We enjoyed a very successful roll-out of our new project this week. Video of the event can be seen here. The Index is fully available here at a great website has been built for it; I hope you take the time to check it out.
One of the best commentaries I've read so far concerning the worrisome state of affairs of our security posture comes from Dan Goure, who wrote:
It is incontrovertible that U.S. military power and presence in the world is declining. The armed forces themselves are worn out, inadequately resourced and badly in need of modernization. Nor can there be any argument that threats to our security and that of our friends and allies are multiplying and growing bolder and even stronger. At the same time, according to blunt statements by senior defense officials, this nation is losing its military-technological edge. Yet, there has not been a diminution in the demands on U.S. military power.
The point to our Index is this: This U.S. is a global power but can only remain such if it acts accordingly, disciplines its spending habits, truly champions things it thinks are vitally important to its long-term interests, and prioritizes the use of its resources accordingly. It cannot remain fiscally viable as a spendthrift nation. It cannot maintain a strong, growing economy if it overly burdens it with excessive debt, suffocates innovation with government-imposed strictures, or loses access to materials and markets. But above all, it cannot remain a global power--the preeminent power--if it is militarily weak or even perceived as such. Military power isn't about dominating other countries by force. It is about deterring domination by others and stopping or overturning their domination if they are not deterred. Countries seek alliances with other countries whom they perceive to be powerful and they run from or exploit those they perceive to be weak. Little wonder Roosevelt cited an old African proverb about "big sticks" being necessary for diplomacy to work or that Reagan made "peace through strength" a central theme of his foreign policy.
Gen James Mattis recently sounded a number of alarms in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, adapted in an essay posted here. He prefaced his discussion of the importance of military capabilities and readiness with this:
The world is awash in change. The international order, so painstakingly put together by the greatest generation coming home from mankind’s bloodiest conflict, is under increasing stress. It was created with elements we take for granted: the United Nations, NATO, the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods and more. The constructed order reflected the wisdom of those who recognized no nation lived as an island and we needed new ways to deal with challenges that for better or worse impacted all nations. Like it or not, today we are part of this larger world and must carry out our part. We cannot wait for problems to arrive here or it will be too late; rather we must remain strongly engaged in this complex world…The international order built on the state system is not self-sustaining. It demands tending by an America that leads wisely, standing unapologetically for the freedoms each of us in this room have enjoyed…While we recognize that we owe future generations the same freedoms we enjoy, the challenge lies in how to carry out our responsibility.
As it now stands, our military forces are shrinking in size, losing the capacity necessary to be in many places at once or in sufficient numbers in any one place to protect America's interests. They are also aging, meaning the people and platforms that compose our military are being used more frequently, for longer periods, and without replacement in the near future. Simply put, our military is being worn out, a condition worsened by the impact of sequestration which is forcing the military Services to shed personnel--thus placing a greater burden on those that remain--to defer maintenance on equipment that increasingly needs it, and to delay the acquisition of new equipment intended to replace items being used up in current operations.
Unless things change in the very near future, unless our country reconsiders its priorities, disciplines itself, and determines to once again "carry out our responsibility" to lead and ensure the continuation of an international order that has benefited more people in more ways than at any other time in history, we will soon find that no one else can do so and will suffer the consequences for a very long time. It's that important.