Is military spending vulnerable in post-Inouye Hawaii?

Two more bits of national attention for Hawaii.

First, the New York Times: “Loss of Inouye Means Loss of Clout for Hawaii.”

Reporter Jeremy Peters goes through the standard tracing of earmarks that flowed to the islands during Inouye’s long tenure, but then he mentions the unmentionable issue of Hawaii’s political vs. strategic importance.

Mr. Inouye, who lost his right arm in combat during World War II, also persuaded the United States military to leave its bases in Hawaii open, even though the state is no longer as vital for strategic defense purposes. The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine Corps all maintain installations here.

“There were several times that there was talk of Pearl Harbor being shut down, but he protected us from that,” said Jeanne Ishikawa, who attended a memorial service for Mr. Inouye on Oahu over the weekend. [emphasis added]

Then the Wall Street Journal laid out suggestions for a four-day visit to Honolulu (“Take Monday Off: Honolulu“).

Here’s writer Julia Flynn Siler’s capsule description emphasizing a local-haole conflict which, she says, “is never far from the surface.

Hawaii may seem like a tropical idyll, but its long history of conflict between locals and foreigners—who are known by the Hawaiian term “haole” (pronounced howl-eee)—is never far from the surface. Part Polynesian, part Asian, part military base, part honeymoon destination, Hawaii’s capital of Honolulu, located on the southeastern side of Oahu island, is arguably the most foreign of U.S. cities, as well as one of the loveliest.


Unfortunately, her Day 4 itinerary skips from Sunset Beach all the way to the Nuuanu Pali, without even a mention of Kaaawa, the Crouching Lion, Uncle Bobo’s, or the delights of nearby Kualoa Ranch.

Nor any mention of the rapid loss of the rural character of the area that will result if developments being proposed, including the expansion of Turtle Bay and the Mormon’s development of Malaekahana, are approved and go forward.

23 responses to “Is military spending vulnerable in post-Inouye Hawaii?

  1. Since you mentioned Uncle Bobo’s, I assume it’s still open. I used to eat there at least once a week but haven’t been there for about a year. Someone told me that it had closed a few months ago. True?

  2. Michael in Waikiki

    “Is military spending vulnerable in post-Inouye Hawaii?”


  3. Pearl Harbor is more than the shipyard. Am inclined to believe our “vitality” sufficient to hold on to our present role.

  4. Everyone misses the best part of Oahu..I personally would like to live without the polluting military presence.

  5. Russel Yamashita

    Take a look at the CNBC story/listing of federal spending per capital by state. Hawaii is not listed as a big beneficiary, it is only number 4 on this top ten list. What is very important to note is the total federal spending in the state at $21.48 Billion.

    A whopping $12.4 Billion is listed as Homeland Security and Social Security is only $3.2. There were no figures for Medicaid or social programs, but one can assume that only a small portion can be attributed to those programs.

    So what does that tell us? Should the DOD decide to cut a ton of money, I am sure they are looking at big ticket items like the Pearl Harbor Shipyard, Barking Sands missle facility, the 18 P-8A Poseidon submarine-hunting jets, Stryker Brigade, the submarines based at Pearl Harbor, the Maui Super Computer, and a whole list of other programs or units.

    Add to that the cuts to the $12.4 Billion from Homeland Security, Hawaii could easily be facing cuts in the range of $3 to $6 billion of federal spending in the next couple of years, or sooner should we hit the “Fiscal Cliff” on Monday night. In the long term, I think we should reasonably be prepared to see federal spending cuts in Hawaii in the $8 to $10 billion range.

    Now if Governor Abercrombie did not return to run in 2010 and stayed in Congress, he would now have 22+ years of seniority in the House Arm Services committee and would be in a position to protect Hawaii from some of these cuts. His choice to run for Governor has put Hawaii in a distinct disadvantage at this time and his justification of appointing Schatz on the need for seniority in Congress seems to be contradicted by his own actions.

    • At some point, even dedicated politicians should be allowed to let personal concerns and needs take precedence in their lives. After 20 years in Washington, making the grueling round trip 15-20 times a year, Neil wanted to finally come home. So now it will be his fault if, in these fiscal cliff times, Hawaii loses federal dollars??

