The Obama Doctrine: Nixon Doctrine redux?

April 7, 2014

James Kitfield with a very alarming piece of analysis for Breaking Defense:

Spiral of Decline

Indeed, to grasp the perils of this era of retrenchment after the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important to understand how at some invisible point the Nixon Doctrine of retrenchment became a de facto strategy of managing military decline, with disastrous results by decade’s end. A balky Congress weary of the Vietnam conflict and of Nixon himself withdrew air support from South Vietnamese forces, leading to the fall of Saigon and South Vietnam in 1975. Reductions in defense spending cut too deep for too long, infamously leading to the “hollow Army” of 1980. The Shah of Iran, the United States’ top client in the Middle East, was overthrown by an Islamist revolution that heralded three decades of enmity between Washington and the Islamic Republic.  Sensing our strategic weakness, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and installed a puppet regime in 1979, putting Soviet forces on the doorstep of the Persian Gulf, America’s energy breadbasket.

What’s remarkable about the current era of retrenchment is how fast evidence is gathering of a similar spiral of decline. By conspiring in the imposition of “sequestration” spending caps, the administration and Congress have already caused a military readiness crisis, and if the caps are not lifted the Pentagon says it will have to cut U.S. ground forces to 420,000 troops, far below the 450,000 planned under the recently released defense budget (a level already down from the wartime peak of 570,000). Congress also plans to blunt the tools of statecraft, with a recent House Appropriations Committee spending bill proposing a $4.3 billion spending cut from the State Department’s $49 billion budget.

Read the whole thing.

I readily admit that I endorse a similar pattern – beggar the Army to the benefit of the Navy and the Air Force – but sequestration is a too blunt instrument, and the change is not being done with an eye toward a coherent embrace of any strategic framework, such as Offshore Balancing.   And the Obama Doctrine is not a product of sequestration, it was well in effect before the budget battles that led to sequestration.  But, for all the pre-positioning we read from the myriad potential presidential candidates, none are offering any sort of clear strategic vision for the US from 2017 onward.



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