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Entries in US Military (152)


Petraeus: we surge and Taliban do the same

photo here

Pair of WSJ stories.

In the first, Petraeus says the uptick in Taliban violence is directly related to the uptick in engagement pursued by the US military in the surge--as in, we fight more and they reply.  He also says that as the US military seeks to expand its "security bubbles," the fight will naturally grow as the White House conducts its policy review near the end of the year.

His focus now:  tracking the size of the individual bubbles and looking for ways to cross-link them.

One good sign:  fewer IEDs because those nets are under more stress from US operations.

Big difference with Iraq:  the surge is not coinciding with a reduction in inter-ethnic strife but with an increase, primarily, the WSJ opines, because of Karzai's offer to negotiate with the Taliban (see my other post below).

Bottom line:  Petraeus seems to be prepping the bureaucratic battlespace by reminding people that the surge doesn't equate to less violence in the short run but a whole lot more--part of the delicate dance he's pursuing with a White House eager to find early progress so as to justify the beginning of the drawdown slated for the summer of 2011.

As such, Petraeus doesn't need any additional triggers for violence in-country, hence his unusual intervention into the whole Quran-burning threat from Florida.


As the Leviathan experiences a budget squeeze, another door opens--a bit

BAE Systems announces in FT a cut of almost 1,000 jobs, just after Lockheed announces 600 execs take buy-out packages--all because of expected cuts in big platform purchases (total cuts sought are $100B over five years, or $20B a year).  Boeing, also announcing cuts, even broached recently the notion of a merger with another big firm.

Meanwhile, defense companies applaud (Bloomberg Businessweek) the proposed export-control revamp offered by Obama, described as the most important change in that area in the last two decades.  The change: instead of one big list of technologies that face export controls, now a three-tiered structure where government approval for export is made easier (2nd tier) or completely obviated (3rd tier).  For example, in the realm of tanks and trucks, of the 12,000 items currently requiring export licenses, three-quarters would now be shifted to the lesser control categories.

Talk about just-in-time!

Good move for US exports and competitiveness and a reasonable sop to the defense industry facing a smaller US defense budget.


Krepenevich sees a "Finlandization" strategy by China in the Pac

Andrew Krepinevich op-ed in the WSJ that's a bit breathless in its admiration for the much-hyped Chinese strategy of the "assassin's mace."  It always kills me how so many experts criticized net-centric warfare as so much high-tech BS and then seem to swallow this stuff hook, line and sinker from a military that hasn't actually fought anybody in a sustained fashion for more than half a century.

Of course, we might outspend everybody by gajillions and yet our stuff is sooooooo easy to counter, but China is going to pull off this amazing collection of high-tech hijinks the very first time and it'll be so amazingly hard to counter.

Naturally, Krepinevich's logic exists in his usual vacuum where economics and political repercussions of such behavior are set aside--to wit, his argument that China is building up all this power to "Finlandize" the region.

Well, turns out, looking at my post from yesterday, that SE Asian weapon buying has doubled in the past half decade and America seems to be having no trouble locating new military friends from this neck of the woods.

Ah, but we are told that Team Obama is the naive player here, even though virtually every China hand will tell you that Bush-Cheney talked a tougher game but were more lenient with China while Obama-Biden talk a nicer game but actually are tougher. The reason why Pentagon planners refer to China as "Voldemort" (i.e., the threat that dare not be named) is that the scenarios for conflict are bleeding plausibility with each passing year.  The Pentagon, in its complete isolation from the economic world and globalization and global supply chains and global financial flows, might find pumping up the China threat to be a tough sell, and that tough sell may be particularly galling for the Air Force and Navy that see their platform budgets tightened thanks to Long War dynamics that favor the Army and Marines more, but watching Krepinevich trying to sell the stealthiness of China's military rise is just sad.

No one is ignoring this build-up--not the US with its annual report nor China's neighbors, and balancing has naturally resulted in the region.  Krepinevich oversells the regional fear and overhypes the notion that, unless we start spending mucho on the USAF-USN-heavy Leviathan, that SE Asia "may have no choice but to follow Finland's Cold War example."

I mean, I'd love to read the scenario whereby China's "dazzles" a few US satellites and launches some surprise cyber attacks and blows up a couple of US warships with missiles and voila! Suddenly everybody in SE Asia is China's cowed minions willing to do whatever it says.  Oh, and the rest of the world just accepts this fait accompli, offering no response. Doesn't that fantastic logic strike you as mirror-imaging the same sort of net-centric "shock and awe" that we've never been able to pull off on anyone to any lasting effect?  So how come China, with its completely inexperienced military, is going to make that happen with such ease and such obvious and permanent gain (i.e., "finlandization)?