      • Russel Yamashita

        Yes. If the shoe fits, then it is on his watch he let down the people of Hawaii in that respect. If Schatz gets home sick for loco mocos, is that a justification for him leaving Washington? If you are to be a leader for this State, you better man up and take one for the voters.

        We didn’t keep electing Abercrombie for his good looks for 20 years, his social contract with the electorate was to get his seniority and use it for the benefit of the State and those who supported his election.

        • This is an interesting perspective. So anyone running for Congress has to be willing to serve for life come hell or high water?

          For the vast majority of people in executive positions, twenty years is a decent run.

          On the other hand, you have a critical mass of people decrying “career” politicians.

          Hard to have it both ways.

          • Did I say anything about “career” politicians that implied they should all get out? In life you take the good with the bad, that is just a given. Only a fool or a child (or a liberal Democrat) think we live in a perfect world (or can legislate one).

            Sometimes we luck out and get a fantastic legislator who is really for the people and a tough realist who can bring back the bacon for his constiuents. That was Senator Inouye.

            He wasn’t flawless or perfect, but he worked to the very end for the people of Hawaii who sent him to Washington. He went over all the minute details on legislation that affected Hawaii and communicated with the affected groups in Hawaii to make sure we were not getting “thrown under the bus” by the legislation. He wasn’t 100% perfect on all the issues and legislation, but at least he tried his hardest to cover as many bases as possible. After all, he was only human.

            The political reality is that Hawaii has only four votes in Congress. Compared to California, Florida, Texas and New York, our Congressional delegation is dwarfed by the massive number of votes they control. The facts are simple, these numbers cannot be ignored. The people we send to Congress had better be the smartest and toughest politicians from now on. The best test would be to drop candidates in the Southside of Chicago at 2 a.m. and let the survivors run for Congress.

            • It’s not responsibility of US tax payers to subsidIze economy of Hawaii with pork? Hawaii needs to create an environment to promote business diversiy instead of relying on corporate welfare and tourism only.

              The MHPCC is a big government boondoggle with a very low return on investment

  6. I prefer the term “exotic” to “foreign.” Sounds sexier.

  7. Military spending is vulnerable in Hawaii, regardless of who’s Senator, I believe… especially if the lawmakers have their way. Cutting military spending is on top of the list.

  8. Although I certainly do not support the United States’ general involvement in foreign wars, I do have to support the human beings who live here, send their children to our schools, volunteer in our communities, buy STUFF off base, and suport our economy.

    On our street in Enchanted Lake (Kailua), there are at least 8 military families. Their children and their spouses enrich our community by playing sports, being involved in environmental and artistic groups, and keeping Kailua clean and safe.

    I cannot imagine what it would be like if approximately 125,000 people of all ages left O`ahu over the next three or four years. .

    • further evidence the military is not just for defense;
      it’s yet another form of desperate welfare in a state that fails to produce. now that Inouye’s gone, Hawaii is going to pay dearly for failing to motivate and develop ITSELF. handouts rarely last forever; ask Greece. don’t like this? sorry, but you might have to start imagining some military cuts in Hawaii. it’s one thing for people on the mainland to support a critical military portal; but supporting a retirement place for military families? this is not in the major US priority list.

  9. Whoops!!! support, not suport

  10. Like most pundits’ projections of the future, you are likely to do just as well flipping a coin.

    Given that the center of the world economy is shifting big time to Asia, I think that the conclusion that Hawaii’s strategic value as a major naval base in the middle of the Pacific has declined should be assigned a low probability of being correct.

    Hawaii is also used as a benefit to encourage re-upping, according to my friends in the military. They can guarantee that they will have a tour here if they re-enlist.

    I think that Sen. Inouye’s clout will be most missed on the social side where his support was critical for lots of native Hawaiian programs and other programs providing benefits to local folks.

  11. And spare me the observations on ethnic tensions from Mainlanders who have little understanding of or experience with the subtle cultural mixtures of Hawaii.

    We aren’t perfect, but day to day we prove to the world that a mixture of ethnicities, cultures, and religions can live together amicably. In my experience, in Hawaii, if you show respect, you get treated with respect.

