My Bone to Pick with Biden’s Secretary of Defense

Actually, I have several, but first a few words to set the confrontation on level ground.

It was called Secretary of War until 1947, when war apparently sounded far too warlike and defense rolled easier off the tongue. Since then, The United States has had absolutely no threats to defend itself against, but endless excuses to instigate wars.

Such are the powers of language to deflect and deceive.

Also, war is an expensive enterprise and the damages to both sides are never worth the end-game. Eisenhower knew this but, other than Washington, Jackson, Truman and Grant, he was the only president to actually witness and participate in the slaughter of humans.

Those are my prejudices to set the conversation

Conversation is not quite accurate, as it sounds like Lloyd J. Austin III and I are sitting across table from one another and that is not the fact. He will be quoted from various interviews and I will have at him as I see fit. The reader is left to watch the serves and returns across the net and call ‘outs’ as they see fit.

The SecDef gets the first serve

At his April 30 speech at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, Austin claimed “The cornerstone of America’s defense is deterrence, ensuring that our adversaries understand the folly of outright conflict.” Then he goes on to quote President Kennedy in 1961, when he said  “only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”

Which is absolute poppycock by both men.

For Austin to claim deterrence is ludicrous. We deterred no one in Korea, left with our pants around our ankles in Vietnam and proved in Iraq and Afghanistan that the most powerful military in the world can be defeated by nothing more than pipe-bombs and grit. The world watched in horror as we sank to torture as an instrument of wars we could not win.

Our adversaries are encouraged as they see us withdraw from Afghanistan and prepare to do so in Iraq.

As for Kennedy, he had great speech-writers and I admired him personally. Unfortunately, our sufficiency beyond doubt in arms came to be tested four years later with disastrous results in Vietnam. So much for never be employed.

That’s only the first paragraph of Austin’s speech

In the second, Lloyd reveals another untruth.

Sixty years later, we are still the best in this business. But being the best today isn’t a guarantee of being the best tomorrow — not in an age when technology is changing the character of warfare itself, and not at a time when our potential adversaries are very deliberately working to blunt our edge.”

Whoa, let’s parse that. “We are still the best in this business.” What business might that be?

If Lloyd speaks of the armaments business, that good old military-industrial boondoggle, we do indeed outspend the next six military spenders by twice, including Russia, China and the UK. We beggar our nation’s schools, infrastructure and societal future by allocating 42% of our annual national budget on armaments.

If he speaks about the business of winning military conflicts, the score is zero for us and four for our adversaries since WWII.

Finally, just who are our potential adversaries?

Russia is both broke and humiliated. The humiliation element is entirely of our doing and serves as an unnecessary provocation.

China is a more interesting case. China has grown as an economic challenger to the United States mostly because we nominated it as our manufacturing arm as we destroyed our own capabilities in that sphere because it was profitable.

Now—and this is the interesting part—because China succeeded in what we asked of it, we somehow fudge that around to being a military threat. China (to my knowledge) attacked no one of late and its military is growing only because of its Taiwan policy and to approach 10% parity with ours (and even that is probably not close).

China’s weapon of choice is investment. Its chosen area of influence is Africa and Southeast Asia. One cannot help but doubt that confrontation with America, its largest trading partner, is in its interest. Nevertheless, the previous administration certainly poked an American stick in the Chinese eye.

Paragraph three and four—sigh…

Galloping advances in technology mean important changes in the work we do to keep the United States secure not just through air, land and sea but also space and cyberspace.”

Certainly a cogent point and I suggest—as strongly as I am able—that how we choose that security is paramount. Following WWII we chose to engage Russia in an arms race that bankrupted the Soviet Union and weakened America’s ability to spend on all the internal sources of a strong democracy.

To engage China or anyone else in economic warfare is a fool’s errand. From both a diplomatic and practical position, cooperation in these efforts will strengthen relationships and if you think the Cold War was expensive, you don’t even want to contemplate a space race.

“To ensure that the costs and risks of aggression remain out of line with any conceivable benefit, we’ll use existing capabilities, build new ones, and use all of them in new and networked ways — hand in hand with our allies and partners.”

First of all Lloyd, our allies and partners haven’t fared all that well in our hand-in-handness since the Trade Center attack. For the most part, they’re—how do I say this diplomatically?—feeling we left them very much alone and swinging in our meddling winds.

Second, its’ the United States that has to realize that the costs and risks of aggression remain out of line with any conceivable benefit. God knows, we’ve proven that to ourselves during over a half-century of blindly striking out. It’s way past time for America to take its proper place as a healer and supporter of the prosperity of all nations.

Look in the mirror, Lloyd. In nearly all cases since WWII, we are the aggressor.

Winding this up before my pen runs dry

In paragraph five (out of thirteen), Austin declares, “We cannot predict the future. What we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities — all woven together in a networked way that is so credible, flexible and formidable that it will give any adversary pause. We need to create advantages for ourselves and dilemmas for them.”

Spoken like a four-star general–who sees every adversary as a nail and war as the hammer–which makes him absolutely dead wrong.

What we need is a creative international mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities — all woven together in a networked way that is so powerful, flexible and forward-leaning that it will prevent any adversarial advantages. We need to create advantages for a far more integrated and intelligent future.

A quick and simple example to ponder

Tesla, an American electric automobile manufacturer is selling significant numbers of cars in China. BYD, a Chinese manufacturer of electric buses and trucks, is selling boatloads of vehicles in America.

Is there something wrong in that?

The ball’s in your court, Lloyd.





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