Ceaselessly, we court strategic error. At the end of the Cold War, assuming that history had concluded, we discarded too much military power. This continues through the present, rationalized by reference to transformation. But it is yet further error to believe that military-technical evolution can make up for the kind of deficiencies and poor strategic judgments from which no machine can save an army. Continual and remarkable innovation is both indispensable and expensive, but President Clinton required budgetary choice between innovation and everything else, and his successor has yet to disagree. The root of the error that offers transformation as a substitute for so much that is crucial is the conviction that having both would exceed reasonable military expenditures and somehow break the common weal.Regardless of your political stripe, you will no doubt find something disagreeable in Mr. Helprin's blunt assessment. Which is exactly why it has such a powerful ring of truth. His is a stern talking-to that reminds me of the parental scolding I recieved (routinely) as an under-performing high school student. "You are a danger to your own future" it went. I eventually learned the lesson, and not too late for my life. But then again, I didn't have to hammer out an agreement with a split personality. The politics of self are a dictatorship.
Having made many wrong choices, we find ourselves at yet another strategic crossroads, where invisibly to the general public we are about to choose wrongly again. We are reshaping the military into a gendarmerie, configured for small wars, counterinsurgency, peacekeeping and nation-building, all at the expense of the type of force that could deter or defeat a rising China. Although we need a gendarmerie, we cannot do without heavy formations and the many additional ships required for a navy--now less than half the size of the Reagan fleet and shrinking--to exploit our natural advantage in the Pacific.
At bottom, Helprin is scolding the lack of political will and leadership in this country, and I cannot fault him for that. But in a larger sense, the idea that the nation is busy stamping on cockroaches while theives loot the house is troubling.
Chew on it for a while.