New Military Strategy, Same Old War Mentality
By Bridget Moix on 01/05/2012 @ 03:30 PM
"So yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats." - President Obama
On January 5th, President Obama and Secretary of Defense Panetta released the Pentagon's new military strategy document, designed to guide military budgets and operations for years to come. Despite the heavy rhetoric from President Obama and Secretary Panetta claiming the new strategy represents big changes, I find little more than cosmetic touch ups to the same old war policies that have gotten the US into its current economic and security problems and reaped horrendous global damage along the way.
Yes, the size of the forces will be reduced somewhat. Yes, there's a shift away from the idea of the US being able to fight two major wars simultaneously (that one has been buried in Iraq and Afghanistan already). Yes, military planners will be focusing more on Asia and the Middle East, less on Europe and Latin America. And yes, there will be changes in the budget line items (think more drones and cyberwarfare) presented to Congress.
But, the same failed assumptions (security comes from global domination; war works) and underlying policies (invest first in fighting wars, divide what's leftover for human security) are still at the core of the document. Its authors, the President, Panetta, and far too many members of Congress still seem unable to grasp the undeniable reality of what security means in today's world and what's needed to manage today's threats.
If the US really wants to shift to a new, more effective strategy for promoting national and global security - as Obama and Panetta claim - then policymakers should get serious about planning to prevent wars, not fight them. After all, decades of planning to fight various numbers and forms of warfare at any given time has led to, well, various numbers and forms of warfare at any given time. Go figure.
This unquestioning reliance on military hammers as the tools of choice for dealing with security threats, and the enormous expense in lives and money of doing so, has sapped the imagination, human resources, and funding for alternative approaches. Approaches that are based on the realities that our security in this country is inextricably linked to the security of others. In other words, the fewer wars that are fought, the safer everyone is. (Not rocket science really.) And we need a strategy that faces the fact that the threats the Pentagon itself identifies - violent extremism, weapons proliferation, climate change and regional instability - require non-military tools to manage.
Diplomacy, development, and international cooperation should be the beginning of a new US security strategy - not a few words thrown in at the end with no money attached. These tools - not "smarter" drones or more "agile" forces - - are the tools FCNL sees as core to creating real security, security based on preventing - not fighting -wars, investing in human needs at home and abroad, and working cooperatively as just one player in a shared global community.
Perhaps I would be asking too much for the Pentagon - an institution dedicated to fighting and winning wars - to consider such a shift, but a budget-conscience Congress should at least be demanding it. Preventing wars, after all, is 60 times less costly than responding with military force. Unfortunately, until our policymakers start recognizing that clinging to visions of global military domination only undermines security - ours and the rest of the world's -, I'm afraid we'll be stuck with the same old war mentality wrapped in a shiny new strategy document.