Jewish World Review June 14, 2002 / 4 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The arrest of Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al Muhajir, suspected of plotting to detonate a radiological "dirty" bomb in an American city, should remind us all that we are in the midst of a war in which nearly 3,000 Americans have died, and in which tens of thousands more may die if we do not do our utmost to win.
There are few such reminders in the defense procurement budget for next year. The vast majority of the $68.7 billion President Bush has proposed for weapons will be spent on systems which will be of little use in the war on terror.
The United States spends about as much on the military as does the rest of the world combined. This helps explain why we are the world's only superpower. But it also suggests - especially when some in the Pentagon leak concerns about how difficult it might be to fight Iraq - that we aren't getting much value for what we spend.
Afghanistan, and Kosovo before it, demonstrated the absolute supremacy of the U.S. Air Force. In particular, they showed the value of long range bombers and strategic airlift. But the three most expensive programs in the 2003 budget are for new fighters - even though no air force in the world can compete with the ones we have now.
The Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle are the finest in the world. But now that the Cold War is over, we have far more of them than we need. We used barely a third of our inventory during the Persian Gulf War. Even in the brain-dead plan for an invasion of Iraq supported by General Tommy Franks, commander of Central Command, (which ignores, among other things, that we have an Air Force), fewer than half the tanks we used then would be needed now. Yet the Army plans to spend $191 million to modify the Abrams.
The Army also plans to spend $812 million on an overweight armored car that won't fit into the Air Force's tactical airlifter, the C-130. This despite the fact the Army already has in its inventory a vehicle - the M113 armored personnel carrier - that is superior in most ways to the Stryker. If you wonder what an M113 is, turn on cable tv. The Israelis use it all the time. The bulk of the Navy's budget will be spent on major surface combatants, which are of little use in chasing guerrillas across the desert. Little will be spent to develop a "brown water" capability which could be invaluable in port security.
The biggest item in the Marine procurement budget is for the tilt-rotor Osprey, despite the fact the Marines could buy a helicopter with 90 percent of the range and payload of the Osprey, and none of its problems, for one seventh its cost. The Nighthawk could be used in the war we're fighting now, while the Osprey won't be combat ready for years, if ever. But buying stuff we could actually use in the war we're fighting now seems to be as low a priority in the Corps as in the other services.
The only concession the Pentagon has made to the war on terror is to create another major command, Northern Command, even though homeland defense is chiefly the responsibility of the FBI, and the various agencies President Bush hopes to group in a Department of Homeland Security.
More cushy jobs for generals and admirals won't win the war on terror. For that we need more light infantry, with airmobile capability and light armor support. But we won't get what we need until we interrupt business as usual.
The U.S. has global responsibilities. We must be prepared for other contingencies. We need a strong Navy and Air Force to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, or a North Korean attack on South Korea. The best way to make sure no potentially hostile nation develops a capacity to challenge our fighter aircraft or heavy mechanized forces is to maintain a robust capability of our own.
But preparing for contingencies which probably won't arise ought not to take priority over mobilizing to win the war we're fighting now. During World War II, General Marshall didn't worry much about threats China or Brazil might pose in the far distant future. He focused on beating the Germans and the Japanese. Would that our current crop of generals and admirals had Marshall's priorities, and his sense of urgency.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces