Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Less Counter-Insurgency, More Asia in New U.S. Strategy

Inter Press Service

Capping a major eight-month review, President Barack Obama unveiled a new defence strategy that places more emphasis on U.S. military capabilities in Asia and the Pacific and much less on counter-insurgency and nation-building operations in poorer and conflict-plagued countries.

Among other steps, the new strategy paper, "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense", calls for new investments in cyber-security and greater reliance on naval and air power, as opposed to ground forces whose ranks will be reduced by tens of thousands over the coming few years.

"As we look beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the end of long-term nation-building with large military footprints – we'll be able to ensure our security with smaller conventional ground forces," Obama said at an unprecedented presidential briefing at the Pentagon.

"…So, yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats," he added.

The new strategy, which Obama ordered the Pentagon to prepare last April, is designed to accommodate some 450 billion dollars in cuts in projected defence budgets over the next 10 years.

Because of the failure last November of a bipartisan Congressional "super-committee" to reach agreement on how to reduce the record trillion-dollar deficits that Washington faces, the Pentagon may be forced to cut as much as an additional 600 billion dollars over the decade.

At more than 700 billion dollars in 2012, the U.S. defence budget accounts for over 40 percent of total annual global military spending and exceeds the combined defence budgets of the world's 20 next most-powerful militaries.

Even with the 10-year, 450-billion-dollar cut on which the new strategy is based, however, Obama said the Pentagon's budget will continue "to be larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined" and "will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership".

Much of the savings will be borne by the reductions in ground forces, of which the Army is likely to be the biggest loser. While specific details of cuts are expected to be announced later this month or in early February, the Army's ranks are likely to decline from the current 570,000 soldiers to 490,000 in the coming few years, according to senior Pentagon officials.

The Marines, currently over 200,000 strong, will be much hit less hard as they are likely to be assigned to naval task forces whose importance will increase as a result of the administration's strategic "pivot" from the Greater Middle East towards the Asia- Pacific region that was dramatised by Obama's November swing through the region.

Indeed, it was during that tour that he announced the deployment 2,500 Marines to a base in northern Australia in what the New York Times called "the first long-term expansion of the American's military's presence in the Pacific" since the Vietnam War.

That geographical pivot was re-affirmed in the new strategy document, which described U.S. economic and security interests as "inextricably linked" to the region. "Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region," it declared.

Other savings are likely to come from delays or cancellations of costly new weapons systems, most notably the nearly 2,500 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) ordered by the Pentagon. The Lockheed Martin programme has been plagued by huge cost overruns, making it the most expensive defence programme in U.S. history.

The strategy also suggests cuts in U.S. nuclear forces. "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy," the strategy paper asserted.

The strategy also suggested that Washington is abandoning its post-Cold War stance that it should be able to fight two major ground wars in different parts of the globe at the same time.

"Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – an opportunistic aggressor in a second region," the document states.

That was criticised by the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Bud McKeon, who called it "unrealistic".

"The president is clearly repeating the mistakes of the past – by providing a force far smaller than is sufficient to meet the threats we face," he told editors at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). "The possibility of two simultaneous contingency operations is real. One need only look at the current instability in North Korea and the threats coming from Iran, for an example."

McKeon also complained that the reduction in ground troops will put the U.S. "back on a pre-9/11 footing" and that "the next time we have to engage in a major ground operation, we won't have the forces we need, just as we didn't in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Similarly, Jamie Fly, the executive director of the hawkish Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), described the strategy's rejection of COIN and nation-building as "very dangerous".

"I understand that most Americans are tired of prolonged commitments in war zones, but the fact of the matter is we never know what's over the horizon," he told IPS. "Stating up front that our forces are going to be incapable of conducting these types of operations is very risky."

If the hawks were unhappy, however, more-dovish voices were decidedly muted in their enthusiasm.

"The Pentagon's proposed reductions in its spending plans are far too low," according to William Hartung, a veteran defence analyst at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.

"If the administration were to follow up on its own rhetoric on smaller conventional forces, getting rid of outdated Cold War-era systems, and reduce our nuclear forces, it could double its proposed cuts in Pentagon spending to one trillion dollars over the next decade. That would be a real down payment on reductions that need to be made to have a significant impact on reducing future deficits," he said.

"This is an extremely modest build-down," said Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies, who noted that the anticipated 2013 Pentagon budget that Obama will request in his State of the Union Address to Congress later this month will amount to only four percent less than the previous five-year average.

Even as the strategy review re-affirmed Obama's "pivot" to the Asia/Pacific, it also stressed its continued commitment to the Greater Middle East, noting U.S. goals of "countering violent extremists and destabilizing threats, particularly "prevent(ing) Iran's development of a nuclear weapon capability and counter(ing) its destabilizing policies."

"To support these objectives, the United States will continue to place a premium on U.S. and allied military presence in – and support of – partner nations in and around this region," it asserted in italics.

"Those allies in the Persian Gulf should rest easier after today's press conference," noted Andrew Exum, senior fellow of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

In remarks late last month, after Washington completed the withdrawal of all its combat troops from Iraq, Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, sparked considerable speculation over the continued U.S. military presence in the region when he told reporters that the U.S. would seek to "demilitarise" its presence there by returning to a "posture …far more in line with where we were before 1990."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org). His blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Donald Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr is the focus of a growing controversy over the Robert Mueller report because his decision to unilaterally declare that the the president had not obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.


Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is the president’s senior adviser, whose dealings with the Persian Gulf leaders have come under scrutiny for conflicts of interest.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

President Trump’s announcement that he would recognise Israeli sovereignty over the western part of the Golan Heights destroys the negotiating basis for any future peace between Israel and Syria. It also lays the groundwork for a return to a world without territorial integrity for smaller, weaker countries.


The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


RightWeb
share