Thursday, May 27, 2004
Current View: The Weekly Standard arrived today, and there is an article by Frederick Kagan called "The Incredible Shrinking Army." It's the new neo-con line: the problem is that the Army isn't big enough to do the job.

What job? That isn't discussed: apparently the question isn't relevant. We have to occupy Iraq, and probably invade some more places, and the Army isn't big enough. We need a larger Army.

The good news is that we probably won't need to revive conscription in order to get the bigger Army. Volunteer recruiting should be sufficient. But this Administration is deficient: it promised to rescue the Army from the Clinton depletion, and it didn't do it, and it's all the Administration's fault, and Iraq is at the edge of catastrophe and that's all the Administration's fault.

Well, yes: certainly if the mission of the US is to establish colonial regimes all over the world (of course they are temporary, just being trained to become independent liberal democratic allies, but that does take time) then we don't have a large enough Army, nor will we ever.

Look: if the mission is to go conquer people and run their countries we need an Imperial style army: one capable of defeating the client states who do the actual dirty work of occupying other people. Ideally we have Sunni clients occupy Shiite states, and Shiite clients occupy Sunni, and Kurds occupy Turkmen and perhaps Chechens, and Chechens can be used as a strike force for Africa, and, well, all right, I am not serious.

But until we see what the mission is, we can't possibly know how large the Army must be, or how much it should cost.

My friend John McCarthy, one of the saner people I know, is fond of pointing out that the US defense budget is pretty small compared to what it was during the high stages of the Cold War, and tiny compared to what it was in real wars. And the Army is pretty small compared to those times. Clearly we can afford a larger military. The question is, do we need one?

And that, surely, is a function of what we intend to do with it.

If what we want to do is remain a republic, friends of liberty everywhere and guardians of our own, I suggest that the Army is just about large enough now. The Fleet isn't: we need more ships and men. And within the Army we can use some new units. More Rangers and special forces. More language skills and intelligence troops with proper training.

Expanding the Navy will be expensive, but I suggest it is more useful than building an Army whose mission is to occupy other countries.

As to defending the US, have we tried? Our border controls are a joke; yet surely it is easier to defend our borders than to ferret out our enemies overseas? Surely it is more likely that we can detect bad guys coming here than we can find them in Iraq, particularly when the consequences of trying to find them in Iraq are often to generate more people who want to kill us -- and to give them opportunities right there in their home neighborhoods rather than put them to the trouble of learning how to get to the US, smuggle in weapons and explosives, and the rest of it?

If you are in Iraq and want to blow yourself up with an American or two, it's a lot easier if there is an American soldier on your block, than to have to go find one in New York.

Now, yes, of course, if your goal is to be politically correct then it's a lot harder to defend the country at the borders than to go occupy all your potential enemies. Whether or not you have missed the point of political correctness is another story.

Well, enough of this ramble: but it does seem to me that if we are faced with the need for a larger Army, it may be time to rethink our goals and strategies.

It may be true that they hate us and they are coming for us, and the only way to stop them is to go get them first, and occupy their lands, and reform them; but it is not overwhelmingly obvious, at least to me, that there are all that many nations who hate us enough to risk regime changes instituted by special forces whose only mission is to take out the existing government, or that the best way to make governments overseas cooperate in our safety is to invade and occupy them.

We are the friends of liberty everywhere. We are the guardians only of our own; but guarding our own can include operations such as we undertook in Afghanistan, and operations like Desert One done properly with enough force to matter. It can include some actual money spent on securing our borders and screening those who come into the country; it can include some internal security people who actually enforce immigration laws and actually keep track of those given asylum. Or perhaps not, but at least isn't it worth thinking about?

And while we are at it, $40 billion would build 40 1,000 Megawatt nuclear power plants (given any rational licensing system), and that in itself would help reduce fuel prices, clean the air, and reduce our dependence on Middle East Oil.

Another $40 billion spent on X programs would give us reasonable cost access to space, with space travel costs at a multiple of fuel costs, not the astronomical costs we pay now.

Or $80 billion can buy another year of occupation of Iraq. Maybe. Apparently not: we are going to have to expand the Army, says Kagan, and that can't be all that cheap.

Isn't it worth debating which would be worth more in the long run, a larger Army and longer occupation, or new energy sources and access to space?

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