It's amazing to me: we supposedly learn the harsh reality of war in the 21st century in Iraq and Afghanistan (i.e., that the high-tech most certainly does not rule--much less guarantee victory), but now we're supposed to freak out and go all Cold War over China because it's able--on a zero-experience base--to do everything we weren't able to do with net-centric warfare and they'll be so good at it that we'll never see it coming and we'll lose everything before we even know what hit us.

Am I the only national-security type who finds this straight-faced juxta-positioning to be ludicrous?

If Krepinevich represents Pentagon war planning thinking, then he's demonstrating that the Defense Department is no closer to understanding globalization today than it was back in 2001.  This is classic war-within-the-context-of-war myopia.

All I can say is, thank God for Gates. Obama better do everything in his power to keep him past 2011. The President has no idea how bad the Pentagon's internal dynamics could get in his absence, or what a bulwark he is against such narrow thinking.



China's rise triggers natural military cooperation among those made nervous

Great WAPO piece by the always good John Pomfret that highlights a recent theme of mine: no great need to "encircle" China, because the more the neighbors worry over its economic rise and foolish threats about the South China Sea, they will simply come to us--for arms and alliance.

Thus, no great effort required.

Weapons acquisitions in the region almost doubled from 2005 to 2009 compared with the five preceding years, according to data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute this year.

"There is a threat perception among some of the countries in Southeast Asia," said Siemon Wezeman, senior fellow at the institute. "China is an issue there."

The buying spree is set to continue . . .

We have this tendency in the West to suppose our "decline" is absolute and China's "rise" will unfold with no feedback from the system.  Neither, of course, is true, especially the latter.  

China will learn that there is a reason why the U.S. has long had the world's largest gun with no one trying to build one similar: the simple truth is that we're trusted in that role and with that capability.  And a big reason why is that we're a democracy.

China cannot rise as a single-party state and get the same pass. It's rise will naturally trigger all manner of localized and regionalized and globalized balancing by all sorts of players. It will not need to be organized; it will simply happen as a matter of course.

Whatever we do inside the US military to prepare for the China threat (AirSea Battle comes to mind) is marginal compared to this self-selected balancing by so many states, in large part because it will ultimately reflect smaller states pursuing across-the-board hedging strategies vis-a-vis China.

Remember these words:  in the pre-American-styled-globalization, trade followed the flag; today it's the flag that follows trade--as China will soon learn on its own in so many places in the world to its great discomfort.


Trends in American warfare: more treasure, less blood

NYT chart by way of WPR Media Roundup.

Charts speak for themselves.  Warfare is less burdensome to the US population and economy, even as the per soldier price tag grows, along with overall cost relative to the size of theater (WWII was BIG!).

But that trend is about as surprising as the one concerning higher insurance totals for natural disasters. Simply put, we live more technologized lives and value life more completely now than in the past--and we're willing to pay for those biases.

But I will stick to an old premise of mine:  if we had outsourced the complete rebuild of Iraq to the Chinese, it would have been far cheap and worked far better.

But we don't own that level of realism yet--at least not regarding the postwar.


An insider's account of what Africom is all about

Robert Moeller, who was Africom's original #2 as it was being set up, and oversaw its initial period of operation as its first deputy for operations, writes the "truth about Africom" in Foreign Policy (hat tip to WPR's Media Round-up).  In my mind, Africom is the most SysAdmin commands by far, and its operational philosophy will eventually penetrate the other regional combatant commands.

Of course, the subtitle must exclaim, "we're not trying to take over Africa!" because everybody thinks we can pull it off with 10,000 troops or so, but after that crushing that silly straw man, the piece settles into a no-hype description of the new command, with some dissembling required.

Here are the five main points:

Lesson 1: Africom does not create policy.

Lesson 2: Africom must work hand in hand with the diplomatic corps.

Lesson 3: Keep our footprint in Africa limited.

Lesson 4: Africom is most effective when it listens to the concerns of its African partners.

Lesson 5: Don't expect instant results.