    • Spend more time driving on the freeways; there is little respect, regardless of where you are on Oahu. Many people, regardless of culture and race, just do not pay attention to other cars and other people.

      • I regularly see people letting people merge in a zipper like fashion – first you, then me, then the next person alternating.

        I rarely see anything like that driving on the West Coast or in Michigan. People do not slow down to let you in, wave you on, etc. If anything, they step on the gas to make sure that you don’t get in ahead of them.

  12. Plenty people get plenty issues.

  13. compare and decide

    I don’t know if you’ve been looking at Civil Beat, but there is commentary there by conservatives stating to the effect that Hawaii is full of spoiled-brat liberals living off the fat of the US federal government, and as Hawaii loses its senior Senators, we will all learn the hard way that the only sound way to prosperity is by fostering a sound business environment.

    But you will notice in the comment(s) above a conservative effectively asserts that liberal idealists in Hawaii need to stop day dreaming and come to realize that the task of effective politicians isn’t creating well-intentioned programs but bringing home the pork, and that Dan Inouye was a great conservative politicians because he did not waste his time on legislation, but on bringing home the money.

    One will notice that in both cases, the focus of the conservative rhetoric is on the need for realism, even though the actual arguments being made about the role of the federal government in Hawaii contradict one another.

    That is, the emotional core of the arguments is the same, although the policies diverge radically.

    Likewise, you will find in the comments above the argument by a leftist that Senator Dan Inouye was a great liberal and that — thank goodness! — the US military is here to stay.

    What you have is a conservative policy position on the US military in Hawaii being argued passionately and self-righteously by a leftist in the old leftist fashion.

    So what one finds in terms of ideological positions is an underlying mentality that is rooted in temperament and personality.

    This may have a biological basis.

  14. compare and decide

    There could be a dramatic downsizing of the US military presence in Hawaii.

    The ‘tilt to Asia’ is not necessarily a tilt to Hawaii.

    In a nutshell, there may be a bit less of a military presence in terms of the Navy and Air Force, and much, much less of a presence in terms of the Army and Marines.

    An article from the European Institute’s website entitled “HISTORIC SHIFT IN U.S. DEFENSE STRATEGY WILL HAVE MAJOR IMPACT ON EUROPE”

    What is going on now represents the confluence of long-term budget cuts, technological change, changed military doctrines and changed political ideologies.

    [A] preview of the sweeping change that appears to be underway may have been discernible at a closed-door, invitation-only meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington in March. Two respected defense intellectuals – Barry Posen of MIT, Stephen Walt of Harvard’s Kennedy School – made the case that the need for deep cuts in the defense budget was providing financial reinforcement for bloody lessons of strategic over-reach meted out to the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. They cited current facts – on the battlefield, in the budget wars and among American public opinion – as all pointing to the same conclusion. The longstanding U.S. security posture based on forward-leaning interventionism and prolonged military occupation for stability and nation-building needs to be replaced with a U.S. role of “off-shore balancing” to regional allies protect their regional interests as part of global stability underpinned by U.S. capabilities.

    Both professors (along with colleagues such as John Mearsheimer at Chicago) have long espoused this shift. Posen calls it “a grand strategy of restraint” based on the view that America’s position in the world is so secure that the nation can afford to draw back from the global activism born in the cold war and reborn at 9/11. In practice, the U.S. would back away both from extensive ground-force interventions with its own military and also from security guarantees that have fostered dependence. Instead, Washington would put its emphasis on political work encouraging regional powers to negotiate their own solutions to regional problems. Allies would have to build their own defense capabilities, and U.S. power would be used mainly as “balancing leverage” to maintain stability in regional rivalries. For this role, America does not need the current array of manned bases around the world: its air and naval forces give it unmatched global power-projection.

    Basically, the Cold War is finally being acknowledged as finished, and Russia recognized as not a threat to Europe or the US at all. The US presence in Europe is going to be a thing of the past. This process of disengaging from Europe has been going on for almost a quarter of a century. More importantly, terrorism is just not a big threat anymore, if it ever was.

    Then, there are the budget constraints. Budget cuts to the military will be drastic and inevitable, especially to the less mobile Army and Marines, as opposed to the Navy and Air Force.

    Economically, things are even worse than when President Clinton slashed the defense budget in the 1990s in the wake of the Reagan deficit.

