Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Comment on the Belmont Club:
"The Ghost of Donald Rumsfeld"

Special Forces and surgical air-strikes can do many wonderful things but there is one role that they fail in, deterrence. If you really believe that war is essentially a kinetic phase of a political and psychological encounter, Napoleon's three parts moral, then the measure of a successful plan is whether it prevents the enemy from making you execute the plan. The secret of the Britain's Royal Navy when they ruled the waves was that everyone agreed that it would be impossible to challenge them so no one even tried for almost a hundred years. That allowed the British to keep their fleet largely in port and let politicians wonder about the pointless expenditure.

Rumsfeld crafted and managed systems and plans that could rip through the legacy Stalinist forces of Iraq in 2003 or the tribal formations of the Taliban in 2001. They could and still probably can win any engagement against a potential aggressor. What they cannot do is convince the other party not to challenge us in the first place. It takes two to tango and unfortunately to many players out there look at old newsreels from WW-II and expect to see thousands of tanks and hundreds of artillery tubes lined up side by side with a sky filled with planes overhead and so many ships in the sea that the army could walk across. They are like the drunk in the small town bar who simply will not back down when the female LEO walks in. Yes she is well trained and yes she knows how to use her weapon and yes she can if need be kill him but for reasons that have nothing to do with fairness the drunk will be more likely to sit down and shut up when a 6" 4" 240 lb man in uniform walks in than when a 5' 4" 124 lb female in uniform walks in. If your purpose is to prevent violence then life is not fair and you will on the margin get better results with the big guy.

If the United States had 6 or 700 ships in the Navy, with 15 CVBGs and 9 ARGs, and 15 full strength Army divisions, equipped with artillery they are unafraid to name Crusader, 20,000 nuclear warheads deployed both tactically and in a full strategic triad and at least 500 long range heavy bombers supported by 200 F-22s and 2500 F-35s, then Lil Kim would still be busy trying to kidnap Japanese film starlets, the Chinese would be offering to deliver Soros and Strong in a package with fraternal proof of securities fraud, and the Iranians would be busy exhorting special subsidies for the pistachio market.

Are all those systems expensive? Yes they are and we should only buy 5% more than is necessary to get the bar-room bully to stay in his chair. War is more expensive than peace.

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