The Peace Dividend: Paid but Not Earned
When the Berlin Wall collapsed and it appeared that the Soviet Union was going to break apart completely, President Clinton declared a peace dividend. Following that "declaration" of the peace dividend, our nation saw a significant reduction in the size of our military and in the size of the Special Forces, and a virtual dismantling of the human intelligence network within the intelligence community.
The impact of the peace dividend was felt on September 11, 2001, when our nation was savagely attacked by an enemy whom we misjudged and overlooked because we were woefully unprepared to detect the attack before it occurred. Our human intelligence capability in the Islamic world at that time was severely lacking.
Be it Sun Tzu in The Art of War, Clausewitz on war, or any other military strategist throughout history, the writings are clear that from a strategic perspective, it is wise to attack your enemy where he is least prepared. Attack weakness, not strength!
As a retired Marine Reserve colonel who served in Iraq in 2005 and was the Central Command Special Operations officer in late 2001 and early 2002, I recommended just that type of vulnerability-exploitation against our enemies.
With the terrorist attack on September 11, our nation responded by rebuilding the capability in human intelligence and rebuilding our military end strength.
Since the United States has already withdrawn from Iraq and has also seen a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, Congress and our president are once again considering significant defense cutbacks.
The planned reductions in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, our primary infantry forces, as well as in the United States Navy and United States Air Force, will leave our nation with such a reduced level of military capability that it will, in retrospect, make our unpreparedness for World War II seem insignificant in comparison.
Just as the United States faced a significant rebuilding effort in anticipation of World War II, the United States will face a similar problem in the next conflict due to the misguided declaration of another "peace dividend."
The difference between the world at the time of World War II and the world as we think we know it today makes unpreparedness an extraordinarily risky strategy to follow.
The World War II conflict was of such a nature that the instability in the world was generally well-known, which gave our nation time to marshal our national resources and our people to the coming conflict. For example, the draft was reinstituted in the United States just months prior to Pearl Harbor. We almost waited too long prior to World War II.
There are differences, though, between the world in the 1940s and the world today. Prior to World War II the world faced a conventional, non-nuclear environment. In this coming conflict in the 21st century, we may not be that fortunate. The possibility of nuclear warfare makes a lack of preparedness negligent at best.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Adm. Yamamoto lamented, when he learned that the aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and that the attack was a surprise attack against the United States, that he was afraid that all that Japan had done was to awaken a sleeping giant.
Using the lesson from the Japanese, a determined 21st-century enemy of our nation will make absolutely certain that we will not have time to be awakened once attacked. The lack of a vibrant and robust conventional military force and deterrent for our nation to use when needed is one of the most irresponsible acts that can be inflicted upon a group of citizens by its government in this unstable world.
Let me say this as clearly as I can that Congress is being irresponsible to support this president in his efforts to dismantle the U.S. military arsenal. To leave us with a nuclear deterrent option only is dangerous at best.
Just as we were woefully unprepared on September 11 and we saw the heartbreak of the victims who were slaughtered unmercifully that day, our president and our Congress will be handing a determined enemy a precise course of action on how to neutralize our nation and our military by this planned peace dividend.
Should we reduce our capability now, all our nation will need to do is to find someone to negotiate the surrender of our nation after the next attack. We may have declared peace, but our enemies have not.
I for one intend to make absolutely certain that this never happens.
As a retired general friend of mine once commented, pray for peace, but prepare for war!
Col. Frank Ryan, CPA is a retired Marine Reserve colonel who served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan. He specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at FRYAN1951@aol.com.