Preparing for War in Australia?

Am I the only person with a major Win-The-Future reaction to something Robert Gates said on Friday?  He said this to West Point cadets:

"... any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it."

This did not come from Ron Paul; this came from our current U.S. Secretary of Defense, first chosen by President Bush and then retained by President Obama.

I don't know where to begin.  First, wasn't he the guy who approved and orchestrated increasing US troops in Afghanistan from 30,000 to 100,000?  That constitutes "a big American land army," doesn't it?  And Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld just in time to oversee the troop "surge" in Iraq.  That would mean Robert Gates is saying his own head should be examined.  Or maybe he gives himself the Obama-exception: he inherited those messes.

(By the way, was Rumsfeld right, or wrong, for the "light footprint" approach?)

These are the seven continents:  North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica.  The US has only ever sent "a big American land army" to three of those continents:  Europe, Asia and (north) Africa.  Robert Gates just ruled out two of those three.

I guess a ground war in Sweden, Canada or Australia would be OK with Secretary Gates.  But Muammar Gaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il can all rest easy.  We might drop some bombs or send some fear-inducing cruise missiles, but we won't send troops.  I guess it is also time to start bringing home the 28,500 troops we have in South Korea and the 35,000 we have in Japan.

We've just set aside half the land area of the planet as a sanctuary for the Axis of Evil and anyone who wants to join it.

I have been a supporter of defense spending, at least to keep it in the neighborhood of 4% of Gross Domestic Product.  But now I'm inches away from becoming a Ron Paul supporter.

Why spend over $700 billion per year on the Department of Defense when (a) we rule out wars on the very continents where most of our enemies are, and (b) we invented a whole separate organization, the Department of Homeland Security, when we got worried about attacks on our own soil.

What is the Defense Department for?  Rapid response to threats from Australia?

In effect, we own a million dollar car that we keep in the garage.  When we found we actually needed to get some place, we bought a second car.

Here is a tally of the wars we have been in since the Declaration of Independence.



US military fatalities






War of 1812




Mexican War




Civil War


364,511 (Union)

Win for Union





World War I




World War II












Persian Gulf 1991










Maybe Secretary Gates has a point.  After all, we've won every war fought on the American continents.  We also won every war fought in Europe.  Asia has been bad for us; the only war we won in Asia was against Japan, in which we had to resort to dropping atomic bombs.  (Is that what Secretary Gates is getting at -- to just drop nukes instead of sending in large ground forces?  Somehow, I don't think that was his point.)

But I think I've found a more obvious pattern: we only win wars we declare.

What we have been doing since World War II is solving our war problems just like we do all our other problems: pretend spending on a problem is the same as solving it.

I don't really know how to fight a war, but just looking at our track record I think the pattern for the US winning involves these basic steps:

  • Declare war. (This bit of trivia is in the US Constitution.)
  • Send in "a big American land army."
  • Expect that many thousands of US troops will die in the effort.
  • Drop atomic bombs if you have to.

We have won every war in which we followed those steps.  We lost or stalemated every war against foreigners in which we didn't (unless you consider Persian Gulf I a "win").

Secretary Gates has effectively ruled out following these steps, at least on continents in which most of our enemies reside.  One could logically conclude, then, that by following the Secretary's advice the US will not win another war.

I suppose that's OK.  After all, war is bad.  Use diplomacy, not war.  And if that doesn't work, use tough diplomacy.  And if that fails, we have the Department of Homeland Security just in case the bad guys actually make it to our shores.  Boy, will those guys be scared when they see how well our first-responders have been funded.

Randall Hoven can be contacted at or via his web site,