The Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army warned today that if current defense budget cuts continue through into the next decade, that his service may have to shrink the active duty force to a size smaller than it was before World War II. For the non-history nerds this is around 270,000. Both the Air Force and the Army are in a similar situation.
Budget cuts are only one reason that force structure may have to decline precipitously. The cost of military manpower is rising at an alarming rate. Defense department health care costs alone have doubled in the last decade. The cost of new weapons systems continues to rise, even under the new acquisition system put in place in 2009.
A military of the size the United States had prior to World War II would not be able to guarantee U.S. interests abroad or defend friends and allies without significant mobilization, similar to what happened during WWII and even when the Korean War started. This means that allies would have to defend themselves for some period of time, perhaps even years, until U.S. reinforcements arrived. Unfortunately, most of our allies are even weaker today than they were prior to WWII. None of them have the kind of forces the U.S. can deploy: strategic bombers, fifth-generation fighters, aircraft carriers and thousands of armored vehicles. As a result, they could easily be overrun before we had a chance to gear up and intervene. Of course, that is unless they decide to acquire and or use nuclear weapons.
Do we really want to return to the pre-WWII world? There are some who argue that changes in culture, popular psychology and global economics all argue for a less violent, safer world. The counter argument is provided by daily reports on the front pages of our newspapers. The places that are less violence prone are the ones we haven’t worried about for decades, such as Western Europe and Japan. What is quiet about North Africa and the Middle East? The competition for resources, access, territory and dominance in Asia is just starting.
Removing the U.S. military as a force for stability and peace in the world is likely to lead to a repeat of the inter war years. Remember how well that worked out for us and the rest of the world? The best years for global peace and stability in history have been the decades when the United States was a dominant military presence in the world.
Find Archived Articles: