opinion web
Liberal Opinion General Opinion
Austin Bay
Austin Bay
25 Mar 2015
Yemen 2015: From Success to Cesspool

The State Department's March 21 press release confirming the abrupt retreat of American personnel from Yemen … Read More.

18 Mar 2015
September 2009: Obama Diplomacy in Wretched Miniature

Poles knew September 2009 would be a bitter month. It marked the 70 anniversary of their country's great geo-… Read More.

11 Mar 2015
Remembering Remagen Bridge: A Lesson in American Initiative

The March 7, 1945, seizure the Rhine River's Remagen Bridge by a U.S. Army task force is an outstanding … Read More.

Defense Manifesto 2012: Obama Channels Rumsfeld


President Barack Obama's new American defense strategy doesn't look so new. His election-slanted Defense Strategic Guidance manifesto sounds more than a bit like Donald Rumsfeld-era chatter circa summer 2001. Aircraft, ships, smart weapons and intelligence systems? Yea, verily. Ground troops? Not so much, because we're done with Clinton-era peacekeeping, we'll save money (soldiers are expensive!) — and hear this, Luddites, it's the 21st century.

Like Rumsfeld, Obama intends to cut ground forces. Admittedly, we don't know how severe his cuts will be, and one thing observant Americans have learned is that the White House can quickly recast numbers (e.g., unemployment figures).

1990s post-Cold War cuts pruned ground troops. I thought Rumsfeld's deeper cuts were strategically unsound. On Aug. 26, 2001, the San Antonio Express News published an essay of mine titled "Grunt Work." It argued that the U.S. needed lots of infantrymen. Given Obama's neo-Rumsfeldian strategy, several lines from that article remain germane.

"The presence of soldiers, of flesh and blood committed to combat, remains the ultimate statement of political will to persevere and win. ... Technology is fundamental to success in battle. War, however, is still won in hearts and minds, particularly wars waged by liberal democracies. ... The U.S. will inevitably confront situations where technologically superior weapons aren't strategically decisive. ... Pentagon 'reform' will fail unless we field a force competent across 'the spectrum of conflict.' That means fielding both competent Private E2s and B-2 bombers, a force trained to use the bayonet as well as the brightest smart bomb."

For these observations I was dubbed a Luddite by a Beltway defense genius in a letter that ran in the Pentagon's "Early Bird" news, short days before 9-11 plunged us into a war with an enemy who believed America lacked the will to persevere. The last decade has demonstrated otherwise. The persistent on-the-ground presence of combat soldiers supporting a policy of political modernization and liberalization in Afghanistan and then Iraq was something al-Qaida ideologues did not imagine. As we hunted down its leaders, we ground down al-Qaida's claim to divine sanction and superior moral stamina.

That took trained soldiers.

It's a paradox only old soldiers and a handful of strategists fully appreciate. On the media-shaped strategic battlefield, trained soldiers are often the most strategically decisive military force. This runs completely counter to the Obama 2008 campaign narrative regarding Afghanistan and Iraq.

In many respects, this 2012 manifesto is really Candidate Obama 2008's retreat from the Global War on Terror camouflaged in Pentagonese. The president's introduction claims "we have responsibly ended the war in Iraq, put al-Qaida on the path to defeat ... and made significant progress in Afghanistan, allowing us to begin the transition to Afghan responsibility."

Agree on al-Qaida's path, but Iraq ended responsibly? That's arguable from many angles, to include the assertion that it's ended and we left responsibly. Obama's failure to commit a residual force to Iraq may have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; we don't know yet. But the tout is campaign sloganeering. Progress in Afghanistan is, like the country, fragmentary. "Transition" (it's Pentagon jargon) can mean anything, but signaling retreat isn't smart diplomacy.

Obama 2008, however, ran on ending Iraq, ending the GWOT (remember, he called it an overseas contingency operation) and closing Guantanamo Bay. The manifesto doesn't mention Gitmo. It does mention denying Iran nukes, which may take waging war and require ground forces. Wait, Obama derided George Bush for preparing to attack Iran's hideous regime ...

The administration may not have thought this phrase through, either; it asserts the strategy "supports the national security imperative of deficit reduction through a lower level of defense spending."

Reducing the deficit, which makes profound strategic sense, requires reductions in all federal spending, particularly entitlements. Obama, however, is loathe to make such cuts; he might look like a tea partier. Instead, he panders to left-wing ideologues and just spends less on defense.

The manifesto ends with truly vague, and insidious, Pentagonese. See, the document "is designed to ensure our Armed Forces can meet the demands of the U.S. National Security Strategy at acceptable risk." Before the president starts cutting, let's ask him, or his teleprompter, to define "acceptable risk."

To find out more about Austin Bay, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



1 Comments | Post Comment
What it really sounds like is Robert McNamara--the idea was to subsitute technology for manpower in Viet Nam--fancy gadgets and a fast turnover in troops.
Comment: #1
Posted by: partsmom
Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:12 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Austin Bay
Mar. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Deb Saunders
Debra J. SaundersUpdated 29 Mar 2015
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 28 Mar 2015
Brent Bozell

15 Dec 2010 The Change in East Asia

9 Oct 2013 China's Toughest Economic Problem Is Political

9 Nov 2011 Iran: Armageddon One Day Closer