The dissembling part is when Moeller attacks the big footprint argument by stating emphatically that Africom has no plans to create an HQ on the continent--as if that defines the footprint. No mention is made of the Contingency Operating Locations (COLs) or mini-bases that characterize Africom's avatar, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

But overall, a great piece.  It shows that America's national security establishment is both serious about shrinking the Gap in Africa and capable of doing it far more cheaply than Iraq and Afghanistan suggested.

I interviewed Moeller in the Pentagon for my "The Americans Have Landed" article for Esquire back in 2007.


The big-war fantasy that is the Taiwan scenario

fantasy image here

Great piece by Keith Richburg in WAPO.

The start:

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and keeps more than 1,000 missiles pointed at the island. Taiwan stockpiles American weapons to defend itself. And the standoff remains the longest-running irritant in Washington's relations with Beijing.

But the unresolved rivalry across the narrow Taiwan Strait masks a different reality on the ground. In many ways -- economics, culture, family ties -- China and Taiwan are rapidly becoming closely intertwined, making the chances of a military confrontation seem increasingly remote.

More than a million Taiwanese now live in China full time -- about half of them in the Shanghai area -- running factories, starting restaurants, attending universities, buying property.

There are 270 regularly scheduled flights each week between Chinese and Taiwanese cities, and they are almost always fully booked. The number of weekly flights is set to grow to more than 400 in a few weeks.

Many Taiwanese living in China are too young to have known China as a hostile neighbor; rather, they see a vast marketplace.

"I could see it was happening around me, people were moving to China," said Tingting Yang, 39, who came to Shanghai from Taipei seven years ago and runs a public relations company. "They don't need to do anything militarily. Taiwan is already close to China. And getting closer."

They gave me a rifle, but I invaded with a briefcase instead:

Taiwanese men speak of the irony of being taught during military service to see China as the enemy. "We were trained to land in China on a marine landing craft with rifles and tanks," said Martin Liou, 51, who was an officer in the Taiwanese army and later set up Amway's warehouse and factory network in China. "Instead of a rifle, I came with a briefcase."

The soft-power kill moves head at full speed:

Taiwanese culture has also invaded mainland China, from soap operas to the accent and slang being mimicked by teenage girls in Shanghai.

The wave goes the other way, as well, though it is more limited. Chinese are increasingly traveling as tourists to Taiwan -- 800,000 of them so far this year. For now, they must go with organized tours, but later this year, the rules will allow individual travel.

While tension still exists at the level of nation-states, it's basically lost at the individual level:

"The two governments have their political concerns, their sense of pride," Liou said. "But we regular people, we want to make friends, make money, we want to see each other."

"If China leaves Taiwan alone, if they are patient, sooner or later, it's going to be unified," he said.

This scenario bleeds plausibility, but it's what the USN-USAF AirSea Battle lives and breathes on.


Cybersecurity as a way to revitalize the US-Japan alliance

FT op-ed by John Alkire, managing director of Morgan Stanley Japan.

Basic argument:  we share a common enemy in China's persistent and pervasive cyber snooping and industrial theft.  Recently, US and Japanese officials agreed to stop cyber-snooping on each other and cooperate on cyber-security--basically the cyber equivalent of a traditional military alliance.  Alkire even goes so far as to say we should stand up a joint cyber-security facility on Okinawa to finesse the continuing tension over the US marine base there.

So yeah, little to no chance of us every landing Marines in China, but cyber-security "forces"?  There you have my attention.


Chart of the day: China as the world's biggest navy

Economist story on defense spending in a time of austerity. 

Unsurprisingly, the focus is on how the West keeps reducing its platform numbers because of its addiction to speed, stealth and other forms of high technology (i.e., every platform costs so much more to build over time, that we can afford far fewer of them).  Poster child right now is the F-22, whose production runs for the US ends at 187 units instead of the originally planned 750.

But what do commanders in the field want?  Helicopters and drones--not F-22s.  So why worry about the numbers?

Well, on the naval side, we can now say that China's Peoples Liberation Army Navy is the world's biggest fleet of major combatants, even though nobody would seriously suggest that the PLAN comes anywhere near our overall naval combat capability nor global reach.

So how impressed should we be?

The only question that matters, in my mind, is whether or not China is building a force that counters our capacity to shape the global security environment.  That's not simply a numbers game, but a willingness-to-use mindset, which I don't see China possessing now, or in the future so long as the Party rules. Why? If you use forces, you will lose forces, and China's single-party state can't afford such losses of face.

