Gen Wesley Clark for The Hill OPINION: A defense strategy for our time

February 3rd, 2012

The Hill
By Gen Wesley Clark
February 3, 2012

As the dust settles on proposed cuts in the Pentagon budget and a new national security strategy focused on the Western Pacific, some persistent voices of concern have been heard. So, perhaps it’s time to put the new strategy and proposed cuts in perspective.

First, there is no absolute standard for “how much is enough.” During the Cold War, the United States regularly fielded fewer Army divisions, ships and air wings than “required” by our war planners, because we couldn’t afford more. We considered the difference between what we could afford and what we required “risk.” But the point is, we won the Cold War despite the risk.

Second, the United States always downsizes ground forces at the end of its conflicts. We did it after World War II, after Korea, after Vietnam and after the Cold War. Always. And here we go again. Why? Because no matter how much old soldiers like me cherish those combat-experienced troopers in uniform, when the fighting ends, there are other claimants for the nation’s resources. Moreover, in a time of crisis, reserve formations can be called up and, over a longer period, major new forces can be built. What matters is keeping the “critical mass” of leadership, training and education systems intact, as well as having sufficient forces to handle the first blows of a new conflict.

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