Home » Budget Industry » Opinion: Trump’s Defense Increase Might Not Equal a Better Military

Opinion: Trump’s Defense Increase Might Not Equal a Better Military

 Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Shortly after the presidential election, USNI News ran a piece looking forward into a U.S. military under a Trump administration.

The report pieced together statements from Trump that may represent his outline for what he often stated was a need to “rebuild the military.” Briefly summarized, Trump’s plan would result in 50 new ships for the U.S. Navy, a 33-percent growth in the size of the Marine Corps, and 50,000 additional soldiers for the Army.

These campaign trail statements are far from being implemented as policy, but they indicate a “bigger is better” approach to national defense. Three problems with this sketchbook policy estimation are readily apparent: the purpose, the price, and the risks of implementing such a policy.

At first glance, the immediate questions that emerge are: what strategic purpose is this amount of military power meant to serve? Whom are we trying to deter, or prepare to fight? Trump’s proposals represent a Cold War level of defense spending, military hardware acquisition, and force structure. It would logically seem directed at some perceived, but as of yet unnamed, threat. While that threat was clearly delineated in the Cold War, it is less so at present. Based on the lack of a clear and present danger that would require the world’s most powerful military to become significantly larger, the best answer to the purpose of this possible policy would likely be found in the perceived power of deterrence. The bigger-equals-better approach seems to rest on the belief that such extraordinary military power offers a guarantee of national security.

History says otherwise. Just consider the value of overwhelming military power in these examples. First, on Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacked the United States with an order of battle that consisted of 19 terrorists armed with box cutters, and four hijacked aircraft. The entire 9-11 operation is estimated to have cost al Qaeda $300,000 to $400,000 and, as correctly noted by President-elect Trump during his recent 60 Minutes interview, “we’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East” reacting to these attacks.

Despite overwhelming military superiority since day one, the U.S. is still in Afghanistan and Iraq, where advanced laser-guided weapons, Air Force B-1 bombers, the world’s best special forces, and every conceivable military advantage has not been able to deter or destroy our determined enemies to give up the fight.

Consider the fact that in 2001, when al Qaeda started a war with the U.S., it was not impressed by the fact that the U.S. had 12 Carrier Battle Groups, a nuclear triad capable of destroying the planet and a rapid response airborne force. If the U.S. had a military twice as large then, or now, it still would not matter to the persistent enemies America has confronted in the past 15 years of fighting radical Islamic terrorists. There are countless examples of frustrated great powers that are unable to defeat asymmetric foes. These examples include our own Revolutionary War, Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan, to name just a few.

The lesson is simple enough – the side with the most weapons and soldiers does not always win. The war theorist Carl von Clausewitz describes the danger of comparing figures of strength and concluding that will be enough to determine a path victory. He states, “that would be a kind of war by algebra.” Clausewitz repeatedly emphasizes the role of human passions, emotions, and the play of chance in war. America’s frustrations fighting radical Islamic terrorists around the globe for the past 15 years serve only to underscore this timeless strategic truth.

As often noted, the U.S. already spends more on defense than the next 10 nations below them on the top defense spenders list, and eight of those nations are allies of the U.S. Since America has always fought foreign conflicts with the help of allies, their combined defense capabilities add a cumulative effect to U.S. power. This is true with Japan, South Korea, NATO and many others. Many of our allies have capable, unique, and meaningful military power. This is a plus-factor that few of our potential adversaries can count on. In any major conflict, it will be them against the U.S. and many of its capable allies.

A price tag for this imagined strengthening of the American military might was not offered, but based on the current price of a Ford-class carrier (about $15 billion), a Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer ($4.5 billion), a single round of ammo for the DDG-1000 ($800,000) and an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (average cost of $251 million per aircraft), the price tag would clearly be in the trillions for lifetime cost when manning, training, and maintenance costs are added in. Thus, a real concern of this possible policy is the extraordinary price. A price that might be justified by an existential threat, like World War II or the Cold War but is at present difficult to rationalize.

