June 20, 2014

NO, THAT SHOULD BE "SHRUNK TO ONE FIFTH":

Think Again: The Pentagon : The military's Chicken Littles want you to think the sky is falling. Don't believe them: America has never been safer. (THOMAS P.M. BARNETT MARCH 4, 2013, Foreign Policy)

The Pentagon, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates derisively pointed out, has a bad case of "next-war-itis." With Iraq now ancient history and Afghanistan winding down, all four of the major U.S. military services today prefer to imagine distant, future, high-tech shoot-'em-ups against China (er, well-equipped adversaries) over dealing with the world as we find it, which is still full of those nasty little wars. As Marine Corps general and outgoing Central Command boss James Mattis once told me, "I find it intellectually embarrassing that people want to hug the Chinese [and exclaim], 'Oh, thank God we have another peer competitor at last! Now we can go back to building the weapons that we always wanted to build.'"

Some of these efforts can verge on the ridiculous. I recently sat through an Air Force briefing during which super-empowered individuals were portrayed as thiiiiiis close to being able to wipe out humanity with a genetic weapon or to kill off -- get this -- more than half the U.S. population through electromagnetic-pulse attacks that send us collectively back to subsistence farming (think of the TV drama Revolution). Another scenario posited a "one-machine" future when, naturally, the "beast" starts thinking for itself and can turn on humanity (here, take your pick of Terminator's Skynet or the Matrix trilogy). That's the beautiful thing about Armageddon-like future wars: They could happen tomorrow, or they could never happen. The only thing we know for sure is that we're totally unprepared!

If you thought all these plotlines portray a Pentagon in search of the right justifying villain, then you'd be right. But remember, amid all this institutional angst, what's really being fought over are slices of a $530 billion budgetary pie that many experts think should be shrunk by one-fifth over the rest of this decade.
Posted by at June 20, 2014 8:30 PM
  
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