History Repeats Itself As America Sleeps

As a career military officer that has studied and taught military history all of his adult life, this is a familiar and frightening article.
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The USS Iwo Jima near Trondheim, Norway, Oct. 29.  PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The U.S. Military’s Crisis of Imagination

America’s longstanding position of dominance has tended to make strategists and citizens complacent.

“At the heart of national-security strategy is imagination. The strategist’s job is to dream up what enemies someday might do to harm us. But there’s a lot of history supporting the adage that generals forever prepare to fight the last war.

“The problem of dangers’ being unimaginable was front and center for the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission. Congress created the commission of national-security experts in December 2016. Its report, released last month, conjured up realistic near-term scenarios to show how the U.S., as a result of military deficiencies, might acquiesce to enemy aggression or accept defeat in battle.

“Unless one is blessed with stupid enemies—and you can’t count on that—the proper assumption is that they are innovating. . . It’s hard to dream up the unprecedented, and even harder to persuade large bureaucracies to heed unfamiliar dangers.

“The imagination problem favors aggressive states because they apply themselves to the task of strategizing creatively to win their aims. Status-quo powers, like the U.S. now, commonly prioritize nonmilitary spending and believe the world is more stable than it is. They must anticipate the full range of enemy actions even as their officials don’t devote real energy or resources to the task of countering possible threats. In neither Congress nor the White House has there been a vivid enough appreciation of how America’s various enemies can take advantage of its vulnerabilities. (EMP for instance and NOT climate change)

The commission’s report is sober but alarming. The president is reportedly coming around to the view that the country needs a larger defense appropriation. Will members of Congress have the imagination to be properly alarmed and the good sense to approve the funds?

And our vulnerabilities are many.


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