Does President-elect Trump envision a new near-peer threat emerging that might respond better to conventional deterrence than non-state terrorist organizations that we are currently engaging in combat? One can only guess based on the dearth of information, or vision available at present. The rational calculus would rule out both China and Russia, since the risk of nuclear escalation with each of these major powers has and hopefully will continue to restrain these near-peer nations from engaging in a major war with the U.S. and its allies.

Many of Trump’s proposals would contribute toward increasing U.S. power and presence in places like Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. For instance, his proposal to complete the modernization of the U.S. Navy’s cruiser force would provide a short-term and affordable boost to the U.S. Navy’s firepower and national defense.

President-elect Trump said on the campaign trail that “history shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength.”

The notion of being prepared in peacetime for any contingency has merit, and has been part of the U.S. military’s modus operandi since the end of World War II. But it should be noted that a lack of bombs, men or material was not the reason for the less-than-satisfactory state of affairs in Afghanistan and Iraq. The reasons for the mixed results are far more complicated.

More worrisome is the knowledge of history that arms races can often be the catalyst for war. One of the first instances of this is recorded by Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides wrote, “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Sparta, made war inevitable.” Also, in the years leading up to World War I, Germany’s massive military buildup was one of the causal factors for the war. A final example of the risk of a military buildup came in 1940, when Japan knew the U.S. Navy authorized construction of new and powerful ships that would soon outnumber the Japanese fleet. Imperial Japan opted to roll the dice and attack the U.S. fleet while the odds were still in their favor.

It is noteworthy that the U.S. was laying keels and investing in new ships because they viewed a war with Japan as highly probable in the late 1930s. This gets back to the purpose of such a significant expansion of military power today and begs the question – for what purpose? These historic examples show that a major military buildup in fact may increase the likelihood of war, rather than deter it. To spend trillions building up the military for no stated strategic reason, other than possibly the perception of increased deterrence, is strategically irrational.

This gets back to the question of who is the U.S. trying to deter today? Where is this existential threat that would warrant a doubling of the current defense budget? A wiser choice may be to strengthen the U.S. economy and build capital that can be drawn on in the event of a crisis. Certainly incremental improvements are needed, but pursuing a massive military build-up that is difficult to rationalize in the current threat environment raises more risks than benefits. Strengthening America’s economic vitality would do more to prepare for unforeseen contingencies than spending trillions on weapons and people that are not likely to deter to the enemies we are currently confronting, or even those near-peer competitors that may wish to challenge us.

  • sferrin

    Ye Gods. *eye roll* This tripe belongs on HuffPo or Salon.

    • Marauder 2048

      “It is noteworthy that the U.S. was laying keels and investing in new
      ships because they viewed a war with Japan as highly probable in the
      late 1930s.”

      For the Love of God, the Japanese *broke* out of a Naval Treaty after having invaded Manchuria and then walking out of the League of Nations.

      There are currently very few treaties that are constraining the military buildup and actions of peer and near-peer rivals and the few that are so weakly enforced (for example INF) that violations are regular and casual and breakout could be imminent.

      • FourWarVet

        Marauder, Good point. I get it, we live in an age without conventional weapons treaties, so everyone is free to build or buy what they want. In the 1930s the threat was clear and in the Cold War, who is it today?

        At the macro level, I believe the author’s questions are worth considering and discussing. What is the threat today that would justify a multi-trillion dollar military buildup? After all, everyone we have fought for the past 70 years really didn’t give a &#$* that we had the biggest military on the planet? Why would a 30-40% bigger military make a difference?

        • Marauder 2048

          The problem is that Dolan’s pieces are so poorly thought out that it’s hard to know where to begin. For example, he embraces deterrence theory with Russia and China while rejecting it everywhere else.

          Personally, I put little credence into deterrence theory since as Dolan rather clumsily and contradictorily points out via Clausewitz that miscalculation and irrationality are as much part of war as force ratios, technological capability and operational art.

