the prevailing line could be "don't call us, we'll call you" as interested young men and women compete for limited slots akin to joining the FBI or getting into a prestigious school.  Think about how small the Army will be when a single armored and heavily armed soldier can replace an infantry platoon or company. Most of the slots available will be for technicians to repair the "Starship Trooper" suits and drone operators and still more technicians - assuming the technicians are not mostly private contractors from the firms that developed the weapons.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What Are We Fighting For?

Nearly ten years into the War on Terror, now referred to as an overseas contingency operation by the Obama administration, and the gray, generic platitudes about the enemy persist. Who is the enemy? many would answer al-Qaeda and the recently deceased Osama Bin laden.  according to the mainstream script he was a fanatic who hijacked and used true Islam, "the religion of peace," for his own ends. What are those ends? To punish America for its haughty imperialism and support for Israel.  Unfortunately you do not have to talk to Michael Moore to hear this version of reality, you can read the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit Michael Scheuer.

The biggest problems with this whole line of reasoning is that it narrowly defines the enemy, reducing it to a small band of international criminals that can eventually be wiped out with drone attacks. Drone attacks are good, but regular enemy attacks continue to occur in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.  Can drones solve this? maybe if the enemy really were just al-Qaeda, but we face a large Islamic terrorist movement I refer to as militant Islamism.  Its adherents rally around the believe Allah commands faithful Muslims, through his revelations to Muhammad, to wage jihad against non-Muslims and apostate Muslims until there is only Islam.

You might respond with incredulity at their ambition, but we discount their sincerity at our own peril. Al-Qaeda is a relatively recent phenomenon, but the imperative to fight jihad for Allah is more than fourteen centuries old. Our military and political leaders are not doing us any favors when they fail to understand the true nature of the enemy.