    Money (or rather the lack of it) has lent urgency to that re-think. The U.S. defense budget has been cut and is certain to be cut again. In broad-brush terms, the defense budget has been taken hostage in the battle to reduce the U.S.’ overall debt. The Budget Control Act, passed last August in a Congressional deal to raise the government’s debt ceiling, mandated that $487 billion be cut from defense spending to be distributed over the decade to 2021. The 2012 defense budget is $550 billion, plus $115 billion to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.) Presenting the Pentagon budget for next year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went some way to starting on cuts aimed at that $487 billion target. He called for eliminating 92,000 Army and Marine Corps troops, retired ships and aircraft and delayed some costly new weapons systems. But that is only a first installment. Panetta’s announced cuts are only those to be made in the next five years and take him only 70 percent of the way to the target, so a second round of cutbacks must follow. And there is worse news for the Pentagon on the horizon. Because Congress has failed to agree on further government-spending cuts as part of an overall deficit reduction deal, so-called “sequestration” will be applied starting in January 2013: this mandates another $550 billion cut in defense spending over the next decade. The Pentagon regards the prospect as so outlandish that, at least officially, no planning has begun on how to meet it. In reality, said one Congressional defense analyst: “The building thought 487 [billion] would be the floor under defense spending. They’re beginning to realize it will be the new ceiling.”

    The cuts will go very deep, predicts Gordon Adams, a respected defense budget analyst who oversaw defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton White House. In his view, whoever wins in November will confront three interlocking tasks: deficit reduction; entitlement reduction; and the tax reforms to allow these. The defense budget, Adams predicts, will be the “bank” that people raid to avoid cuts elsewhere — or to make those more politically palatable. Adams sees sequestration’s further $550 billion cut as inevitable: the question, he says, is not whether but when still deeper cuts are made. Other analysts – Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, for example – tend to agree with this forecast, notwithstanding the campaign pledges of the Republican party and its presidential contender Mitt Romney to protect defense spending.

    Geopolitically, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the looming threat of a full-scale invasion, the goal of US policy is now to maintain regional stability in areas where rising economic powers like China can disrupt the status quo. (In contrast, the Soviet Union represented the status quo, and the European theatre of the Cold War was actually very stable.) This change in thinking goes back to the strategic re-evaluation of the Bush administration, even though the Bush administration, and the early Obama administration, were absorbed by the wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

    Now Rumsfeld’s review pointed to China: “although the United States will not face a peer competitor in the near future, the potential exists for regional powers to develop sufficient capabilities to threaten stability in regions critical to U.S. interests. In particular, Asia is gradually emerging as a region susceptible to large-scale military competition…Maintaining a stable balance in Asia will be a complex task. The possibility exists that a military competitor with a formidable resource base will emerge in the region.” Coping with that would mean “developing systems capable of sustained operations at great distances with minimal theater-based support” – meaning naval and long-range air power.

    Every subsequent review has echoed Rumsfeld’s judgment. In August 2004, Bush announced the first earnest of the shift away from Europe: “the most comprehensive restructuring of U.S. military forces overseas since the end of the Korean War,” the White House boasted. The U.S. would “close hundreds of U.S. facilities overseas and bring home about 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed personnel and approximately 100,000 family members and civilian employees.” “The world has changed a great deal, and our posture must change with it,” Bush said. Worldwide, the U.S. would cut its foreign installations from 850 to 550 – two-thirds of those closings in Europe. Of the 70,000 coming home – most of them Army – 40,000 would come from Europe. In total, the biggest pull-back would be from Europe.

    Rumsfeld was expected to elaborate on a strategy underpinning those dramatic shifts in his next Quadrennial Defense Review in February 2006, offering what one aide predicted would be “a fulcrum of transition to a post-9/11 world.” But Rumsfeld was distracted – and increasingly exhausted – by Iraq and Afghanistan. And, as a former Congressman, he knew the grueling bureaucratic battles with the military and Congress that would greet any precise detailing of how the services and their weapons programs should be reshaped.