          I would propose a modified Powell doctrine of maintaining the force structure required to wage two simultaneous medium sized conventional wars (2x Operation Desert Storm) against foes armed with the full panoply of modern weaponry; IADS, ASCMs, ASBMs, MBTs, LACMs, 4.5+/5-gen F/A etc.

          • Patrick Bechet

            After I replied to the garbage he wrote on Iran, I’ve given up. His articles do not rise to the level of being worth a reply.

        • The Plague

          Oh, yes they did give a #%@! The soviets went bankrupt trying to counter the USN.

          • FourWarVet

            The USSR imploded because their ideology was bankrupt. It’s doubtful that the nation that defeated Napoleon and the German Wehrmacht folded their cards and tore down the walls just because they couldn’t keep pace in the arms race. That was a variable, but not THE reason.

          • The Plague

            First : it was Winter that defeated Napoleon and his own lightly designed supply-lines. That’s what made the use of scorched-earth tactics effective for the Russians.
            Second : it was Hitler that defeated the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. The losses at Stalingrad and Kursk were both his works. And without massive American military aid – the size of which is not generally understood or appreciated today – even Hitler’s magically counterproductive decisions would not have saved the Soviets.
            Third : Soviet ideology was certainly bankrupt ( just as its new globalist replacement is today ), but what translated that into financial bankruptcy was their attempt to build a real blue-water navy to counter the threat of the USN. The US Navy beat the Soviets on all fronts : far better SLBM’s, eventually accurate enough for effective first-strike, far better ASW which held Soviet missile boats at risk, even inside the later coastal “bastions”. While the Soviets also faced a very significant land-based threat from the Army and the AF, they could counter that relatively cheaply. But countering the seaborne-threat presented by the USN was enormously expensive and that’s what eventually did them in.
            I believe it is not generally understood how expensive it is to build a balanced fleet and operate it properly. The Soviets never even got to a balanced fleet architecture, they tried to take shortcuts through over-reliance on submarines and land-based aviation. Still they croaked less than half way.

          • El_Sid

            The other side of the economic coin is a lack of income – the Saudis won the Cold War by turning on the taps and cratering Soviet oil revenues.

        • Gen. Buck Turgidson

          The power was applied halfassed at best,,Viet Volunteer

        • seamarshal

          The Commander misses the point entirely and so does FourWarVet. We are NOT successful in Afgh. or with terrorists because the present administration doesn’t know how to win a war or even call it a war. The President doesn’t have the strength to do the job right the first time. His approach is to drain down our military and keep us in debt to make this country weak. Terrorists don’t give a #### about our strength until the bombs fall on their heads and those of their families. Look at what is going on in Syria. Too many experts not doing the job by letting the enemy know our moves and keeping civilians safe. What??? Did we do that in WWII or Korea. We did that short of thing in Vietnam and we LOST!! Get it stupid! War is war and until we wage war as what it should be we will never get out of the Middle East. Remember, Jimmy Carter got us into this mess by not supporting the Shaw and then gave away the Panama Canal. Another dumb move that got us into another engagement in Central America. It isn’t the terrorists that we should be afraid of it’s the bone heads that are running our military and our government that don’t get it! Add another Commander to the list.

        • Captain Obvious

          We do have ever conventional weapons’ treaties like the treaty on cluster bombs and landmines. The US signed neither but still…

    • Aubrey

      I do very much get a sense that he is channeling a certain someone from a few years ago about “the 80s calling”.

      Well, Commander Dolan, we do indeed have competitors in regards to whom we should be planning and preparing.

      China and Russia? Aw, c’mon, sir, you’ve at least seen pictures!

