Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Obama Administration and Choices

In reacting to the president's "fate of the union" address, Steve Clemons anticipates the Obama team having to make "some tough judgment calls" when it comes to the economy. This is also something that will have to occur with U.S. foreign and defense policy as well. (Policy toward India, the subject of yesterday's post, may well prove to be one of the first challenges.)

On the question of choices, Derek Reveron over at New Atlanticist made these observations:
With two important operations ongoing and security assistance programs with 149 countries, the U.S. military is in high demand. President Obama’s strategic outlook does not suggest this will change. And with the inability or unwillingness of allies and partners to increase contributions to international security, the post-modernists are likely to guide future defense spending to get Gates’ balanced force structure.
(Visit his post to get his description of the three "schools" for defense policy.)

I see the Post-Modernists with suspicion.

It all sounds very end-of-history-axis-of-evil-and-outposts-of-tyranny, sort of thing.

What is Mr Gvosdev's take?
Well, Gates is certainly aware of the need to make choices. After all, he said in his FA piece in January that we "must consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs." Whether he can convince the rest of the Obama administration remains to be seen.
Sometime in this decade, US will be spending more on VA, Pensions, etc. for her military than on new weapons procurement. This was already known at least 11 years ago.

The current economic conditions only makes the fiscal crisis of US military worse.

I do not think this is an issue of choices - many of those options are no longer even on the table.
I have no problem with the diagnosis, but I think the challenge for the administration is managing the inter-agency process more effectively to produce better policy. Some failed states may require military intervention/peace operations/capability building missions. These may not produce short-term benefits for the US, but they'll provide the long-term international stability necessary to US leadership. However, the US needs to take a more dynamic role in multilateral attempts to manage problems diplomatically as well.
The interagency doesn't exist. And you are going to see all of these problems, Chris, shoved back on to DOD.
Yes, we have no interagency. The reason is the DoD is only agency for interaction with the rest of the world the USG will really fund. DoD gets hundreds of gigabucks, and the rest get crumbs. This is because the only thing the US foreign policy elite really cares about is global military dominance.
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