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December 04, 2009

Butter Crowds Out Guns

ED-AK603_1europ_NS_20091203175619.gif From a speech given by Maggie Thatcher over 30 years ago:

... Britain cannot opt out of the world.

If we cannot understand why the Russians are rapidly becoming the greatest naval and military power the world has ever seen - if we cannot draw the lesson of what they tried to do in Portugal and are now trying to do in Angola, then we are destined—in their words—to end up on ‘the scrap heap of history’.

We look to our alliances with America and NATO as the main guarantee of our own security and, in the world beyond Europe, the United States is still the prime champion of freedom.

But we are all aware of how the bitter experience of Vietnam has changed the public mood in America. We are also aware of the circumstances that inhibit action by an American president in an election year.

So it is more vital then ever that each and every one of us within NATO should contribute his proper share to the defence of freedom.

...This is not a moment when anyone with the interests of this country at heart should be talking about cutting our defences.

It is a time when we urgently need to strengthen our defences.

Of course this places a burden on us. But it is one that we must be willing to bear if we want our freedom to survive.

Throughout our history, we have carried the torch for freedom. Now, as I travel the world, I find people asking again and again, "What has happened to Britain?" They want to know why we are hiding our heads in the sand, why with all our experience, we are not giving a lead.

...The Socialists, in fact, seem to regard defence as almost infinitely cuttable. They are much more cautious when it comes to cutting other types of public expenditure.

They seem to think that we can afford to go deeper into debt so that the Government can prop up a loss-making company. And waste our money on the profligate extension of nationalisation and measures such as the Community Land Act.

Apparently, we can even afford to lend money to the Russians, at a lower rate of interest that we have to pay on our own borrowings.

But we cannot afford, in Labour's view, to maintain our defences at the necessary level...

I found it bizarre, the other night, listening to Obama complain about how NATO needs to contribute more and "do their part" while, out of the other side of his mouth, complaining that we can't afford all this horrid defense spending when what we really need is bloated entitlement programs.

I guess we can add the guns/butter decision to the long list of tradeoffs he's determined to ignore. Does this mean he thinks Europe is spending too much on entitlements - that they're not pulling their fair share of the weight? And if so, who does he expect to do the actual fighting when America becomes more like Germany and France?

Soldiers from Germany and France are well-trained, but they operate under a series of restrictions or "caveats" instituted by their parliaments. Some caveats limit the areas where troops can operate, permitting enemies to retreat to safety when engaged. The most controversial caveat is a prohibition on the offensive use of lethal force. (That is, they can defend themselves, but they can't attack.) Germany, which requires its soldiers to carry a card in their pockets explaining when they are permitted to fire, has received the most criticism on this particular rule. In 2008, German special forces had a Taliban commander in their sights. They weren't allowed to fire unless their detachment was under active attack by a Taliban force—so instead of killing the target they retreated meekly. (The German restrictions are loosening, but the piecemeal changes have led to confusion.) All in all, NATO countries have imposed nearly 80 caveats on their soldiers.

But it's not just the restrictions. Defense spending has a huge impact on combat readiness and efficiency:

Europe will add 5,000 soldiers to its contingent in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Wednesday. It's not yet clear, however, which European countries will send troops. Georgia, the former Soviet republic, may be the largest contributor. England, Poland, and Italy have also pledged support. Does it matter where troops come from? Are some nation's soldiers better than others?

Yes. Troops from Britain and Canada receive better training than many of their European counterparts. Smaller countries—or countries with smaller military budgets—often can't fund nearly as much target practice with live ammunition, and their war games are far less elaborate. British and Canadian equipment and tactics are also similar to ours, which makes it easier for them to integrate into a largely American-led operation.

Which leads me to ask, again: if America cuts defense spending even more, who will step into the breach we leave? Who is Obama depending upon?

China???

Posted by Cassandra at December 4, 2009 08:38 AM

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Comments

I wish I was wrong, but I think the real answer is, he doesn't care.

Posted by: MikeD at December 4, 2009 12:06 PM

I don't believe that Obama doesn't care. I do believe that Obama doesn't understand. Nothing in his experience has prepared him to evaluate the costs and benefits associate with defense. He's a Chicago vote buyer and community organizer, not (yet) capable of developing a coherent long-term strategic policy. He is, in fact, a rube, and Putin is licking his chops. I'll say it again: What Obama needs is a long weekend with Henry Kissinger and a clue bat.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 4, 2009 01:52 PM

spd, I can accept that for some bizarre reason he might not understand something as basic as the fact that we are virtually alone right now in the Big Old List of Democracies with enough combat power to address a global military crisis.

But he has people who get paid to ensmarten him.

I can't help wondering, with all this deliberation going on, if he's really paying attention? And if he's not, doesn't that amount to gross negligence?

Posted by: Cassandra at December 4, 2009 02:04 PM

I think it's like the old joke:

Q: "What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?"