    What his QDR unequivocally did in 2006 was put America’s allies, and especially the Europeans, on notice that the U.S. looked for their help in contingencies outside Europe. British, Canadian and Australian officers were even integrated into some QDR analysis teams; Pentagon civilians racked up frequent-flyer miles in multiple discussions with NATO as an organization and with its core members. The QDR stressed America’s need to work with existing allies and to find new partners – especially for large-scale “stability” operations like Iraq and Afghanistan, which the QDR saw as a major future mission. (Gone was Bush’s initial disdain for “nation building” as beneath the U.S. military.) The task of “building partnership capacity” was singled out as one to which the Pentagon would devote more time and thought. Implicit in this, of course, was the need for allies to invest in the new technologies that the Pentagon was now pouring money into.

    A severe critic of this review – as lacking strategic specificity – was Michele Flournoy, who then under Obama was ensconced on the Pentagon’s E-Ring as Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. But her own first attempt to refocus American defenses went nowhere – mainly because of Robert Gates, who had replaced Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary and was then asked to stay on by Obama. In fairness, Gates thought that gazing into the future had its place, but first and foremost he was determined to keep a reluctant Obama focused on winning the wars America was already fighting: even though they were “Bush’s wars.” Iraq and Afghanistan must be “the top of the institutional military’s budgeting, policy and program objective…because we now recognize that America’s ability to deal with threats for years to come will depend importantly on our success in the current conflicts,” Gates maintained. Even Flournoy accepted this argument about changed circumstances when she presented Obama administration’s first QDR in 2010: supporting and bolstering the all-volunteer forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, “we see not as aberrations but really as harbingers of a dynamic and complex future landscape.”

    So, preparing for “major stabilization operations” was judged to be crucial in Obama’s first term. Circumspectly, China was noted as “one of the most consequential aspects of the evolving strategic landscape” and relations with China would be “multi-dimensional.” It was mentioned that China’s lack of transparency about its military raised “legitimate questions” – which, as one Congressional analyst noted drily, “is as close as the discussion [came] to treating China’s growing military capabilities as a potential threat.” On the other hand, the QDR’s stress on new capabilities to defeat “anti-access” and “area-denial” strategies – and its push on cyber and space warfare – were clearly responses to Chinese developments. But shackled by Gates to current wars, this QDR looked out only five-to-seven years, rather than the 20 years Congress had mandated for the study.

    Six months later Congress waded in with its own “QDR independent panel” that was told to go beyond the bureaucratic shortsighted approach and look out 20 years. It did and it saw China. Its findings were brutally critical of the Obama team’s effort. The QDR’s proposed force structure “may not be sufficient to assure others that the United States can meet its treaty commitments in the face of China’s increased military capabilities.” The remedy? In the Asia-Pacific region, “a robust U.S. force structure, one that is largely rooted in maritime strategy…will be essential.” The panel called for a bigger navy, and much greater long-range strike capabilities for warplanes and warships.

    And Gates agreed. Gates used his final months in office last year to make a series of speeches laying out what he saw as “hard truths.” In Brussels, he was scathing about European “nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets”, and he warned of “dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress” to finance this. In his last address to the cadets at West Point, Gates was equally blunt about future U.S. force structure. He observed: “The reality [is] that the most plausible high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf or elsewhere. The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces…is self-evident…but in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East should ‘have his head examined’, as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” (Gates evidently expected the cadets to know that this phrase had been MacArthur’s advice in 1961, to incoming President John Kennedy, regarding U.S. military intervention in Vietnam.) To ram the point home, Gates repeated it later: “The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq – invading, pacifying and administering a large third-world country – may be low.” {emphasis added}

    These last two sentences are awesome in their implications.

    First, General Douglas MacArthur warned President Kennedy against a ground war in Asia.

    Second, Secretary Gates – who pushed for continuing with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq until some sort of victory or closure was reached – was himself probably against getting involved in those countries in the first place.

    Third, this has profound significance for a tectonic shift in US military doctrine, involving a return to an earlier overall strategy.

    His comments have seismic implications for the shape and missions of future U.S. armed forces. Instead of “major stabilization operations,” the shaping function for U.S. forces will be one looking to what has been called “a second transoceanic era.” Through the cold war, America deployed its military according to what imperial Britain used to call the Continental Strategy: direct commitment of forces on land. Now America, at least the Obama administration, seems to be moving towards what those same British planners called a Maritime Strategy: an offshore presence, intervening when necessary to support allies through unmatched power-projection.

