Written by Dabney B. on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Barack Obama has just defeated Mitt Romney in the race for the US presidency. We’re not going to get into the political debate and analyze whether that’s a good or bad thing – we’re just interested in what this means for the US military. Luckily, we can learn a lot by studying Obama’s success. His first four years in the White House can give us a pretty good idea of what the next four years will entail.
Anybody who watched the presidential debates between Obama and Romney probably spotted a bit of foreshadowing. Romney said in the debate, “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285.”
Obama countered that by saying, “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said, “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. …And so the question is not a game of ‘Battleship,’ where we’re counting ships. It’s ‘What are our capabilities.’”
So yes, Obama is planning on downsizing the US military. He wants to drop the size of the army from about 570,000 troops down to 490,000 active-duty troops, and he also plans to cut the number of Marines down to 186,000. Does fewer troops equate to a weaker American military? Not necessarily. Modern warfare places slightly less emphasis on troops and more emphasis on hardware like satellites, drones, and cybersecurity. Obama’s decision to cut troops reflects this philosophy. Besides, cutting down the size of the military is almost unavoidable. The US government badly needs to free up tax dollars so that they can provide some fiscal and economic relief to the American people.
The war is winding down in the Middle East, which means that America will be free to set its sights elsewhere – namely the Pacific Ocean and China. Is it any coincidence that Obama wants to focus more on naval and air power? Not hardly. Maintaining control of the Pacific Ocean and its airspace will ensure that the US has the political clout to make its opinion heard in Asian conflicts.
Past that, though, Obama’s stance on Asia is a bit fuzzy. Christopher Preble of the CATO Institute said, that Obama “will have to put some substance behind the rhetoric and really explain it early on in the second term. For example, there are some serious issues in terms of territorial disputes in the region. There are disputes between Japan and South Korea, and, of course, between China and multiple countries. … The administration will have to clarify the U.S. position on those sorts of things as part of the pivot.”
Will America’s smaller military be able to handle the challenges of tomorrow? Only time will tell. One thing is for certain, though: If America wants to remain the world superpower that is, then the DoD will need to learn how to fight smarter, not harder.
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