If you think major naval battles are in the offing, then you're spooked by China's PLAN build-out, but I myself don't see the larger nuclear correlation of forces impacted by this whatsoever, so China's numerical superiority impresses no more than the old Sov version did.  We dare not go to the mattresses over anything important because we know how that will end.  China may still dream of Taiwan in these terms, but America does not.

Hence, the only military developments that impress me are those that involve bolstering China's ability to do counterinsurgency and nation-building, and I see none in the offing or on the horizon.  Instead, China mindlessly apes America's past in its military build-up, as though it's more interested in appearances than global capabilities, and more interested in narrow sea denial than expansive sea control.

I'd be more impressed with a PLAN that eschewed classic major combatants and went in for vast fleets of unmanned vehicles, because I don't see countering traditional naval capabilities to be all that hard--or all that expensive.

What the system really needs right now is more Somali-like pirates the world over to encourage more navy-to-navy collaboration like the Somali version has.

In the end, it's not a matter of who has more ships, but whose ships are most welcomed around the world.


WPR's The New Rules: For U.S. After Iraq, History Once Again Awaits


America has entered a new phase in its Iraq operations, one that represents the end of the “lost war” to many, the non-combat continuation of nation-building to others, and a vague sense of a never-ending global security commitment to just about everyone.  Americans, who crave clear definitions of success or failure, aren’t sure what to make of this turning point, especially since for many, their attention has already shifted to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Meanwhile, some pundits sound the alarm with cries of “permanent war,” even though we haven’t officially declared war on anybody since 1943. As for the rest of the planet, humanity currently enjoys the most systematically peaceful period in its recorded history.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


When Petraeus's push comes to Obama's shove

Ahmed Rashid piece in FT.  Naturally, he argues for a negotiated endgame that includes the Taliban.  So Petraeus is seen as a dangerous man:

For weeks there has been a spectre haunting European corridors of power.  That spectre is David Petraeus.  Since he stepped in last month as head of combined US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, many European governments have feared the US general would try and extend the time and scope of the military surge to give US forces a better chance of winning over the Pashtun population in the south and delivering a knock-out blow to the Taliban.

This is exactly what he is signalling . . .

What I hear again and again in many circles:  the realist Petraeus is prepping the political battlefield with the idealist Obama, with the hard news to be delivered after the November election. Suitably chastened by a new GOP House, Petraeus will be a hard man to turn down--without empowering him as a possible 2012 opponent.

I still consider Petraeus more of a 2016 possibility, but I would drop my support for Obama in a heartbeat if this scenario came to pass. 

Don't get me wrong:  I see Obama as the avatar of a slew of philosopher-kings we're likely to elect over the next couple of decades.  I just Petraeus being a more full-up package, with my dream ticket complete with Bloomberg as Veep.

Do I expect Petraeus would do anything to serve his own political interests before that of his command? Absolutely not.  He's not that dumb.

But the Obama White House?  

Hmmm.  It's one thing to seek such power; quite another to lose it.


The PLAN: "great concern" but "a long way to go"

WSJ story on the annual Pentagon report to Congress over China's build-up.  Because of the general deterioration of mil-mil ties after the $6.4B arms sale to Taiwan, the report will have little impact overall, except to justify growing enthusiasm inside the Building for the whole AirSea Battle concept (the Air Force and Navy searching for relevancy in a Long War world).

The usual references to China's aggressive cyber-snooping, which is annoying but results in no significant shift in the correlation of forces.

As for the new antiship missile, a senior defense official says it is of "great concern," but adds, "they still have a long way to go."

A non-hyperbolic assessment.


Finally, some intelligent analysis on the "death" of network-centric warfare

Sean Lawson writing at his ICTs and International Relations blog.

Simply put, the guy sees the flow of history here, instead of presenting the usual simplicity of who's-up-and-who's-down.

Very intelligent piece.

NCW did its thing, made its permanent impressions, and the system moved on--as it always does.  It was neither the great "savior" nor the great "satan"--just another paradigm iteration that shaped things for the better.

All such paradigms are like scientific "truths":  they're the best you've got until something a bit more accurate comes along.


Wikileaks not so scary, because transparency is--with some restrictions--a good thing for the SysAdmin

WAPO front-page analysis from Greg Jaffe and Peter Finn that does not surprise me:  the Wikileaks trove of raw reports isn’t having any political impact in DC because it’s not having any political impact in the US.  Frankly, it’s another reason why I don’t fear the guerrilla organization:  I don’t believe that more transparency will truly change the public’s perception, so why not play the whole thing on this more transparent plane?