    In practice, America seems to be quietly reverting to what was U.S. strategy for almost all its history: expeditionary forces housed almost wholly on U.S. territory, with access to bases pre-negotiated with allies around the world. After the 2008-2009 economic crisis and this election-year focus on America’s unsustainable budget deficit, the near certainty of drastic cutbacks in defense budgets has finally forced a decision that defense reviews approached but then shied away from: U.S. deployments in Europe are a hangover from the cold war; and the U.S. role in NATO needs to be re-thought.

    This involves fewer ground troops, relying on non-American troops of US allies, and stationing what troops the US has in Asia itself.

    The gloomier scenarios circulating inside the Pentagon foresee Special Forces continuing to expand, while conventional ground forces shrink by a third or more – taking the active-duty Army down from its present 570,000 to well below 400,000. Numbers like that indicate the political calculus behind the new strategy: to meet any significant ground-combat contingency, America will be calling for forces from its allies — well-equipped forces.

    Meanwhile, the shift in focus to Asia is already under way. Panetta talked of “enhanced presence, power projection and deterrence in Asia-Pacific.” But he also talked of “develop[ing] low-cost and small-footprint approaches to achieving our security objectives.” The moves in Asia fit that pattern. The first of 2500 Marines have already arrived at an existing Australian base in Darwin. The Navy will have use of Perth, Australia’s great west coast port. The Cocos Islands, an Australian-owned cluster of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean, will house long-range U.S. surveillance drones. Agreements with Vietnam and Singapore give the U.S. access to bases there. Washington is negotiating with the Philippines to expand U.S. access to part of its former giant bases there. In effect, piece by piece across the region, a network of U.S. bases is being put together that much resembles Rumsfeld’s notion of “lily pads.”

    Again, this strategic revolution goes back to the Bush administration just after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

    Actually, there is a sharp break in the series – before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The reviews of the 1990s clung to the cold War paradigm: standing forces, mostly forward-deployed, sized to fight two major regional conflicts of the traditional sort — U.S. forces halting and reversing cross-border aggression by massed mechanized forces. The 1991 Desert Storm campaign to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was, in all essentials, a battle plan borrowed from the European central front. But that was an exception. As a rule in the 1990s, the U.S. military found itself enmeshed in a chain of smaller operations: Iraq no-fly-zones, Bosnia’s civil war, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia and Kosovo. Meanwhile, the military was being asked to pay a “peace dividend” after the cold war’s end, with military shrinking by a third and defense spending dropping 40 percent. As in the wake of Vietnam, the specter loomed of a “hollow force.”
    Then came George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. Nowadays it can be hard to remember what Bush contemplated coming into office the year before 9/11. He had made predictable campaign pledges to restore military spending (“help is on the way”), but he had also criticized Pentagon failures to adapt to the post-cold war world. Bush saw the U.S. military as clinging to cold war weapons systems rather than embracing the “revolution in the technology of war” – he instanced too few precision-strike and unmanned systems and too many troop garrisons dispersed around the world. “As President, I will order an immediate review of our overseas deployments in dozens of countries,” he said. While pledging to continue defending allies from aggression, he said that “the problem comes with open-ended deployments and unclear military missions.” He pointed to the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Kosovo – ironically, both small-scale precursors of the then-unforeseen campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    At the time, those who drafted that speech murmured that the U.S. deployments in Europe would be in Bush’s sights, too. In Donald Rumsfeld, Bush found a corporate make-over specialist impatient to bludgeon the Pentagon into change to “stimulate [his] thinking” as defense secretary, Rumsfeld commissioned a series of studies by a mix of in-house and outside experts, instructing them to “be bold.” The “conventional forces study” was led by David Gompert, longtime Rand analyst and National Security Council veteran. The study’s prescience is striking, nowhere more so for Europeans than its rethink of U.S. “forward presence” and its changed view of allies. Gompert’s group recommended, as he put it, “a concept which is not, I repeat, not to abandon the idea of forward presence” but which transformed its rationale. “The [cold war] notion of a fixed, large permanent presence on U.S. bases isn’t going to be adequate,” Gompert said.
    Instead, he added, “[a]s I look at the bases in Japan and in Europe, I see them as having most value not for the protection of Japan and the protection of Europe, but for staging to the other areas where we’re more likely to have to use force.” That notion was soon to be overtaken by events, but only temporarily: it has re-emerged under Obama (who not coincidentally relied on Gompert in 2009-2010, as his acting director of national intelligence). In this now-recurrent view, the U.S. needs a permanent military presence at only a handful of ”main operating bases” around the world that function essentially as key logistical hubs. In times of crisis and combat, they will be supplemented and gain outreach by bilateral agreements giving U.S. forces strictly temporary access to a network of bases in other countries — “lily pads,” Rumsfeld called them.
    Then came 9/11. That horror and the wars that followed convinced Rumsfeld of several things. The U.S. military’s overseas deployments were “seriously obsolete.” And NATO, as such, was of uncertain value. Rumsfeld’s bitter crack about “Old Europe” was passed off as rhetorical overkill, but he meant it. Some European allies were willing to collaborate with the U.S. in expeditions outside Europe; most were not. Very well, the U.S. would look for “coalitions of the willing.”
    In fact, 9/11 confirmed a view that Rumsfeld and his officials had already been forming. Less than three weeks later, Rumsfeld’s first Quadrennial Defense Review appeared: it changed the metrics in all previous reviews (essentially force-planning based on defined scenarios of likely future conflicts) and replaced them with what Rumsfeld called “a ‘capabilities-based’ model” contingencies of a global war on terror. U.S. forces must be ready to fight anywhere, against all sorts of adversaries. Henceforth, the “central front” (Europe, facing Russia) was no longer a threat: “With the notable exception of the Balkans, Europe is largely at peace.” And, from an old cold warrior such as Rumsfeld, this momentous conclusion: “Russia…does not pose a large-scale military threat to NATO.”

