If the president’s plans go forward, tomorrow’s U.S. military won’t be nearly as ambidextrous. In 2010, Obama directed the military to be capable of “maintaining the ability to prevail against two capable nation-state aggressors.” That was Obama’s way of restating the so-called two-war strategy that helped shape the post-Cold War force. In contrast, as The New York Times reports, the president’s new strategy calls on the Pentagon only to be capable of “denying the objectives of—or imposing unacceptable costs on—an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.”
That’s not an insignificant difference. What Obama fails to understand is that the two-war strategy gave the military resources to carry out other important missions—missions that are less intensive than full-blown conflicts against nation-state rivals: counterterrorism ops in the Philippines and Abbottabad and Somalia, air wars in Libya and Kosovo, counter-piracy off the Horn of Africa, freedom-of-navigation maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea, humanitarian rescues in Japan and Haiti.
In other words, the two-war strategy gave the Pentagon and the commander-in-chief a tool box full of resources that could be used in several ways. As the number of tools in the toolbox diminishes, it stands to reason that the number of missions the Pentagon can perform will as well.
While the president is understandably proud of recent successes against al Qaeda and bin Laden and Qaddafi—all of them occurring on his watch—we cannot overlook how much this president has constrained the Pentagon’s strategic reach:
- The president cut the nation’s strategic nuclear forces by 30 percent.
- The president carried out a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) pledging that the United States “will not conduct nuclear testing…will not develop new nuclear warheads…[and] will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.” As Gates explained, the president’s changes ended what was known as “calculated ambiguity,” a posture that kept America’s enemies on notice and off balance for decades—and, not coincidentally, kept America and American forces safe from nuclear, biological and chemical attack.
- And now, the president has dramatically shrunk the global footprint and reach of the U.S. military.
One wonders if this is the sort of change all of those independents and erstwhile conservatives who supported Obama in 2008 hand in mind.
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