The US Needs to Build a Smarter Military, Not a Bigger Arsenal ; Cut Missile Defense and Expand Resources for the Army and National Guard

By Lawrence Korb and Sanford Gottlieb | The Christian Science Monitor, March 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

The US Needs to Build a Smarter Military, Not a Bigger Arsenal ; Cut Missile Defense and Expand Resources for the Army and National Guard


Lawrence Korb and Sanford Gottlieb, The Christian Science Monitor


As the war in Iraq enters its fourth year with no end in sight, support for the war among the American public is dropping rapidly. But more ominously, so is support for US engagement in the world. President Bush is aware of this and in his State of the Union address and his recently released National Security Strategy, he warned of the attraction of isolationism in a complex and challenging time.

While this desire to be relieved of the burden of global responsibility is understandable, it is wrong. US military force in conjunction with other instruments of American power will be needed to protect our security for the foreseeable future. What the president must do is lay out the circumstances for its use.

Above all, the armed forces must be ready to defend the homeland. They must also, with allies, be prepared to deter and defeat aggression, halt genocide, and share in peacekeeping.

Even homeland defense requires international collaboration in order to destroy global terrorist networks and prevent attacks. Intelligence agents, special police, and financial experts at home and abroad are as vital to this mission as the fighter pilots who fly over our capital and the Coast Guardsmen who protect our shores. The military role must expand when necessary, as in Afghanistan, to eliminate a regime that provides a haven to the terrorists. It's not enough to sweep away such a regime; the US must also serve as midwife to a new, viable government.

To bolster homeland defense, the Army National Guard should return to its core mission as chief protector when large-scale disasters occur, its resources directed toward coping with terrorist attacks and devastating hurricanes.

Homeland defense does not, however, require National Missile Defense. North Korea is often cited as the rationale for this costly program (over $40 billion since President Bush took office). Should Pyongyang acquire a credible means of delivering nuclear weapons, the threat of a US retaliation would almost certainly deter a Korean attack. Missile defense, however, is powerless against hijacked airliners and smuggled bombs.

But since the potential for conventional warfare between nations still exists, the US military must maintain sufficient forces to deter or defeat attacks by North Korea against South Korea, China against Taiwan, or Iran against Israel.

Deterrence and war fighting call for a flexible and agile military - but not a massive nuclear arsenal like ours. We have 5,000 deployed H-bombs, many on hair-trigger alert, and another 5,000 in reserve. …

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