Several months ago, Col. Lang introduced me to this esteemed group as “a grand military analyst” who would be posting regularly on SST. Perhaps it was because of discomfort with that description of myself that I did not follow up after a couple of initial posts but, today, I have returned at the explicit invitation of the Colonel, who said of the following report: “IMO the brass is manipulating the threat scene to grow threats that will support bigger budgets.” -- Willy B
The Army has long had an identity crisis, going back to at least Rumsfeld's "transformation" effort, followed by the retooling of the Army for long term occupation and counter-insurgency, to now being called on to confront Russia. Underlying all of this, actually, is the insanity of the geopolitical outlook that dominates national security making in Washington, which is causing turmoil within all of the services, but which they all seem to be incapable of recognizing. In an article in Politico posted on Friday, Mark Perry recalls the April 5 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee of a panel of Army officers led by LTG HR McMaster, widely considered to be the smartest man in the Army, in which they claimed that the Army is now in danger of being "outranged and outgunned" in the next war (which could only be against Russia and/or China) and that the Army is in danger of becoming " too small to secure the nation." While the testimony seems to have been a consensus document among senior Army officers, not everybody, as Perry writes, was buying it. "This is the 'Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling' set in the Army," a senior Pentagon officer told him. "These guys want us to believe the Russians are 10 feet tall. There's a simpler explanation: The Army is looking for a purpose, and a bigger chunk of the budget. And the best way to get that is to paint the Russians as being able to land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time [this is a reference to Grant's rejecting of advice to move his headquarters during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, with which Perry opens his article]. What a crock."
McMaster was reportedly behind a study, also reported in Politico two days after the testimony, that reported that the Russian-backed rebel army in Ukraine has been using "surprisingly lethal tanks" and artillery as well as "swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles" to run roughshod over Ukrainian nationalists, which, like the testimony, has also been ridiculed, not only be senior retired Army officers that Perry but also by the Air Force, in particular, retired LTG David Deptula, long an outspoken advocate for air power, who criticized McMaster for promoting a single service view of future warfare. McMaster's critics also point to the numbers when comparing the US and Russian militaries, both in terms of budgets and hardware. How can anyone think, therefore, that the Russia is about to overrun the US Army?
Perry portrays Gen. Mark Milley, the chief of staff of the Army, who is currently touring Africa in an effort to organize anti-terrorism cooperation, as ambivalent about the McMaster testimony, but he told the New York Times that the question in the Army is whether the new focus on the ever-widening terrorist threat in Africa — not to mention the focus on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the continuing war in Afghanistan — is taking away from the Army's ability to fight a land war against a more traditional military adversary. "Today, a major in the Army knows nothing but fighting terrorists and guerrillas, because he came into the Army after 9/11," General Milley said in an interview during his flight to Arusha. "But as we get into the higher-end threats, our skills have atrophied over 15 years." A result, General Milley said, has been a loss of what he calls muscle memory: how to fight a large land war, including one where an established adversary is able to bring sophisticated air defenses, tanks, infantry, naval power and even cyberweapons into battle. The Times reports that Army officials are trying to balance the military's responsibilities in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia while relearning how to fight higher-end, great-power conflicts, as well.
But Perry doesn't restrict his fire only to the Army. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the just retired commander of NATO also comes in for criticism. Six weeks ago, in early March, Breedlove told a group of Washington reporters that Russia had "upped the ante" in Ukraine with "well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense [units and] battalions of artillery." The situation, Breedlove said, "is not getting better. It is getting worse every day." A senior civilian advisor at the Pentagon told Perry that Breedlove's report simply wasn't true. Justin Raimondo, writing in antiwar.com, notes that Breedlove was probably getting his intelligence from the Kiev regime itself, "and they are notoriously unreliable: these are the same people who have been citing 'evidence' of a full-scale Russian invasion for years now" in an effort to get both economic aid and offensive weapons.
Besides Deptula, Perry also cites a couple of famous Army dissidents, both retired, LTC Daniel Davis and Col. Douglas Macgregor, blasting the McMaster testimony. His best quote comes from that unnamed Pentagon officer, though. "You know, which would you rather have—a high-speed rail system, or another brigade in Poland? Because that's what this is really all about. The debate is about money, and there simply isn't enough to go around," the Pentagon officer told him. "Which is not to mention the other question, which is even more important: How many British soldiers do you think want to die for Estonia? And if they don't want to, why should we?"
All of this is a manifestation of the underlying problem, which is the US commitment, particularly under the current and previous president, to the British/neocon geopolitically driven idea that we must run the world, as stated by Dick Cheney in that infamous 1992 defense planning guidance document. The Russians aren't committed to such an idea for themselves. They're building a military appropriate for their needs and Putin has proven to be a master of how to employ it, generating very efficient results, while we are spreading chaos around the globe.
Coming from the geopolitical side is Seth Cropsey of the Hudson Institute, who complains that the White House has adopted Alfred E. Neuman's outlook to foreign policy: "What, me worry?" In Cropsey's view, there's plenty to worry about, and it's the Chinese, the Russians and the Iranians. "As Russia, China, and Iran's militaries expand, the Obama Administration is cutting the American defense budget—depleting not only the U.S. military's fleet of ships and planes, but also the precisions weapons and missiles they carry— making it more difficult for the U.S. to provide for the common defense, deter adversaries and honor commitments to allies," Cropsey writes. As Perry points out at the conclusion of his report, this is political fodder for Obama's critics in Congress who complain that Obama isn’t taking us to war fast enough. Cropsey zeros in on what he says is a $189 million shortfall in Obama's budget for SM-3 interceptor missiles that are used in the Navy's Aegis combat system, including the Aegis Ashore installation just turned on in Romania. The $189 million would buy 19 missiles, not cheap at $11 million a pop but, in Cropsey’s view, affordable compared to a single F-35. Whatever the reason for the shortfall "it's an example, writ small, of the current administration's dim view of the importance of strong U.S. defenses," Cropsey writes.
Another example of this paranoid nonsense comes from Matthew Costlow of the National Institute for Public Policy, who claims that only Russia is running a nuclear arms race and they are way ahead. He even goes so far as to imply that Russia may violate the New START treaty as it already (allegedly) has violated the INF Treaty. Therefore, "Instead of taking seriously the demonstrably false claims of a U.S.-instigated nuclear arms race, the United States should instead be focused on modernizing its nuclear forces to deter threats that are all too real, including Russia and China."