These days, every story on the defense beat is depressing.
Gray winter clouds are literally and metaphorically parked over Washington. Elected officials regularly plumb new depths in bad governance. The defense industry is going out of business because the penniless federal government must cancel all its big pending programs. We'll be defenseless and our Republic is doomed. If history is any guide, we're in for about a hundred years of sackings by some very unpleasant people.
Well, wait -- maybe not. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey hinted to the BBC this week that America might not be buried by snow in an eternal night, after all. Here's how Jim Garamone put it in an official Defense Department story:
During an interview on the BBC program “Newsnight,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey bristled when Jeremy Paxman began the interview by asking, “General, what’s it like to take over the military at a time when it is in decline?”Continued Garamone, quoting Dempsey in a speech:
“We’re not in decline,” Dempsey asserted. “The incline or decline is not an affect of size, it’s a function of capability.” Dempsey explained that the U.S. military has learned much over the past 10 years of war. “We tend to face adversaries who don’t mass against us -- they decentralize,” he said. “We’ve had to become a network to defeat a network.”
Dempsey said he believes a psychology contributes to talk about decline. “We are neither in decline nor are we victims,” he said at the Colin Cramphorn Memorial Lecture following his talk with the BBC. “We are simply responding to what one might argue is a historic cycle of resources.”Hey, that doesn't sound so bad! Maybe we'll get through this thing all right after all. At least today there's slightly less of a threat from complete nuclear annihilation than there used to be. But Dempsey wasn't all sunshine and roses, per Garamone:
Historically, Dempsey said, the U.S. military has expanded during times of conflict and shrunk following the conflicts. “The key,” he said, “is that we have to ensure that what we do in contraction is ‘expansible,’ so if we get the future wrong – which, by the way, we have an uncanny capability to do that – that we’ll have enough capability to get through the initial challenge and then be able to expand the force.”
Budget challenges do exist, and the U.S. military will do its part to help the nation over the deficit crisis, the chairman said. The military is cutting $450 billion in spending over the next 10 years, he noted, a level of cuts he said is manageable. “Anything more and it risks being unmanageable,” he added. “But I can’t see that far yet.”That could be the main reason why this era has become so bleak for the defense game -- no one can.