Congress: Enjoy your five-week recess
Last Saturday, this news came in from www.politco.com, “At the stroke of 5:00 on Friday afternoon, House Republicans ended their half-day protest on the darkened chamber floor with a round of ‘God Bless America.’
“That capped a wild day in the chamber, where Republicans, aides and tourists broke all manner of House protocols to protest the Democrats’ decision to leave Washington for the five-week August recess without voting on a measure to open new land to domestic oil and gas exploration.” Apparently, the news that the U.S. consumer sends over $700 billion dollars each year to the Middle East to buy crude oil has yet to reach the Congressional leadership.
This news is not only of interest to consumers but provides a nice lead in to this week’s column which is about how the perfectly obvious course of action is doable and working and yet we see an unwillingness by those in power to do the obvious.
In the about-to-be-released 2008 National Defense Strategy, we read a call for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to boost investments in irregular warfare capabilities by assuming "greater risk" in traditional combat capability areas.
In plain speak, “traditional combat capability” means big artillery pieces and tanks backed by supersonic fighter-bombers designed to stop the Soviets from pouring across Western Europe. Irregular warfare means Green Berets, Red Berets (paratroopers), Navy SEALS in armpit places fighting the kind of war that General David Petraeus has our troops fighting in Iraq.
Despite the success of the surge, the Pentagon top brass rejected the idea of “assuming greater risk in traditional combat capability areas.” No matter, Secretary Gates simply overruled them. Ergo: the focus on irregular warfare will continue and we’ll just keep a wary eye on the Russians.
The 2008 National Defense Strategy isn’t all that new. In fact, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which reflected the thinking of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, took essentially the same view: We must get better at irregular warfare and not worry so much, for the time being, about an attack by industrialized nation-states.
What is interesting, and this gets back to the opening of this column, is that, despite the success of the surge and despite the emphasis of the 2006 QDR on irregular warfare, the Pentagon’s top brass had to be overruled by Secretary Gates.
Where Rumsfeld and Gates differ is that Rumsfeld always took the long view of a long war with the radical Islamic jihadists. Rumsfeld was reluctant to increase our force levels, thinking the “legacy” costs of building up too large a standing force might, someday, bankrupt the nation.
Secretary Gates takes a shorter view and is focused on getting the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan behind us while, at the same time, charging the military to prepare to deal with, not just irregular warfare, but also challenges in space, with natural disasters, with cyber threats and with the growing scramble for natural resources such as oil and water.
The annual budget for the U.S. military establishment is $700 billion dollars. Exactly the number of dollars we ship to the Middle East each year to pay for the oil we could have produced here at home. Some of that $700 billion is used to kill our troops.
Granted we need our troops to be engaging the terrorists “over there,” but if we were independent of foreign oil we would not need so many troops “over there,” and our forces would not be stretched so thin. If we produce our own oil and our Navy has the ability to maintain freedom of the seas and we retain the ability to achieve local air superiority when needed, many of our troops could be back here with their loved ones.
Dear Congress: Enjoy those iced drinks by your heated pools.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton was named a distinguished graduate of the U.S Naval War College in Newport, RI.
©2008. William Hamilton.