Pentagon Catfight Threatens Terror War

Keep an eye on Donald Rumsfeld's trip to Beijing this week. It's about more than America's relations with the Chinese. It also could prove to be a turning point in a battle within the Defense Department over the future of the U.S. military.rummy_china.jpgThomas P.M. Barnett, in a dynamite story for this month's Esquire, explains...

The greatest threat to America's success in its war on terrorism sits inside the Pentagon. The proponents of Big War (that cold-war gift that keeps on giving), found overwhelmingly in the Air Force and Navy, will go to any length to demonize China in their quest to justify high-tech weaponry (space wars for the flyboys) and super- expensive platforms (submarines and ships for the admirals, and bomber jets for both) in the budget struggles triggered by our costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.With China cast as America's inevitable enemy in war, the Air Force and Navy will hold off the surging demands of the Army and Marines for their labor-intensive efforts in Southwest Asia, keeping a slew of established defense contractors ecstatic in the process. How much money are we talking about? Adding up various reports of the Government Accountability Office, we're talking about $1.3 trillion that the Pentagon is locked into spending on close to a hundred major programs. So if China can't be sold to Congress and the American people as the next Red menace, then we're looking at a lot of expensive military systems being cut in favor of giving our troops on the ground the simple and relatively cheap gear they so desperately need not only to stay alive but also to win these ongoing conflicts.You'd think the great search for the replacement for the Soviet threat would have finally ended after 9/11, but sadly that's not the case. Too many profits on the line. Army generals are fed up with being told that the global war on terrorism is the Pentagon's number-one priority, because if it were, they and their Marine Corps brethren would be getting a bigger slice of the pie instead of so much being set aside for some distant, abstract threat. It's bodies versus bucks, folks, and that's a presidential call if ever there was one. So it's time for George W. Bush to make up his mind whether or not he's committed to transforming the Middle East and spreading liberty to those Third World hellholes where terrorists now breed in abundance. If he is, the president will put an end to this rising tide of Pentagon propaganda on the Chinese "threat" and tell Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in no uncertain terms that our trigger pullers on the ground today deserve everything they need to conduct the counterinsurgency operations and nation building that will secure America's lasting victory in his self-declared global war on terrorism. If not, then Bush should just admit that the defense-industrial complexor maybe just Dick Cheneyis in charge of determining who America's "real enemies" are.
Obviously, Barnett is simplifying a bit, for the sake of magazine brevity -- there are plenty of "Big War" types with major jobs in the Army, for example. (How else do you explain all that cash for hulking projects like Future Combat Systems?) And I have hard time believing China's leaders are as benevolent as Barnett makes them out to be. But the story is mostly dead-on. Unfortunately, it's also subscription-only, so it may be a bit hard to get online. But it's worth the few bucks for the read.(Big ups: Victor)
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