November 30, 2004

Write What You Mean

Gregg Easterbrook says we ought to increase our defense spending. What he really means is that we ought to reorganize our defense spending. Sure, we probably need more money for bombers. Easterbrook's big on bombers. (And who isn't?) But if you look at, say, the FY2005 military procurement bill, there's already billions being spent on all sorts of stuff we don't need—more nuclear subs (why?) and stealth fighters (why?) and planes that can do air-to-air combat (against who?). So Easterbrook should write about how we should junk all that stuff in favor of stuff we do need. Except then he'd be writing a column about Rumsfeld's once-vaunted "revolution in military affairs," and whatever happened to that. I wonder too.

On a related note, I've been reading Thomas Hammes The Sling and the Stone lately, and he makes the good point that the Pentagon tends to ask "How can we make the best of technology to fight wars in the 21st century?" rather than the simpler and better question, "What's the best way to fight wars in the 21st century?" The reason, though, is simple: the military contractor industry is more than just a perennial Mother Jones cover story—it really exists, and it's the reason why the Pentagon hasn't downplayed its technology fetish in favor of preparing for the sort of "Fourth Generational Warfare" found in post-Saddam Iraq and elsewhere. Obviously a blind increase in spending isn't the solution here, but since Easterbrook didn't really mean what he wrote, I won't hold him responsible.
-- Brad Plumer 9:30 PM || ||