You don’t need to be a Pentagon insider to know where the Rumsfeld defense review is headed. It’s going to nudge the military’s force posture in the direction of aerospace and sea power, at the expense of ground forces. Most of the participants share Andrew Marshall’s concern about how U.S. forces are going to assure access to Asia in the future. Because there are fewer allies and more distance to cover in Asia than in Europe, increased reliance on air, space and sea forces is a no brainer.
So it’s good news for the Air Force and Navy, bad news for the Army and Marines, right? Well, maybe. Most wars (like Korea and Vietnam) are about control of land. It’s relatively easy for ships and planes to access Eurasia, but it’s not so clear they can assert control of territory once they’re there. U.S. air power devastated Iraq in Desert Storm and has been patrolling the country’s airspace ever since, but who’s in control in Baghdad today?
There’s another reason why air power’s victory in the defense review is not assured, and that’s the amazing obtuseness of some of its proponents. Consider the Air Force. It thinks aircraft have a natural advantage in overcoming anti access threats in Asia. So what does it want to buy over the next 25 years? Two thousand fighters and no bombers. The fighters need nearby bases and the bombers don’t. Go figure.
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