WASHINGTON, March 4, 2014 — To sum up the national security and foreign policy situations the United States now faces, and the manner in which the administration is addressing them, recall the voice of Captain from Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here, is a failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”
It seems that despite the best efforts of our leadership in the White House, they just can’t seem to understand the nature of the world they are living in. They seem to fail to come to terms with the way of things. They have spent five years attempting to define foreign policy, to act and not react. But instead they find themselves constantly on the offensive, consistently wrong, and repeatedly outplayed.
The latest example of the administration’s ineptitude in the fields of foreign policy and defense is also their more glaring.
For months now, President Obama has been making moves to reform the military and shift it from its traditional combined arms composition, which employs fast, hard hitting infantry and armor tactics supported by overwhelming air superiority, to a smaller, smarter military.
“Institutionalize Irregular Warfare Capabilities: We must ensure our troops have the equipment they need to prevail in current operations, including assets that provide critical information, protection, and mobility. We will increase intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support for troops in the field and research and development. We will increase spending on helicopters and crews and grow U.S. Special Operations capabilities.”
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Recently, it was announced that there would be heavy cuts in to military personnel and assets. According to Military.com, “The Army would shrink to 380,000 troops, the Marines Corps to 150,000. The Navy would lose three carriers, and the Air Force would begin mothballing its B-52 bomber fleet under a worst-case budget scenario outlined Wednesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.”
These assets that the White House has proposed cutting are seen as dinosaurs from another time in military history. The high troop count in the Army and Marines are seen as remnants of the heightened levels of the zenith of the Iraq and Afghan wars. The military is moving towards a focus on Special Forces and drone warfare, and away from the traditional boots on the ground push towards the enemy capital approach that the United States has taken to warfare essentially since the Mexican-American War. We are fighting terrorists, not major powers with million man armies.
We need the dagger and not the axe.
However there are times the axe is useful, there are times when the axe keeps the wolves away. The Obama Administration has become so fixated on fighting smaller, more mobile threats like al-Qaeda and their allies, that they have not considered that the assets that we are cutting from our military are the very, heavy hitting, assets that would be necessary in projecting strength across continents to a dictator hell bent on infringing on the national sovereignty of a smaller, weaker nation.
The United States was not ready for Russia to invade Crimea, nor will the U.S. be able to adequately intervene if Russia chooses to move on Ukraine proper.
That is because once again, the Obama Administration has failed to read global political landscape, and realize that the only threat to American interests do no come from a few hundred men with Kalashnikovs in caves in the hills of Afghanistan, but that situations may arise where one needs to counter thousands of men with Kalashnikovs armored in tanks.
Perhaps one word for it is tunnel vision. This administration, in an attempt to hit his political opponents where it hurts, has decided to enact his vengeance upon the traditional military citing the transition to a smaller force and the need for budget cuts. Yet despite the need for budget cuts that are apparently so great as to compromise our national security, the president will spend over $300 billion of new money on infrastructure projects around the country.
However, that is not the crux of the problem; politics aside, it is the response of the administration that has highlighted so loudly and with such clarity their inability to adequately address national security and foreign policy issues.
Upon addressing Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Crimea and possibly into the main body of Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry made the following statements.
“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text, it is serious in terms of sort of the modern manner with which nations are going to resolve problems. There are all kinds of other options still available to Russia. There still are. President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there are a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea, about their citizens, but you don’t choose to invade a country in order to do that.”
This is tantamount to the Secretary of State to the most powerful nation in the world calling the Russian invasion of Crimea using traditional infantry based tactics, unfair. The above statement is representative of just how out of touch the Obama Administration is with not only world events and global policy, but with our own American history. The United States herself drove towards Baghdad in the 21st century, the United States drove towards Fallujah, Kabul, Takrit, and they did so in combined arms columns with armor and air support clearing the way. To discount Russia’s methods of invading Crimea as backward or “19th century” is to be ignorant of the history of our own military conflicts.
Stated plainly, Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the subsequent inability of the United States to project adequate strength enough to force Vladimir Putin to rethink his efforts is a direct result of the failure of the Obama Administration. Their inability and their unwillingness to believe that the World is not as they see it, and that other nations are not playing by the rules they have set for them, is a classic example of the brand of leadership and the lack of insight President Obama and his team have brought to the chessboard of foreign policy and international politics.
Today, Kerry spoke in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev concerning the recent incursions and threats posed by Russia and Vladimir Putin. During his speech he once again denounced the Russian leader’s “19th Century” tactics, and called for an end to the violence. He continued to say that the U.S. was exploring many options, including economic and trade sanctions against Moscow if they refused to stay out of Ukraine’s affairs. He made no mention of military action, he drew no lines in the sand, and he made no promises of pledging material support to the new government in Kiev.
The reason we made no threats is that we have no means to carry them out. Russia takes Crimea, and threatens to take Ukraine using the very tactics that our national security advisers have stated are obsolete. They are 19th and 20th century tactics. In light of the fact that our military is in the beginning of a transition between high infantry participation into a more technologically reliant force, we are in no place to be making threats against Russia.
There has not been a foreign policy situation during his presidency that the Obama Administration has handled successfully. Their one win, the killing of Osama bin Laden drew the criticism of Special Forces groups who condemned the Obama Administration for leaking the information early in the name of politics. Their handling of Syria has been abysmal, their hand in Libya helped destabilize the entire country and invite al-Qaeda and their allies to seep in. The fact that no one has been brought to justice for Benghazi, and that the President put politics before the truth, has shown Obama to be an inept and completely incapable diplomat and Commander in Chief.
The United States needs to be able to respond to all threats, both those posed by the dagger and the axe. The inability of the Obama Administration to see that at 21st century military must learn to counter both conventional and unconventional warfare has directly affected the ability of the United States to project adequate strength around the world. The problem does not lie within the military industrial complex, or previous administrations, but instead it lies squarely at the feet of a president who is unable to see and subsequently address the dangers facing the country he leads.