America’s defense strategy: the good, the bad, and the ugly

While much of the focus on the president’s defense strategy has centered on the reduction to the Army and to the Marine Corps, the overarching strategy changes America’s defense position across several dimensions. Not all of them are uniformly negative.

I will not get into the discussion of overall military spending. Like any other federal bureaucracy, the Department of Defense can be made more efficient. Unlike many of the others, DoD has been focused on efficiencies for many years, and more to the point, cutting the wrong thing can be exceedingly dangerous. However, this should not prevent us from cutting the right thing.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the new defense strategy.

The good: One can only imagine what it feels like in Zhongnanhai, knowing that the CCP is the only force that will see more of the American military in their midst. In fact, the president has repeatedly shown an unexpected, unadvertised, and thus largely unknown determination to protect and preserve our interests in southeast Asia (in northeast Asia, he hasn’t been much better than his predecessors, but not much worse either). The greater emphasis on our allies in the Pacific received far more attention outside the U.S. than anything else (BBC, twice). For the first time, the United States is making it clear it has concern about the “peaceful rise” of the Chinese Communist regime, and it is prepared to put resources in place to address that concern. That is a change, and a good one.

The bad: Unfortunately, the concern the Administration has about the CCP is only a regional one. The idea that the regime would seek to build its power and prestige outside East Asia is surprisingly absent here. Given that Zhongnanhai has already established alliances with the mullahcracy of Iran, numerous tyrants in Africa, and the Pakistani military (and through them, the Taliban), Washington’s newfound concern for the CCP is thus dangerously limited. Or, as Nadia Schadlow put it in the Weekly Standard:

This geostrategic pivot toward Asia, accompanied by an emphasis on high technology Sino-centric warfare, fails to account for the character of conflict in most of the rest of the disordered world.

One can be certain that the CCP will not “fail to account” for the rest of the world. This leads us to . . .

The ugly: The overall weakening of the American military will make it that much harder to actually achieve the excellent goal of holding the CCP, its tyrannical allies, and its terrorist proxies in check. While Zhongnanhai may find things more difficult in Asia, the regime will likely find eroding American power easier in the rest of the world.

The question then becomes this: will America then weaken itself in Asia to face those other threats abroad? Or will she swallow hard and reverse the manpower and strength reductions that are part of the newly current strategy? This is the question the president, his would-be Republican opponents, and the American people must address – preferably this year.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal and the China e-Lobby

  • Tim J

    Of greater worry is the erosion of our industrial and technical capability to respond to dynamic and emerging threats to our country from not just East Asia, but from bad guys in other places of the world as well.

  • Jamie Jacoby

    “For the first time, the United States is making it clear it has concern about the “peaceful rise” of the Chinese Communist regime, and it is prepared to put resources in place to address that concern. That is a change, and a good one.”

    Has anyone in Congress bothered to discuss what can only be described as a “containment” strategy re: China as it relates to our policy of offshoring all of our productive capacity (which China is more than happy to have; did you kids study WWII? Wealth is produced in a factory, not on the trading floor) in exchange for our willingness to buy useless consumerist Chinese junk, which of course is accompanied by China’s willingness to then lend the money right back to us and hold our IOUs? Our substitution of the “financialized” economy worked for awhile, as fraudulent home mortgage lending blew a housing bubble and everyone cashed in on the mirage of a rising home value, spending the money to fill their McMansions with…useless consumerist Chinese junk.

    All of this is a consequence of being the issuer of the “reserve currency;” dollars are our most important export, because the world runs on them. Get it?

    Now the bill has come due. The party’s over.

    Has anyone bothered to point out that China’s interest on its portion of the US national debt helps pay for China’s military?

    Do you want a strong nation and a strong military? STOP THE DAMNED DEFICIT SPENDING; we are funding our likely enemies. Re-invogorate American productive capacity, the thing that made us strong in the first place.

    Does anyone need a reminder about where most of the 9-11 hijackers came from? Hint: it wasn’t Afghanistan, or Iraq, or China, or even Iran.

  • Fat Dave

    As the Chinese and Persians pour money into R&D, our R&D lags. Our twenty year lead is rapidly shrinking. They’re catching up with us fast, and, when they do, it won’t be pretty.

  • SE VA MWC Alum

    Jamie-good points. These issues are certainly cause for concern. IF China really wants to stir things up and say invade Taiwan, can we really stop them when they own so much of our debt and we rely on them to manufacture so much of our stuff?

  • Steve Vaughan

    Well, even after the cuts, our Defense spending will be more than the next four countries combined, so I don’t worry so much about our overall secrurity situation or our ability to “project force.” I think we ought o rethink if “projecting force” worldwide is really a positive for us, in terms of our overall financial and diplomatic position. Persosnally, I’m not sure I think the need for fewer forces deployed overseas means we need fewer forces. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Army and the Marines who are being cut, stationed on our southern border. You know in most countries protecting the homeland is the job of the military. It’s really strange that we’ve decided it is not.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.