So unprecedented scale and scope, but we haven’t been lied to, and the US military isn’t deluding themselves, and SysAdmin stuff really is nasty and hard—just as much as war in the more traditional forms.  Our adversaries are bastards, and our allies are weak and two-faced . . .

Hey, stop me when I tell you something new.

The only way the Leviathan can live in his world of secrets nowadays is because wars have gotten so fiercely short that they come and go before the transparency can be achieved.  By definition, the SysAdmin’s load is long, horizontal scenario within which pervasive secrecy is impossible, and counterproductive, and . . .


Iron Dome basically operational in Israel

graphic here

Glenn Kessler in WAPO:

This week, Israel successfully conducted a test of a new mobile missile-defense system designed to shield Israeli towns from small rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. When the "Iron Dome" system is fully deployed in the next year, about half the cost -- $205 million -- will be borne by U.S. taxpayers under a plan advanced by the Obama administration and broadly supported in Congress.

While public attention has focused on the fierce diplomatic disputes between Israel and the United States over settlement expansion in Palestinian territories, security and military ties between the two nations have grown ever closer during the Obama administration.

As well it should.  You don't ask friends to do difficult things (or accept difficult realities) without incentivizing them.

As always, I like my missile defense close in, covering those whom MAD cannot address except by extension (always mistrusted).

To me, this sort of stuff is exactly how we handle Iran's inevitable achievement of nuclear weapons, which isn't about achieving anything militarily, because nothing can be militarily achieved in this manner.  Instead, it's about other subjects, where logically we can and should give Iran just enough rope to hang itself on the question of regime legitimacy--or the popular lack thereof.  

In short, you deprive them of the enemy, which is how you Gorbachev their Brezhnevian carcass.


Wikileaks: the transparency standard we inevitably face in the Long War

NYT story on Wikileaks' motives in publishing what the Times is calling "the war logs," which they and several other big mainstream media players were given access to a while back by the organization, leading to the flood of analyzing stories we shall now encounter.

In "Great Powers," I praised Wikileaks for serving as a "wormhole between the two communities--the secret and the unclassified," describing it as "the Radio Free Europe of the surveillance age."  To me, the organization characterizes an emerging standard of transparency in what many call the "long war," and what I refer to as the integration of frontiers as part of globalization's continuing expansion.  It's this emerging transparency standard, sometimes generated by well-meaning friends, other times by insurgents simply looking to brag or recruit others by displaying their deeds, that pushed me to argue, as one of my "grand compromises" between America and the world, that we will eventually pursue an openness WRT to our security efforts around the planet that will mimic what Americans expect from their own police departments--as in, every round accounted for, like the NYPD has done for the last couple of decades.

Why reach for such an amazingly high standard?  Because the ballooning transparency of this networked world will simply demand it--from the bottom up.  Wikileaks is part of that bottom-up demand, and no matter what you think of its motivations, its impact will be viral--and lasting.

This is the inevitable--and painful--evolution we face: the Leviathan can stay in the secret shadows, but the SysAdmin is held to a supremely more difficult standard--behavior so clean that it can assuage shareholders' values, because if it can't, there's no hope of connecting investments by multinational corporations--aka job creation, and jobs are the only exit strategy.

As usual, such arguments are considered by some in the warrior class as complete nonsense--the fantastic attempt to civilize that which is inherently uncivil.  But stepping back from the challenge is simply to admit that we cannot play in this arena, which in my estimation is damn near the whole enchilada going forward. Yes, we can pull back, stock up on our preferred platforms, and dream of getting it on with China over some distant lithium mine.  But that would be holding on to the past instead of moving toward the future.  China will simply disappoint.

So the US military either moves to that impossible standard over time, or it will forced out of the global policing business, only to see all manner of other entities fill that space sub-optimally.  We can either lead or follow.

Because if done well, displaying sufficient progress over time, we will set a profound example that will revolutionize global security. 


The surge in Iraq did not fix everything!

FT op-ed by David Gardner that reflects the absurdly high bar some experts set for counterinsurgency--as in, "The surge did not erase the layered trauma of tyranny, wars, invasion and occupation."

Well, I guess it didn't.  

But the surge (using that term in the most general sense) did reduce fatalities dramatically and improved security commensurately.  Yes, the Shia won, like majorities tend to in ethnic fights the world over, but the key thing is that the victory was marked by stability and not further bloodletting, and the surge played its role.

