“Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the United States was too strong.” --Ronald Reagan
The American armed forces are in a death spiral. The potential danger far exceeds the health insurance debacle occurring in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Defense is as susceptible to the effects of onerous, ideologically driven policies as the economy and the health system. The implications of the DoD’s death spiral are possibly even more devastating.
President Obama’s administration seems to be at war with its military leadership. In the past five years, Obama has sacked more senior officers than all other presidents combined. It wasn’t until the last 60 years that the United States was considered a top military power. Today, the American military is on the verge of becoming weaker than it was in 1939 when Hitler started his European rampage and Japan pushed its aggression into Asia.
The U.S. military’s descent into second-rate status already surpasses the “hollow force” of President Jimmy Carter’s era. After eight years of military cuts overseen by President Clinton, whose concept of defense had more to do with lawyers and juries than military strength, President George W. Bush found himself in the unfortunate position of having to respond to the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. The initially superb response was then driven into a fantasyland of nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Oct. 2001, had the U.S. kept to the original plan, American forces would have left Afghanistan before the end of the year with al Qaeda crushed and Osama bin Laden captured or killed. One problem was not clearly identifying the enemy as al Qaeda and the nations or groups that supported them. Another problem was not deploying enough force to find, fix, and annihilate al Qaeda. As is well known, the “War on Terror” devolved into a long struggle during which the terrorists morphed into a worldwide network posing a global threat to American interests. Over time, the will of the American public weakened validating Gen. George C. Marshall’s contention that, “A democracy cannot fight a Seven Years War.”
Earl Tilford is a retired Air Force officer and college professor who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of several books on the air war in Vietnam. His latest book, Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s has been accepted for publication by the University of Alabama Press.