homepage logo

Cafe Society to discuss Trump Administration military policy options

By Staff | Dec 9, 2016

The next Cafe Society’s session on Dec. 13 will concentrate on Presidentelect Trump’s challenges as he assumes the reins as Command-in-Chief and tries to define and implement his own military strategy. It will be a major undertaking and may ultimately determine the success or failure of his Presidency. Others have been in his shoes and there are inherent and stark reminders that new Chief Executives enjoy very brief honeymoons as President Kennedy discovered in his ill-advised and poorly executed Bay Pigs blunder and President Truman faced in the awesome decision to use the still untested atomic bombs to end hostilities with Japan.

President Trump will find that the aura the U.S. briefly enjoyed as the surviving international super power following the demise (collapse) of the Soviet Union quickly dissipated. The multi-national consortium that we forged, motivated by a common fear of communism, aided and abetted by sustained U.S. bribery, arm twisting, and cajoling has lost its raison d’etre. In the embarrassing absence of a credible military strategy effective in dealing with the new still emerging asymmetrical threat of terrorism it will be interesting to see his perception of viable military options. Simply building more visible elements of the old force structure won’t help much. This is a real “reality show” with irrevocable consequences. In the absence of his coming up with a new — as yet unimagined Einstein – quality law of physics, or a profound personal epiphany significant changes will be hard to formulate in a manner that can be sold to the Congress, the American people, and allied nations and send the right message to extremist sources of terrorism.

Cafe Society discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. each Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University (SU) Student Center. They are an integral part of the SU Life Long Learning Program and are intended to facilitate a dialog on current issues between the students and older members of our community. There are no fees or registration requirements

Facilitator Mike Austin commented, “Our current military posture is an amalgam of many elements that cut across the political, economic, and social life of our nation that is deeply imbedded in our culture and fundamental precepts of constitutional rights (and obligations) and civil liberties. Try any infringement of the Second Amendment, if you don’t believe me. Stroll out to Morgan’s Grove Park and see the marker commemorating the site where the first organized element of the U.S. Army was formed, or look up over your head in response to the loud resonance of huge C- 17 of the local 16 7th Air National Guard coming in for a landing.

“On a larger macro-scale our present military capability is an end result of a vast and complex array of rights and obligations that we have entered into with other nations as well as with political and commercial entities here at home. There are significant and essential rights and obligations that allow us to operate on the world scene — such things as: base rights, port access, over-flight rights, bi-lateral and multi-lateral commitments of mutual support. The complete list would fill volumes. They extend into complex agreements governing cooperative development of military equipment, communication and command and control systems, intelligence and surveillance platforms. While our inventory of military hardware and equipment is impressive by any standard, our greatest strength is our military personnel our human resource base of highly trained and motivated personnel, men and women who operate within a carefully nurtured force structure. The backbone is a central element of non commissioned personnel in which the hands- on expertise necessary for modern warfare resides and operational readiness is maintained. We often hear reference in talking about military forces to the “tooth to tail ratio” of visible or deployable forces that show the flag as opposed to logistical or combat service support infrastructure elements if you will that sustain them. These elements are a visceral part of our work force and a huge hunk of the small business community which is heavily populated with government contractors.

“Many of these are visible and articulate constituents near and dear to the hearts of members congressional delegations that the President will need to implement his altered military strategy.”

Austin went on to say, “There is no doubt significant changes are long overdue as the U.S. and other nations adjust to the changing threat environment. But many of the sobering strategic force requirements still represent an irreducible minimum and it takes a rich mix of conventional forces to support them. We never had demonstrative proof that deterrence worked during the Cold War and yet nobody wanted to find out for sure. With growing nuclear proliferation, it remains a military option where credibility is very important. The logical consequence is that the aging U.S. triad of strategic weapons will still have to be modernized an expensive proposition involving, not only DOD, but also the National Laboratories under DOE, and probably several other nations.”

Austin concluded that “for the moment the open question is whether Mr. Trump is building an optimum team to address these difficult issues. Due process in conventional military and strategic planning fora, efforts like “defense planning guidance” and “bottom up reviews” take considerable time and the best political-military thinkers available from inside and outside of the government. There is no doubt that the key military officers selected thus far are outstanding professionals, well deserving of substantive roles where their professional skills and dedication can make a difference. What is missing is the comparable mix of senior civilian corporate managers or proven political or academic leaders capable of managing the high tech, multi-disciplined national security systems that the national command authority will have in an operational crisis or that the Secretary of State can use to leverage diplomatic or economic measures. We have long had an aversion to having a General Staff in which war planning and preparation remains the exclusive domain of the military without balancing consideration from civil authorities. As our military profession becomes more insular, and increasingly immersed in the high tech world of modern warfare where actions and operations remain largely behind an essential veil of secrecy, there are few safeguards. It remains essential to have the appropriate mix of civil and military players at the table when decisions are made.”