You’ve probably seen the headline: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is gutting the Army to numbers not seen since the sleepy days before Pearl Harbor! Senior Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain have already declared that these cuts are DOA (dead on arrival) in the Senate. Why? Allegedly because they endanger our national defense. Naturally, such claims are often politically-motivated. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has already gone on record as claiming that President Obama prefers to fund food stamps and other social entitlement programs to funding the military at adequate levels.
Should we be worried? Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent article at The Atlantic to explain why Hagel’s proposed cuts to today’s Army should not be compared to the Army’s end strength in 1940. The U.S. military has obviously changed greatly since then. Today, the military relies much more on technology as “force multipliers.” There is simply no military on the planet as high-tech and capable of projecting power as the U.S. military. Moreover, because we’re not fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we simply no longer need as many soldiers in the Army as we did during the Surge years.
Today’s military is far less concerned with end strength than it is with capabilities. I recall talking to an Army lieutenant colonel and experienced battalion commander in Iraq. He explained that one of his infantry companies (of approximately 100 men) could easily defeat an enemy battalion (of approximately 500 men). He wasn’t boasting; just stating facts. An American company, assuming it could tap its technology as well as all of its fire support units (artillery, helicopters, and close air support from the U.S. Air Force), would simply move faster and hit harder and more accurately than its enemy. Again, it’s not about numbers; it’s about capabilities.
The US military is enormously powerful. Its naval and air assets are second to none. So is its ability to hit hard at a distance. So is its equipment — its force multipliers — from divisional/brigade levels down to the platoon/squad level. Reversing the old Soviet dictum, in this case quality has a quantity all its own.
To suggest that Hagel’s proposed retrenchment in Army end strength would return us to 1940 is the ultimate in ignorance — or the ultimate in deliberate disinformation for political gain.
America’s weakness has nothing to do with its military. America’s weakness is the rampant dishonesty of its political discourse. Even adding a million soldiers to our Army’s rolls won’t fix that.