Robert Gates is being widely praised for the sanity of saying at West Point that this nation should avoid going to war in the future. Unfortunately, he didn’t say that. He spoke about the manner in which we should not go to war, but he did not even border on suggesting that we should stop doing it. Gates is a much of a war cheerleader as anyone in Washington, he just believes we should do it with airplanes, preferably unmanned airplanes called drones, ships, rockets, robots, and other as yet uninvented high-tech machinery. He does not think we should do it with “boots on the ground.”
What got less recognition in the media was the latter part of that. Gates has cancelled some large military projects, which has caused the media to credit him with “trying to reduce the military budget,” but such is not really the case. He is merely diverting funding from projects which support ground forces, which he believes are obsolete, into high tech projects which he believes will win future wars in a manner that does not require foot soldiers.
Gates has redefined war. Future war no longer consists of engaging in conflict over territory, it now is a matter of just blowing shit up big time. Think “Independence Day” or “War of the Worlds.”
He pretty much told the Army cadets they had picked the wrong branch, actually, and the Navy and Air Force are thrilled pink. Well, the Air Force has mixed feelings, because he is redefining their role to basically that of a big ass video game. Not much glory to be had sitting at a video console in Nevada.
Tom Englehardt has a piece at Tom Dispatch which goes into this subject in greater detail. It is titled “Never Again” and is subtitled “Old Secretaries of Defense Never Die, They Just Write Bestselling Memoirs,” and I encourage you to read it. I had been considering what to say about Mr. Gates when Tom said most of it for me.
I’ve been critical of a couple of unnamed liberal sites lately; Tom Dispatch is a site that one can count on as being unfailingly reasonable and free of demagoguery and insult. A few of his guest writers become a bit hyperbolic at times, but at their most extreme they are espousing positive causes and advocating for ideas rather than bashing those who disagree with them.
Anyway, I’m with the implication of Tom’s piece. We should discard the whole idea of going to war, cut military spending by 80% and balance our budget without emasculating social programs.