      • Captain Obvious

        The pictures? Yes because pictures are proof of anything. Never-ending gdp, defence budget, actual force composition, force projection capability, presence of nuclear weapons, etc… No let’s just look at the pictures of the “so long to reach operational status it’s irrelevant in the next 12 years due to the low acquisition numbers so far and teething problems that arise from trying to bridge a 10 year gap in research in a few years, T-50 or the even longer to be deployed J-20 and be scared… Never-ending the fact that neither China nor Russia have the strength to engage US forces in conventional war and will not have the strength to do so in the next decade at least. A fact the Kremlin has admitted to since Put in said that they would resort to nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict with the US.

        Yes. Let’s look at the pictures.

  • Lorenzo Rodriguez

    If it has’t occurred to anyone yet, there is a significant difference between campaign rhetoric and action once in office.
    President-elect Trump said what needed to be said to get elected and now is in the process of trying to tap enough people who know what they are doing to make up for his lack of expertise.
    This is clearly evidenced by his reversal on some positions that were fundamental to his campaign, much to the chagrin of those supporting him.
    So far, of the names being floated around for possible service in his cabinet, the only one I can muster any enthusiasm for is General Mattis as SecDef. With the General’s background and experience, I am optimistic that any expansion funded by this Congress will be well thought out and purposeful.
    It is already clear that he has Trump’s ear on military matters.

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Agreed with MAD DOG,,Unfortunately the rest of the picks appear dismal

  • Marcd30319

    It would be nice if the “opinion” by Commander Dolan be marked to say that this is just his opinion and does not necessarily represent the official position of the United States Naval Institute. Or the U.S. Naval War College either.

    Regarding the specifics, having a larger, better equipped navy sure doesn’t hurt, especially after almost a decade of under-funding an over-extended force.

    • Captain Obvious

      Like it says on the title you mean? Because you know, that is what it means when a title says “Opinion” it usually means that someone is providing their insight into an issue. But anyway, this is just me saying it… and the English language but hey, that is just my opinion XD

      • Marcd30319

        Well, Captain Obvious, the reason I raised the issue is simply that most organizatiosn and news services preface any “opinions” made by their contributors as being their own
        “opinion” and not representing the official position of that organization in question. This is pretty standard operating procedure for opinion journalism.

        More crucially, without this proviso, the casual news blogger will naturally but incorrectly assume that Commander Dolan’s “opinion” represents the official position of the United States Naval Institute. It does not, and as evidenced by the 12 up-votes, othesr also are concerned about this situation of Commander Dolan’s “opinion” being misconstrued as representing the Naval Institute’s official position.

        More tellingly is the fact that not all “opinions” at this news blog get treated the same as shown below:

        Opinion: Iran Nuke Deal Will Spawn More Proxy Attacks Like The Ones In Yemen
        By: Capt. Sean R. Liedman, USN (Retired)
        October 21, 2016 1:09 PM

        Capt. Sean Liedman is a former naval aviator and is an adjunct Fellow at Center for a New American Security (CNAS). His opinions are his own.

        As you can see, in the case of Captain Lieman’s “opinion,” the proviso was included, with the clear implication being that the opinion of Captain Lieman in this article did not represent the official position of the United States Naval Institute.

        Why Captain Lieman was singled out but Commander Dolan has never been remains a mystery that only the staff of the news blog can answer.

        Finally, anyone who states “This comment section is too high in ignorance,” in my opinion, really ought to take greater care before posting in order to not appear ignorant themselves.

        • Captain Obvious

          Maybe because the USNI doesn’the review itself in the opinions of that guy but doesn’t mind the opinions expressed on this article. And for good reason since that other article disregards every single historical event and so far, the nuclear treaty with Iran has acted as a major stabilisation factor in the region. Together with Iran being the biggest regional contributor in the war against ISIS (if you exclude Russia as regional which I tend to do but technically most of the World is bordering Russia so…) and I think that deal was an amazing way of de-escalating what could turn into a nasty situation and allowing more freedom for the Iranian people to enact change. I mean, if we compare that kind of intervention with the iraqi intervention, I know the kind I prefer. The one who doesn’t actually give rise to a terrorist organisation.

