Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some Thoughts About That "Big Footprint"

Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, warns that cutting the defense budget will reduce our navy to the smallest fleet since 1914, and will reduce our standing army to the smallest number of troops since 1940. Actually, that makes perfect sense. In 1914, we were ramping up our navy to face the looming threat of Germany, which had the most powerful navy on the high seas, including the world’s first operational fleet of submarines. Similarly, in 1940, we could see that we would soon face the German army as well as the Japanese. At that time, Germany had the world’s largest and most powerful military machine in the world, and Japan was number two in military might. Those situations required what West Point now refers to in buzzword-speak as a “big footprint.”

Fast forward to 2011. We are told that we still need a “big footprint” to fight the threat imposed by— drum roll, please— the Taliban. According to the Pentagon’s latest assessment, the number of Taliban currently in Afghanistan is about 10,000. Oh, and by the way, the Taliban has no navy. In fact, they have virtually no military infrastructure whatsoever. We’re not talking, here, about pre-war Germany or Japan. And we're most certainly not talking about the Cold War Soviet Union. The plain fact is that America maintains the world’s biggest military simply because it has become the main part of our national identity. It makes us feel good. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make us feel safe.

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