The experts raise many provocative questions and varying conclusions about the problems and prospects for the United States and for the post-Cold War era. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students and teachers should find that this hard-hitting analysis stimulates discussion, and military experts and policymakers should find this of real interest also.
World War I also left in its catastrophic wake three transformational legacies that remain largely unnoticed today. These legacies have provoked and will provoke massive and even tectonic change to the international order. But containing, mitigating, and preventing these disruptions from exploding into major crises will prove no less difficult a challenge than did restraining the forces that ignited the chaos and violence of the last century.
The first legacy would create an excess of potential archdukes and an abundance of bullets any combination of which could detonate a regional or global crisis. The second began the unraveling of the Westphalian system of state-centric politics in place since 1648. And the third was to seat Four New Horsemen of the Apocalypse as the major threats and challenges to global peace and prosperity.
In a sentence, these legacies would make Osama bin Laden into a modern day version of Gavrilo Princip, the Archduke’s assassin. They threaten to turn September 11th 2001 into a June 28th 1914 like event, but in many different and frightening ways. Instead of using a Beretta 9-mm pistol, bin Laden crashed three airliners into New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., starting a global war on terror.
This book tells this story.
Unfortunately, our current strategic mindset to deal with the twenty-first century threats remains firmly anchored in the past. That mindset must change if aspirations for peace and prosperity are to be met with decisive and effective actions.
As total federal debt trends toward 100 percent of the GDP, and America wavers on the edge of another recession, Congress has responded with a plan for deficit reduction—more than two trillion dollars over ten years. But its plan emphasizes some parts of the federal budget over others. Entitlements are likely to be spared, and tax reform deferred. Defense spending, however, could be cut by as much as one trillion dollars over a decade, above and beyond savings from ending current wars. This, Michael O’Hanlon argues, isn’t just unwise—it is potentially catastrophic. Such a prospect demands that we have a serious conversation about our national security priorities in an age of austerity.
Deep cuts to the U.S. military would make for brutal politics in any ordinary time, and this is no ordinary time—our government is rife with partisan enmity, and 2012 promises to be one of the most heated presidential election campaigns in our history. THE WOUNDED GIANT asks us to take a deep breath and think clearly and deeply about our national security, and about our role in the world. O’Hanlon forcefully reminds us that it’s not a question of how much we want to pay for our military, but how much we need to pay. O’Hanlon’s command of the whole vast range of American military spending, past and present, is rare, as is his grasp of the strategic logic of our military’s gigantic footprint.
O’Hanlon tests his proposals through a series of chilling plausible scenarios. What would happen if North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb? If the Pakistani government fell? If China turned militant? His conclusions are challenging and impossible to dismiss easily. Through tougher management, changes in military compensation policies, a selective reduction in the number of ground, air, and naval forces, as well as smart and selective modernization efforts and technological advancements, O’Hanlon argues, we can reduce our defense budget without untenable risk to our military, and our country, as long as cuts over the next ten years do not exceed half a trillion dollars. None of the choices is easy: these recommendations will be controversial; all involve the goring of a cherished sacred cow in someone’s view. But the heated debate THE WOUNDED GIANT will spark is a necessary one, and the sooner we have it, the better.
The Balkans, the Middle East, and Russia all present considerable defense planning difficulties with no obvious solutions. The Balkans represent the clearest immediate danger, as the weight of history and current political ambitions threaten to destabilize Europe's southeastern flank. In the mid-term range are Middle Eastern concerns such as water shortages, border disputes, and new rivalries, all of which unbalance an area whose oil reserves fuel the world economy. Finally, the Russian military collapse suggests that the future Russian threat may result more from national weakness than from strength.