Friday, February 29, 2008

If We Can Keep It

I just got a copy of Chet Richards' new book, "If We Can Keep It" (thanks, Chet!). The subtitle is "A national security manifesto for the next administration."

I've only just started it, but it's pretty fantastic already. Here's a snippet from the introduction:

A better path, argued here, is to refashion our entire approach to foreign policy, and in particular, our use of force to solve problems in the developing world. As a first principle, the temptation to invade and occupy other countries should not arise...

[we should] first base our conduct of international affairs around a robust grand strategy. Grand strategy is the art of making more friends and allies than enemies. Grand strategy is why Hitler lost World War II - many more people were willing to fight him than wanted to join him.

Chet goes on to advocate dismantling the DoD and creating a new structure to fund and train a military force consistent with this grand strategy. He points out the DoD spends three-quarters of a trillion dollars every year, "yet there is no military threat to speak of." He also observes the current DoD structure has evolved into a system which is "immune to reform."

I think I'm really going to enjoy this book!

3 comments:

Mark said...

Sounds like an interesting read. Just a thought, though - devil's advocate style:
"He points out the DoD spends three-quarters of a trillion dollars every year, "yet there is no military threat to speak of." "

Could one also argue that the DoD spends three-quarters of a trillion dollars every year, and therefore there is no military threat to speak of?

Ya know, speak softly, big stick, all that?

The Dan Ward said...

Yes, there is the question of cause and effect. That's a good point. It's possible other countries haven't built up large militaries because they know they'll never be able to catch up with ours (however flawed it might be).

So the point isn't that we don't need a military any more. It's just that 3/4 of a Trillion dollars might be a wee-bit of overkill, given the almost total lack of military threats (current and near-to-mid-term). Personally, I'd guess it's overkill by a factor of 10 or so. I think Chet's number is even larger (a factor of 100?)

Now, to say there is (virtually) no military threat doesn't mean there's no *security* threat... but these security threats to the nation ought to be addressed through economics, diplomacy, etc. Military "solutions" aren't what's needed...

And yeah, we still want to have the biggest stick on the block. And we do. And we will continue to be the biggest / baddest / toughest, even if we cut our spending a lot...

Mark said...

True dat.

I think military spending - and all government spending for that matter - is pretty darn inefficient at anything except inflating itself.