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William Stoecker / December 12, 2014

A Conversation About Defense

Eric Holder claims that America needs a conversation about race, meaning that he and similar militants will talk and the rest of us must listen and obey. But what we really need is a conversation about defense…what kind of military do we really need? Just as leftists like to throw other people’s money at real or imagined problems, usually without worrying about exactly how that money can best be allocated to meet the claimed objective, conservatives (or at least neocons) like to throw other people’s money at real or perceived defense needs – to the tune of $495.6 billion for the 2015 fiscal year, not counting tax dollars spent on the VA, Homeland Security, Overseas Contingency Funds, and the alphabet intelligence and security agencies. With this nearly half a trillion dollars we wage seemingly endless, undeclared (and hence unconstitutional) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and station troops all over the world…while leaving our own southern border practically unguarded and inviting into our country militant Muslims from overseas. Perhaps, with our debt increasing and our economy declining, we should think of ways to spend less but do so more intelligently.

Do we need to continue to be the world’s policeman and the UN’s bully boy? Many argue that without our eternal wars and vast presence overseas the world would be a more chaotic and dangerous place, but that is impossible to prove. We have been unable or unwilling to prevent Pakistan and now Iran from developing nuclear weapons; we have not stopped the brutal massacres in the Sudan or the Congo; we can do nothing to save the North Korean people from their Stalinist regime. Before our First Gulf War the Iraqi people suffered under the sadistic Saddam Hussein, but he waged no genocide against the Christians; he did not support international terrorism; and he provided a counterweight to Iran. After two wars, Iraqis are dying like flies and the nation is a base for ISIS. The Shiite leader we installed is an ally of Iran. In Afghanistan our best young people have sacrificed lives and limbs and our treasury has been depleted by countless billions to produce a corrupt regime, increased opium production, and attacks on our people by soldiers of the Afghan Army we finance. There is no light at the end of this tunnel, and if we ever succumbed to a temporary fit of sanity and withdrew, the Taliban would restore Islamist misrule.

The US has an Army, a Navy, and an Air Force. But then we have a second Navy called the Coast Guard, and a second Army, the Marine Corps, which sort of belongs to the Navy. And the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard all have their own air forces; Marine aviation is the Navy’s army’s air force. Perhaps a bit of simplification and streamlining would be helpful, with a unified armed service divided into functional commands: An Army Command, Navy Command, Air and Missile Defense Command, Strategic Nuclear Command, Materiel Command, Training Command, and Intelligence Command. The Marines would be a commando force within the Navy Command.

Presently, the Army has 546,057 soldiers and the Marine Corps another 194,000, giving a total of 740,000 ground troops, plus Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve totaling another 599,244 soldiers and marines. Aside from the fact that our nation’s Founding Fathers opposed (for good reason) a large standing army, if we bring our troops home from defending such endangered nations as Germany and end our pointless wars, we can defend our nation (something we are not presently doing) with much smaller ground forces. Remember that our neighbors to the north and south pose no military threat, and the Pacific and Atlantic are still there, making invasion next to impossible. I would suggest replacing our divisions with extremely large brigades, of perhaps 5,000 troops each, and I would further suggest that we need only about nine such brigades, defending each region of our country, including Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico, one for our Capital, and one for the Panama Canal Zone. Add in an extra artillery brigade, an extra helicopter brigade, two of fixed wing aircraft (air combat and transport) and we have 65,000 troops, many of whom would be in support roles. Add in another 65,000 in purely support brigades and we would need, at the most, 130,000 troops, plus National Guard and reserves.

We will need less capacity for long range force projection if we end our wars and bring most of our troops home. While we will still need a strong Navy Command, do we really need one whose tonnage exceeds that of the next thirteen largest navies combined? Do we really need ten carrier groups? While we should still retain our 14 ballistic missile subs, four guided missile subs, and 55 attack subs, along with a sizeable force of cruisers, frigates, and destroyers, perhaps we should trim the surface fleet a bit, especially the carriers, I would suggest that we could get by with perhaps six or seven, and many of the Navy’s 3,700 aircraft could be land based, as part of an expanded air defense force.

What we really need is more air defenses and more missile defenses – both against ballistic and cruise missiles. Presently the US has deployed the GMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense), using kinetic kill projectiles to destroy enemy ICBMs, in only one site, in Alaska. We are only beginning to deploy, since 2009, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system, which can also take out ICBMs. For slower and shorter range ballistic missiles we have the Patriot system and the Navy’s Aegis system. All of these need to be expanded and deployed in greater numbers, and we need to take advantage of continuing advances in technology, particularly laser technology, to produce a defense that could at least save us from total annihilation, as well as attacks by rogue states.

Typically, Obama has refused to develop a defense against EMP (electromagnetic pulse), both the natural kind caused by massive solar flares and coronal mass ejections, and the manmade kind using high altitude nuclear explosions. We need to harden our computer systems and our electrical grid, especially the transformers. We could at least stockpile spare transformers. And we need to do more to guard against hackers, particularly those based in China, Iran, and North Korea.

If we planned carefully we could reduce our defense budget (there is also a great deal of waste and even corruption in the contracting) and yet be more secure than we are now. Just don’t expect it to happen so long as we are ruled by the likes of Obama, Boehner, Pelosi, and Reid.

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