Thursday, June 14, 2012

Modern Strategic Thinking

Anthony H. Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has presented what he calls a “paper,” but is actually a series of Power Point slides, regarding “The FY2013 Defense Budget , the Threat of Defense Cuts and Sequestration, and the Strategy-Reality Gap.” You can read it for yourself (pdf), because I just don’t plan to quote very much from it. If I did, I would probably have to buy a new keyboard.

Now, if the title of the think tank, the fact that it is presented with Power Point slides and bullet points, and the title of the piece itself don’t lead you to believe that it is unmitigated bullshit, consider that near the very beginning it screams at the reader in 50-point bright red type that, “National Defense Totaled 5.2% to 6.2% of the US GDP from FY1980-FY1089; It had shrunk to a Post-WWII low of 3% in FY200 and FY2001.”

Since the United States didn’t even exist in 1089, and civilization pretty much didn’t exist in the year 200, that statement is somewhat more detached from reality than it would be without the typos, but not by much. More seriously, when someone doesn’t even proofread his headlines, it’s difficult to consider him as anything other than something of an idiot.

Not to mention that discussing a 2013 budget by considering spending from more than a full decade earlier and under circumstances vastly different than those which currently exist makes very little sense, and discussing line item spending as a relationship to Gross Domestic Product is downright idiotic; total government spending as a percent of overall economy, perhaps so, and total government debt, but one line item of the government budget…

After making the rather reasonable statement that since conditions will always change the government cannot actually form realistic budgets for more than one year at a time, he goes on to show Power Point slides with bullet points for budget discussion through the years 2017, which is certainly more than one year in the future.

He has one whole Power Point slide which illustrates with a graph that “The Key Problems are Recession, War Costs, and that Burden of US Public Spending is Limited Compared to Other Major Democracies, But Too high for American Politics.” The “key problems” toward what objective is unclear, and since the graph has nothing to do with recession or war costs all it actually shows is that European nations spend more than we do, but since they have what we call “socialism,” that’s hardly surprising.

And that’s just the first 9 of 128 pages slides. If this is what passes for “strategic thinking” these days, this nation is in deep shit.

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