I've already mentioned that our version of the Ten Year Rule could also end up lasting far longer than the medium term we assume it is safe to take risks with out conventional warfare capabilities. When the medium term is over, will we really ramp up our defenses when our domestic spending is sky high? Or will we rationalize our decline and say it doesn't matter. Will the medium term keep being redefined to mean ten years from right now?
This policy, even if we actually mean we take risks only in the medium term starting right now, will mean more American troops will die in battle. Our conventional warfare advantages don't just bounce the rubble--they allow us to outfight and overpower enemies without lots of Americans dying in battle. It is a mistake to believe that countries won't take us on because we are stronger, so we can let our strength slip a good deal. If a country decides to take us on, we'll have less superiority to fight them as a result of this defense spending plan. And we will lose more troops to win, at best. We might even lose. That's the risk we take in the medium term.
And it gets worse, this policy of taking risks in the medium term cancels our doctrine of military dominance, that not only sought to win wars at lower costs to ourselves (and our enemies, too, by beating them fast) but aimed to be so far ahead of our enemies in conventional warfare capabilities that they don't even try to match us in defense capabilities. In domestic terms, some would call this an "investment" that pays off in the future by requiring us to spend less over time because potential enemies feel it is hopeless to catch up:
We know from history that deterrence can fail; and we know from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred. The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy—whether a state or non-state actor—to impose its will on the United States, our allies, or our friends. We will maintain the forces sufficient to support our obligations, and to defend freedom. Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.
Well, now we'll let potential enemies catch up--and tell ourselves that we'll accelerate away with additional spending should they get close.
Our new defense policy is based on sound and accurate reasons--we really are dominant in conventional warfare right now--but it relies on a bad assumption that we will end our spending holiday in time to maintain our superiority. And it lets our potential enemies know that they can indeed catch up with our military capabilities and perhaps overtake us in selected areas if they accelerate their efforts while we coast on our reputation and past spending.
We built up our current dominance with decades of efforts at designing and building weapons, and training high quality personnel to man them. We'll surrender that advantage with a medium term policy that will squander that lead under the best of circumstances and lead us to inferiority if the likely circumstances of never canceling the Medium Term Rule play out.
We're not preparing to fight the last war. We're preparing to fight no war at all--and hoping what we have will be sufficient if we do find ourselves at war.
I'm very disappointed with Secretary Gates.