          • Marcd30319

            Since you do not directly address the specifics in my immediate post, you were left no choice but change the subject and pivot into some half-baked misdirection, But, alas, it is all too obvious, Captain.

  • Ron8200

    The price of these weapons systems is scary. The Ford is 2 years behind schedule, the F35 costs so much any lost planes are immediate victory for the enemy (who ever it is). The Zumwalt destroyers at 4.5 Billion didn’t make it thru the canal? We cannot afford these weapons systems at these prices.
    The Navy at current levels cannot be everywhere. The new crew arrangement for forward deployed ships will that work? China is building Aircraft Carriers in ten years their Navy will be in a position to challenge ours.

    • The Plague

      Only if you extrapolate the long-term future from the short-term past, which is what economists do all the time. Which is why we have an imploding global Ponzi-economy on our hands right now.

  • Curtis Conway

    This piece begins with a false assumption, that supported a narrative, that precipitated the draw-down of forces, necessitating the planned growth posture of which this article contests.

    “While that threat was clearly delineated in the Cold War, it is less so at present.” SAYS WHO?! These people are BLIND, and obviously not able to understand international relations, current news, Unified Commander force postures, that are readily available via any intel briefing, if you can’t read the news and draw your own conclusions in each region.

    At the beginning of this administration’s first term, the acronym GWOT was eliminated so that the term could be redefined, and the mission diminished in importance. Then the administration told the nations of the globe that it was safer than it was, requiring less ‘presence missions’ on the part of Unified Commanders around the planet. All the bad actors seeing an opportunity, took advantage. Well, we have seen how well that has turned out with just a preliminary, and cursory high level look at the international security situation. Ask any Unified Commander for an assessment of his security posture in his region of responsibility, and a list of the forces required to fix that problem. It’s much more than proposed growth of current force levels by the next administration.

    NATO has finally stood up and started assessing their security situation, and (for the first time for most) started paying attention, and paying in treasure for their security. Of course, the US will support Europe, and its NATO Allies.

    In the Pacific, similar activates are taking place, only under a different nature due to the ASEAN Treaty and agreements arrangements. Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, and to some extent Taiwan, all stand ready to assist, and are assuming greater responsibilities in the region. South Korea and Japan may join the US in a Ballistic Missile Defense agreement due to North Korea adventurism, primarily because the Chinese WILL NOT control their little neighbor (vassal?), who threatens practically everyone (save China) with nuclear annihilation, which is the only reason China will not act in this regard. It provides way too much entertainment for them.

    Australia and India are covering the Indian Ocean and Greater Western Pacific as well as the South China Sea (in Australia’s case). So, we do have help, but leadership in these regions is still needed, and most countries look to the United States to provide that leadership. This administration has deliberately shunned that responsibility. The next administration will not!

    “But it should be noted that a lack of bombs, men or material was not the reason for the less-than-satisfactory state of affairs in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    Eight years of this administration’s policies has set the planet on fire from Tunisia to Pakistan, with the situation getting worse not better.

    All this noise about growth of military posture ‘aids in the onset of war’, obviously didn’t exist since the end of WWII. THIS administration has created, and is responsible for, the current situation. This administration CANNOT blame the current world situation on any one else save its own failed policies. Now we are weak, in debt, and have few options . . . except to grow out of it. Thank G-d Almighty Himself we have a businessman taking the helm.

    • PolicyWonk

      This administration has deliberately shunned that responsibility. The next administration will not!

      I, for one, hope this comment turns out correct. Personally, I’m a strong believer in the notion that good fences build good neighbors.

      However, the point that despite the USA having the largest (by far), best trained, and most deadly armed forces on the planet did nothing to deter the attacks on 9/11/2001 is regrettably true, as are the observations that the military campaigns conducted since haven’t done much to eliminate the threat.

      And, according to the US National Intelligence Estimate of 2008, we suffered a massive defeat in the GWOT to Al Qaida, because we reacted exactly as Al Qaida/Bin Laden expected us to – and it has cost us dearly ever since.

