One thing that has struck me about this year's U.S. election campaign is what - to me, anyway - seems like a very odd political meme. That is the whole business of "Rebuild the U.S. military!" that seems to be a feature of every Republican candidate.
Let me preface this by saying that I think that many of the bog-standard GOP talking points are nonsense. No, the Islamic State is not sending frogmen up the Mississippi to free the Gitmo detainees if they are shipped to Joliet. No, the gummint isn't coming to grab your guns. No, lowering taxes on rich people doesn't raise revenues.
But I'll accept that these are all debatable points. That's just me. I don't agree with them, but I won't argue that nobody should agree with them.
But the pathetic, horrifying, debilitating, globe-spanning weakness of the U.S. armed forces?
Where the hell did THAT come from?
Back in February Mike Zenko wrote up a good piece in Foreign Policy that sums up this whole nonsense and who was saying it. The answer? Pretty much everybody with an (R) behind their name.
The frustrating thing about this is that I know that most American voters don't bother to really think or know anything about actual military capabilities. They wouldn't know an Abrams from a deck chair. They tend to run on what they hear on the television and read on the Internet, and when you have enough people telling you something it takes a very hard-headed person to go counter to that. I hear from "conservative" acquaintances how "Obama has trashed our military" and I can't figure out what the hell they're talking about.
Is it because we have fewer armored divisions than we did in 1945? Or fleet carriers? Or heavy bomb wings?
Because when you think of it...why would we want that?
If we've learned anything from the ridiculous waste of blood and treasure in the Middle East over the past fifteen years we should have learned two things:
First, that there's no power on Earth short of the two other Great Powers, China and Russia, that has a hope in hell of challenging the U.S. in a conventional stand up fight, and that there's no point in arming up to fight either of those polities to a conventional "victory". The U.S. has more than enough conventional power to manage a local or small regional shootout, and anything larger has far too high a chance of going nuclear to be worth risking.
Second, that there's no power on Earth too weak to tie the U.S. into knots if it gets sucked into a local rebellion, civil war, or regional low-intensity spat. A low-birthrate, high-income nation like the U.S. simply doesn't generate enough spare bodies to form the sort of infantry-heavy constabulary units needed to fight such a war and as a news-permeated, middle-class-sensibility polity lacks - hopefully - the sort of callous brutality needed to prosecute such a conflict to a "successful" conclusion.
In other words, the U.S. has military power and more to handle any military adventure it needs to get into, and doesn't need to get into any military adventures it would need more power than that to handle.
I realize that the reason that these Republicans are saying this stuff is to make people afraid and make them run to vote Republican.
But the GOP posits itself as the "grown-up" party, the party of responsibility.
It would seem to me that a grown-up, responsible citizen would be very, very skeptical of all this military scare-mongering.
So why aren't more people saying that? The public press has no reason to simply repeat GOP talking points. Why give them a pass on this?
I cannot think this bodes well for my country.