    Although the author does not mention this, it also involves a change in political ideology.

    In the 19th century, US foreign policy was isolationistic. Isolationism was associated with the Republican Party. One can still see that with Patrick Buchanon and Ron Paul.

    Starting with WWI, the US embarked on an internationalist foreign policy, which is associated with the Democratic Party (and President Wilson in particular). The wiki:

    Liberal internationalism is a foreign policy doctrine that argues that liberal states should intervene in other sovereign states in order to pursue liberal objectives. Such intervention can include both military invasion and humanitarian aid. This view is contrasted to isolationist, realist, or non-interventionist foreign policy doctrines, which oppose such intervention. These critics characterize it as liberal interventionism.

    Liberal Internationalism emerged during the nineteenth century, notably under the auspices of British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister Lord Palmerston and was developed in the second decade of the 20th century under U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

    This foreign policy doctrine to some degree migrated to or was appropriated by Republicans.

    In the US, it is often associated with the American Democratic Party; however, many neo-conservative thinkers in the United States have begun using similar arguments as liberal internationalists and, to the extent that the two ideologies have become more similar, it may show liberal internationalist thinking is spreading within the Republican Party.[2] Others argue that neoconservatism and liberal internationalism are distinctly different foreign policy philosophies and neoconservatives may only employ rhetoric similar to a liberal internationalist but with far different goals and methods of foreign policy intervention.

    This is also known as “foreign policy idealism”.

    This idealist doctrine broke down severely with the start of the Second World War, but then was revived, and then broke down in Vietnam.

    Under Kissinger and Nixon, there was a turn toward foreign policy realism focused on balance-of-power politics (e.g., Nixon visiting communist China and recognizing it over Taiwan as the true China, in order to help further the divide between China and the Soviet Union). One of the code words in this tradition is “off-shore balancing”. This is what Obama is fully embracing in Asia.

    So one irony is that the Bush administration embraced a neo-conservative foreign policy (rooted in liberal internationalism) calling for the single-handed invasion of an entire country just as the Bush administration embraced a military doctrine calling for a smaller, lighter, high-tech military.

    Another irony is that the Democratic Obama administration is tilting not just toward Asia, but toward a realist foreign policy. Realism is migrating to the Democratic Party. (In fact, this might be true in terms of fiscal policy as well, starting with Clinton.)

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