Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gates' Plan Fails To Meet Our Defense Requirements

After reviewing the statement of Secretary Gates, I have concluded that the Obama Administration is putting forward a plan that it flawed and unbalanced. Two decisions in particular stand out. First, in the aftermath of the test launch of a North Korean missile, the Administration moves to slash the ballistic missile defense program. What sense can be made of that? Certainly the threat from rogue nation’s ballistic missiles has not been diminished. Second, the agenda seems unduly biased against the Air Force. Not only is Gates stopping production of the F-22 fighter, he is also canceling the C-17, the CSAR helicopter, the Airborne Laser, and the new strategic bomber. When viewed in context of last years’ purge of the Air Force leadership one has to ask, are these well founded actions or do they spring in part from some animus toward the Air Force?

It is clear that there is a major disconnect between Secretary Gates’ stated rationale and the decisions that he presented. Secretary Gates says that he wants to avoid over-insuring “against remote or diminishing threats” but then he slashes ballistic missile defense the day after the North Korean missile test. That is hardly a remote or diminishing threat. The combination of the North Korean missile program and the Iranian nuclear weapons program pose a clear challenge in the years ahead.

Similarly, his plan to cancel F-22 production makes little sense in that it would leave the Air Force with seven incomplete squadrons and too few aircraft to maintain these units over a reasonable life-cycle. How does he propose to maintain air superiority with so few aircraft? While his support for the F-35 is laudable, it is an aircraft optimized for ground attack not air superiority. It was always planned that the larger force of F-35s, which will ultimately replace the F-16 in the Air Force inventory, would be supported by a true air dominance fighter, i.e. the F-22. It is a mistake to see these aircraft as alternatives but rather as complementary components of a balanced force. Apparently, we have a Secretary of Defense who fails to understand this.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Obama's Misguided View of Nuclear Weapons

President Barack Obama has eclipsed his bad ideas on the economy with an even worse one on national and international security. I’m addressing his recent call for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons specifically. This idea will be as impractical to implement as its will would be ultimately destabilizing if it went forward.

It ignores the reality that we have emerging and covert nuclear powers. So even if the declared nuclear states were to agree to this proposal, we would have to address these other countries. Does any truly believe that if the established powers were to disarm counties like Iran and North Korea would be dissuaded from pursuing their programs? Furthermore, we have had covert nuclear powers that we know of such as Israel and the former South African Apartheid government. Pakistan and India were in the same category before their wave of nuclear testing in the late 1990s. The recent attack on a by Israel on a purported nuclear North Korean built nuclear reactor in Syria indicates that they to were in the process of creating a nuclear weapons program.

If the established powers were to completely eliminate their nuclear capability and one the radical states were to still possess nuclear weapons we would truly be at their mercy. And mercy isn’t one of their strong points. Furthermore, we might not know with confidence the state of nuclear weapons in a given country. The South African, Pakistani, and Indian cases certainly highlight this situation. While there were a lot of suspicions before the South African unilateral disarmament and the Pakistani and Indian test, the full nature of their weapons capacity wasn’t generally known or at least accepted.

It is also far from clear that the great powers can be trusted on this. The United States with or without nuclear weapons would still in many ways be the worlds only superpower if a somewhat diminished one. However, consider the situations Russia would face. Stripped of nuclear weapons, it would be country with a population of about that of Germany and France combined with a much smaller GDP. It would be vulnerable to attack in the east from the vastly more numerous Chinese. Russia without nuclear weapons would go way down on the international pecking order. While France would have no clearly defined security threats like Russia, it is unlikely that they maintain their status in international affairs as a post-nuclear state. Let’s not forget they have been very defiant historically over just this issue. China is more of a mystery as there could be pros and cons for them. However, the reciprocal fears of cheating by both Russia and China make unilateral disarmament very untenable.

Finally, I maintain that nuclear weapons free world ultimately be a more unstable world. Let’s not forget that there has not been a full-scale war between the great powers during the nuclear era. The reason for this is that the costs of unlimited conflict are near total destruction. Does anyone seriously doubt that if nuclear weapons didn’t exist that the Cold War would have exploded into a real war at some point? Note that since Israel has been recognized to be a nuclear power there hasn’t been another major Arab-Israeli war. A shooting war between Russia and China is practically unthinkable now with Russia holding the nuclear advantage and China the manpower advantage. If a major war breaks out any disarmament regime can be expected to breakdown rapidly. In turn this could lead to the very disaster that disarmament advocates seek to avoid.

The leaders of all of the great powers and their advisors understand all of this but it seems our current President doesn’t. This does not give us much confidence in our foreign policy for the next few years. No wonder North Korea now feels free to test their intercontinental ballistic missile at this time. Joe Biden’s words from the campaign last year are about to come true.