A: "I don't know and I don't care!"

That pretty much describes where Obama is on all things economy and defense related. The fact that the next President will be faced with both a nearly insurmountable economic disaster and a serious defense capability shortfall is simply not his concern -- he'll be out of office by then and living high on the hog with his Chicago pals. What does he care?

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 4, 2009 03:07 PM

"But he has people who get paid to ensmarten him.

I can't help wondering, with all this deliberation going on, if he's really paying attention? And if he's not, doesn't that amount to gross negligence?"

I get the notion that he is being ensmartened according to plan.

Look at the ideology of those with whom The Won flocks.

• The United States, unequivocally bad, bad. Bow in shame.
• Capitalism is the wicked exploitation of the innocent.
• Submission to international opinion and law is good.
• Force is unnecessary, unless you disagree with the leadership.
• Obfuscation of the agenda is necessary for control of the proletariat en route to Utopia, herd 'em up, move 'em out.

The problem seems to be that those in control never get around to executing on their last phase leading to the promised Utopia. That being the classless, equal standing/results of/for all in the world part. They always seem to get stuck in the totalitarian phase where the elites continue to dictate in order to live large on the backs of the proletariat, aka the useful idiots.

In The Won's grand scheme of things, success in Afghanistan will be what he and Pravda say it is. He and his cronies expect to be seated at the Ruling table when the dust settles, regardless...

Posted by: bthun at December 4, 2009 03:35 PM

i've always believed that O is a rube in over his head, but now and then, with the help of a little dark rum,i wonder if he really is stupid and instead is letting Pelosi and Reid doing the dirty work for him.debauching the currency and all.
the real joke is on the europeans, when america becomes european can europe be europe?

Posted by: reg at December 4, 2009 08:15 PM

But he has people who get paid to ensmarten him.

Does anyone *really* believe his DoS briefers told him that protocol dictated that he act like a bobblehead doll to the audience after his speech in the PRC, or that a profound bow was de rigeur when meeting royalty?

Sure, he has people trying to ensmarten him -- he just feels he is under no obligation to listen to anything they have to say. He instinctively *knows* what's right thanks to the awesome awesomosity of his awesomeness.

He is, after all, Teh Won.

Posted by: BillT at December 5, 2009 03:41 AM

Commander-on-the-Ground becomes Commander-on-the-Hill as Gen. Stanley McChrystal testifies before Congress today.

A few questions, just to break the ice:

Q: Sir, you wrote the following the folllowing in your initial Afghanistan assessment:

A more forceful and offensive StratCom approach must be devised whereby INS are exposed continually for their cultural and religious violations, anti-Islamic and indiscriminate use of violence and terror, and by concentrating on their vulnerabilities. These include their causing ofthe majority of civilian casualties, attacks on education, development projects, and government institutions, and flagrant contravention of the principles of the Koran. These vulnerabilities must be expressed in a manner that exploits the cultural and ideological separation of the INS from the vast majority of the Afghan population.

Could explain how you arrived at this statement, that any such such acts are in "flagrant contravention of the principles of the Koran"? What principles of the Koran are you referring to? What are the names of the scholars or individuals you consult on Islamic doctrine?

Or maybe this:

Q: Sir, you have repeatedly emphasized the need to shift to population protection at the expense of force protection. How do you look your men -- and their families -- in the eye?

Q: At what point do attacks on ISAF forces directly by Afghan forces, or likely caused by Afghan forces -- we have seen a disturbing number already, most recently the murders of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman, and in August, the death of a Marine LCPL very possibly by an Afghan-tipped ambush -- cause you to revisit this policy, which also orders ISAF forces into close proximity and fighting conditions with Afghan forces?

Q: Following up, sir: Indeed, you have written also that ISAF forces have been "preoccupied with force protection," and must change this "manner that distances itself, both physically and psychologically, from the people they seek to protect" as a means of winning support from the Afghan people.
Where do we look in history for any victorious precedent for this strategy?

Q: How does the military maintain morale among troops asked to hold fire, or not call in fire, in dire circumstances?

Q: What progress has been made in the investigation into events at Gunjgal where three Marines and a Navy Corpsman were killed, according to reports, because they were not approved for supporting fire because they were too close to a village?

Q: If, after eight years of pouring men and materiel into Afghanistan, we have not yet won the "support" of the Afghan people, why will the addition of 30,000 troops will make the difference?

Q: Are you familiar with the Islamic doctrine of jihad, of taqqiyya? And, finally (DRUM ROLL): How can tell us that you are doing your duty in devising a military strategy that doesn't take into account the war-fighting doctrine (jihad) of the enemy?

Posted by: Sara at December 8, 2009 03:32 PM

Sheesh. If you don't like it in Afghanistan, you can you know, LEAVE.

Posted by: Xiaoding at December 12, 2009 12:47 AM

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