Gary Hart’s Matters of Principle: Security

Another post by a man who might have been president a few years ago but for the vicissitudes of time and politics.  I often read his posts. – Carlos

Is Security Finally Lumbering Into the 21st Century

Author: Gary Hart, Jan 7, 2012  http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=824

This week the Secretary of Defense issued a new “strategic guidance” for the Defense Department in response to a Presidential directive to “identify our strategic interests and guide our defense priorities and spending over the coming decade.” Several subtle ideas in the guidance largely escaped media attention, possibly because they were too subtle.

As the author of The Shield and the Cloak (2006), it was gratifying to see the phrase “the global commons” used twice, with reference to access to sea and air lanes of transportation and cyberspace for communications. The notion is important. As I conceive it, security in the global commons is, by definition, a collective, collaborative responsibility for all nations, not a unilateral undertaking of the United States. By making the security of the commons the obligation of all nations of good will and common purposes, the United States is a participant, a leading one, but not the Lone Ranger exerting its will whenever and wherever it chooses to do so.

The term “rebalancing” and occasionally “reform” appears at several locations, mostly in vague, but still important, contexts. We are to “rebalance” our military forces toward East Asia and the Middle East. From where is less clear. Though China’s emerging importance is noted in a more or less neutral sense, there is a passage lumping, unnecessarily it would appear, China with Iran as “pursuing asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities.” What those “asymmetric means” are is not defined and exactly why we would want to be projecting power toward China in a way that would call forth this countering is not explained. On its face, it seems something of a throwback to the days when we put a chip on our shoulder and went looking for someone to knock it off.

There is a strong and welcome assertion of a “whole of government” approach to countering weapons of mass destruction, a project that has preoccupied and continues to preoccupy some of us from years past to the present day. In the past the President has said weapons of mass destruction, specifically nuclear, in the hands of terrorist organizations is the threat that keeps him awake at night…and well it might.

Finally, there are several references in the strategic guidance to irregular warfare and the need to “develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches” and “flexibility” and a presidential reference to the need for “agile and flexible” force structures. To those of us who follow such things and try to penetrate the insider language, these references vaguely suggest a long-overdue shift from the big divisions, large carrier task groups, and long-range bombers to the smaller counterinsurgency special forces approach that the conflicts of this century will demand.

Traditional thinkers who mindlessly resist any military transformation, including too many presidential candidates, are standing in the way, and thus weakening our security, at a time when adapting to the world of new realities is crucial to making us and people of good will around the world safer. There must be more focus on the true meaning of security and how to achieve it in this presidential campaign.

As the author of The Shield and the Cloak (2006), it was gratifying to see the phrase “the global commons” used twice, with reference to access to sea and air lanes of transportation and cyberspace for communications. The notion is important. As I conceive it, security in the global commons is, by definition, a collective, collaborative responsibility for all nations, not a unilateral undertaking of the United States. By making the security of the commons the obligation of all nations of good will and common purposes, the United States is a participant, a leading one, but not the Lone Ranger exerting its will whenever and wherever it chooses to do so.

The term “rebalancing” and occasionally “reform” appears at several locations, mostly in vague, but still important, contexts. We are to “rebalance” our military forces toward East Asia and the Middle East. From where is less clear. Though China’s emerging importance is noted in a more or less neutral sense, there is a passage lumping, unnecessarily it would appear, China with Iran as “pursuing asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities.” What those “asymmetric means” are is not defined and exactly why we would want to be projecting power toward China in a way that would call forth this countering is not explained. On its face, it seems something of a throwback to the days when we put a chip on our shoulder and went looking for someone to knock it off.

There is a strong and welcome assertion of a “whole of government” approach to countering weapons of mass destruction, a project that has preoccupied and continues to preoccupy some of us from years past to the present day. In the past the President has said weapons of mass destruction, specifically nuclear, in the hands of terrorist organizations is the threat that keeps him awake at night…and well it might.

Finally, there are several references in the strategic guidance to irregular warfare and the need to “develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches” and “flexibility” and a presidential reference to the need for “agile and flexible” force structures. To those of us who follow such things and try to penetrate the insider language, these references vaguely suggest a long-overdue shift from the big divisions, large carrier task groups, and long-range bombers to the smaller counterinsurgency special forces approach that the conflicts of this century will demand.

Traditional thinkers who mindlessly resist any military transformation, including too many presidential candidates, are standing in the way, and thus weakening our security, at a time when adapting to the world of new realities is crucial to making us and people of good will around the world safer. There must be more focus on the true meaning of security and how to achieve it in this presidential campaign.

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About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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