Monday, December 01, 2014

The Most Important Military Base

The base of any military is the civilian economy that is the foundation of affording the technology, equipment, and people who comprise the military.

I know, I apparently received a war-time battlefield commission to become Captain Obvious. But so often it seems like we do forget that basic fact.

Iraq, even with its oil, is facing problems already in the years-long campaign we've outlined for defeating ISIL, beginning with the Iraq front:

Iraq's financial sector is facing a recession because of the war between the country's security forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whose fighters have seized one-third of Iraq's territory and displaced up to two million Iraqis.

Syria, too, despite Iranian financial help, is facing a financial problem every bit as critical as the casualty problem that I've long described:

Syria’s economy is in a tailspin, and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is increasingly struggling to find resources to quash the four-year-old rebellion, analysts say. ...

Syrians have been so angered by the rising fuel costs that there have been protests in regime-held areas, a rare event. That has added to the pressure on the government, which already is facing discontent over the huge war casualties suffered by Alawites, the minority religious group that dominates the regime’s military forces.

Russia, too, has problems from their Ukraine War:

As oil prices have dropped dramatically over the past month, Russia has been one of the nations hurting most. In fact, it’s possible that collapsing prices, combined with a raft of other economic problems, may be enough to force Vladimir Putin to back off of his domination of eastern Ukraine — which has begun to feel almost permanent just eight months after the annexation of Crimea.

Indeed, while Russia seems to be planning a winter offensive against Ukraine so they can threaten energy exports to Ukraine and NATO Europe if Russia is resisted; if Putin orders a halt in energy exports, the collateral damage on Russia for loss of sales could shorten the time frame that Russia can afford the disruptions of war, sanctions, declining energy prices, and pre-war corruption problems that drag down the Russian economy (that Ukraine faces, too, for that matter).

Don't think that we are immune to this problem, too, which is why I was not firmly against the sequestration hitting defense spending as long as it was a real deal to constrain overall spending rather than just using defense spending cuts to pay for the rest of government:

On the one hand, over the long haul, the reduction in spending isn't so bad. If the reduction in spending could be managed intelligently, it wouldn't be so bad. And if it helps get our federal spending--including non-defense spending--under control, in the long run that is needed to retain our economic base of our national power.

I came down against sequestration because I didn't have confidence that the spending reductions would be accompanied by flexibility to cope with cuts in order to maintain readiness and because I wasn't confident that sequestration wouldn't just be the first hit.

My skepticism was justified because the spending hit hasn't been accompanied by flexibility and because somehow we have new war costs despite that whole "responsibly ending" our wars thinking.

War rests on logistics. But national power rests on economics.

UPDATE: More on Russia and the price of energy.

UPDATE: Ah, here's the post of mine I was looking for when I wrote this. Funny how you run across things.