As for not making it possible for the current political system to forge a unity government after the last election, that's simply ballooning the surge's purview to ridiculous size.  The key thing to note in the current political paralysis is the lack of widespread violence.

Yes, Iraq has a long way to go, but four free elections in a row can hardly be discounted in a region not known for them. Everybody wanted the occupation to go better, and certainly we learned a ton of lessons, but the truth is, most nation-building efforts are largely irrelevant to the larger process of creating economic connectivity to the outside world, which ensues if there is something local to draw in outsiders and there's just enough security and predictability to allow business to unfold. Once those dynamics come into play, it's primarily up to the locals to demand better of themselves.

The military effort can buy you that time and little else.  So some perspective please.  We keep coming up with these fantastic images of successful nation-building and then decrying the military's inability to make them happen instantly, when history says you don't even start posting grades until a good decade passes.

But it's our desire to do everything ourselves that forces this mindset. If you accept that you'll be just a fraction of the SysAdmin effort, despite manning the bulk of the Leviathan one, then the longer timeline is no big deal because you're not trying to pick up the entire tab. Our problem is simply our inability to cede control to others better suited for the economic integration efforts, which are always led by the most powerful neighbors and rising powers of the age.

When you need to own the victory because you need to own the war, then realizing the postwar success in others becomes infinitely harder.


What a drawdown from "combat operations" really looks like

NYT story on the reality of what a post-drawdown US force presence in Iraq will actually entail.

The August deadline might be seen back home as a milestone in the fulfillment of President Obama’s promise to end the war in Iraq, but here it is more complex. American soldiers still find and kill enemy fighters, on their own and in partnership with Iraqi security forces, and will continue to do so after the official end of combat operations. More Americans are certain to die, if significantly fewer than in the height of fighting here.

The withdrawal, which will reduce the number of American troops to 50,000 — from 112,000 earlier this year and close to 165,000 at the height of the surge — is a feat of logistics that has been called the biggest movement of matériel since World War II. It is also an exercise in semantics.

What soldiers today would call combat operations — hunting insurgents, joint raids between Iraqi security forces and United States Special Forces to kill or arrest militants — will be called “stability operations.” Post-reduction, the United States military says the focus will be on advising and training Iraqi soldiers, providing security for civilian reconstruction teams and joint counterterrorism missions.

“In practical terms, nothing will change,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, the top American military spokesman in Iraq. “We are already doing stability operations.” Americans ceased major combat in Iraq long ago, and that has been reflected in the number of casualties. So far this year, 14 soldiers have been killed by hostile fire, and 27 more from accidents, suicides and other noncombat causes, according to

Remember this when you hear similar descriptions re: Afghanistan.  The norm for US interventions of significant size is that we go, we fight, we drawdown, but we stay for the long haul. The key is getting casualties down to very low levels.  Once achieved, the US public will allow ad infinitum, because opponents are no longer able to characterize it as "war."

The experts have it backwards;  the American public has little patience for the Leviathan, therefore its operations must be very short and highly victories, but it has plenty more patience for SysAdmin stuff so long as the commitments are seen as small enough, the casualties low enough, and the value-achieved-for-expenditure seem reasonable.


A transformational era naturally features swift exits for generals

Nice piece by Greg Jaffe in WAPO about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lead to a return of old US political tradition of firing generals during wartime. This may seem like new stuff, but it ain't.  Go back to the Civil War and Lincoln's stretch of going through generals at high speed, or WWII when failing generals were fired at a rapid pace early in the war.

The veneration of generals in the post-Cold War era has been the anomaly--not the rule of US history.  And with the huge shift from pure Leviathan skills to those associated with SysAdmin work, there's naturally a steep learning curve--and not everybody gets to pull a Tommy Franks.

The irony:  we keep asking for more accountability and for generals to stand up to politicians when it matters, but when we get some turnover as a result, we start worrying about that too. I only wish we had more turnover, especially in politics.


Chart of the day: dropping defense budges in Europe

Apologize for grubbiness of scan.  WSJ online version didn't include the charts, and all I had was my marked up version.

Point is simple enough:  none of our traditional allies feature anything but seriously declining defense budgets, and with our own budget coming up huge strains, it's clear we need new friends if we're going to continue playing the role of military superpower.  Indispensable?  Yes.  Sufficient?  No.