IN THE DARK DAYS of 1940 when the British people stood alone against Nazi tyranny, it was the heroism of brave, young RAF pilots coupled with the voice of Prime Minister Winston Churchill that encouraged everyone to keep a stiff upper lip while the German Luftwaffe bombed not only London but the much of the English countryside. When Hitler decided to stop bombing England, Churchill praised those gallant RAF defenders by saying, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
It certainly was not Churchill’s fault that the British military was ill prepared for Hitler’s onslaught. For years, leading up to World War II, he had cajoled, threatened, and fought against British complacency concerning the Nazi threat. Thus when he became Prime Minister and first addressed the House of Commons on May 13, 1940, he described the lack of men and materials available to fight the Nazi menace by saying he had, "nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
Since World War II, the United States has been engaged in several major wars: Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. When America fully supported the mission, we were successful. However, the military suffered when the mission was politically unpopular. The Clinton Administration made no secret of its dislike for the military. It used our soldiers as "peacekeepers," rather than keeping them strong and at the ready to defend freedom. Most active-duty military were opposed to such duties. Thus it was no surprise when the military vote in Florida made Bush President.
So why is Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisting on a smaller military force? Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t agree with him. Yet, Associated Press reported that "Rumsfeld said Friday he is close to recommending to President Bush that the military be sized and arranged to win decisively in one major regional conflict rather than two."
Where was Rumsfeld during the Clinton years? Didn’t he notice that there has been a huge attrition among the commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the middle ranks? Couldn’t he see the purchasing power of military salaries was shrinking in comparison to pay scales in private industry, especially in the tech sector?
Maybe Rumsfeld doesn’t have members of his own family serving in the military, as I do. When my daughter and son-in-law in the Army were moved to Hawaii last year, they were offered military housing that had holes in the floors and paint covering dead roaches on the walls. The Army in Hawaii has a policy to give new housing to younger enlisted personnel as incentives for re-enlistment, while offering the senior personnel, those that have been in the military for over 10 years, condemned housing. Despite the negative difference between their military housing allowance and the cost of civilian housing in Hawaii, my children chose to live off post.
My other son-in-law serves in the Navy. He has become more and more disillusioned with the military as he has been required to do more and more with less and less. In addition to his regular Navy job, for the past two years he has been tasked with putting together commercial activities and privatization studies.
These are initiatives for the privatization (really elimination) of civilian Department of Defense (DOD) jobs – an outgrowth of the "peace dividend."
Our political and military leaders believe that, with the demise of a communist threat in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the United States no longer needs a large military. Additionally, since we can purchase military superiority by buying technologically sophisticated and expensive weapons, we have less need for people.
Thus since the early 1990s there have been three formal rounds of base realignment and closures, while at the same time there have been ten continuous years of downsizing, leading to a demoralized civilian and military workforce. The geniuses in Congress and the Department of Defense have forgotten that wars are won by war fighters on board ships, flying airplanes, driving tanks, and yes, especially the infantry on foot. The reduction of military personnel leads to military suicide.
It’s time for President Bush to reread his history. It appears that we are emulating the victorious allies of World War I: proposing to disarm, cutting our military bases, and reducing the size of our military. Never again do we want so many to be defended by so few. Maybe he should start with The Second World War by Winston S. Churchill.