      I personally hope that Mr. Trump will take a good hard look at the DoD acquisition system, extirpate it, and replace it with something coherent, while retiring relics of the past (such as “cost-plus”, etc.). We also need to divorce ourselves from “nation-building” exercises, such as the one in Afghanistan that has yielded such small success at staggering cost to the taxpayers.

      But then we also have to take a pragmatic view of how to resolve and/or reduce terrorism, by recognizing the fact that political/diplomatic solutions are far less expensive in the long run: if people are happy, fed, protected equally under the law, and have hope for the future, its hard to incite them to riot (or take part in terrorism). Our military leadership is well aware of this – but our politicians seem otherwise.

      • Curtis Conway

        “Our military leadership is well aware of this – but our politicians seem otherwise.”

        This HAS been by design. One can hope the new administration will, as you say ‘EXTIRPATE itself’ of this system. We have industry today that is building things can can only get our people killed in combat. The LCS is a case in point.

        • PolicyWonk


          LCS is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in naval acquisition. How what was supposedly going to be a fighting platform designed to prevail in the littorals managed to morph into this blatant corporate welfare program that solves neither the littoral problem nor frigate gap is almost beyond comprehension.

          All this money spent – and neither problem solved.

          On this topic, I don’t think we can agree more than we already do.

          I hope as you do, that the president elect is able to do something about DoD acquisition.

  • B.J. Blazkowicz

    Every knew it was too good to be true and only the suckers believed it.
    To keep the number of troops and sailors, the military would have retain the morbidly obese members that their now kicking out. PT standards would have to be lowered, again. This is why you are seeing a higher number of troops and sailors being kicked out.
    You can’t maintain a stable fighting force with almost half of them being underperformers.
    Fat acceptance = Anti science.

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Suddenly Im an old 60s Soldier,,,One fat recycle guy in my BCT Co. Forbidden to eat and kicked around the Quad every morning Run ,,’My ankle is broken”,,by those of us selected by my DI,,Bless you Sgt Robey where ever you are ,,For “fat man run’,,or WE didn’t have breakfast,,

    • Subsailor

      There hasn’t been any “morbidly obese” sailors in the Navy since the mid-eighties. Where are you getting your information? The Daily Kos?

      Perhaps you should defer to people who actually served their country and leave the left-wing buzzwords out of the conversation.

  • Patrick Bechet

    Oh look, its the Navy’s pre-eminent Obama butt kisser writing another illogical pile. I agree with sferrin- post this tripe to HuffPost or Salon instead.

  • Tim Dolan

    Normally I happen to like Cmdr Dolan’s articles, this one was not as well argued as his usual writings.
    While I agree we should figure out who we are likely to fight before we built up for that possible fight, I think we already have several likely places conflict is possible and we should prepare for.
    As much as I hope the Iran deal works out, they are still a likely conflict area as are Russian aggressions in Europe and Mid-East and of course China being in an imperial phase.

    For Iran and Russia, an increase in air and ground forces are needed most, not naval (as far as combatants are concerned), however a significant increase in minesweepers and littoral capable ships (not necessarily the LCS) would be needed for Iran. For China I would, as much as I like Carriers, advocate for significantly increasing the number of tomahawk carrying submarines, preferably very silent low cost ones to augment with numbers the extremely capable current SSN’s. We would also in all three cases need long-range aircraft, both fighter/strike and bomber because we can’t count on having close base access.

    Finally I would up the number of space assets that are on call for quick replacement launch, especially global positioning, communications and reconnaissance.

    The mix I am am hearing about is all wrong for that. we don’t need more than one or two more carriers than we have now, what we need is some reasonably capable low costs ships that could relatively be easily replaced in a war (preferably designed to protect any crew, even if the ship goes).

    BTW: some extra combat capable icebreakers would not hurt either.

    That said I do agree we probably need to invest in our infrastructure and economy more than our military right now.

  • tim

    Unfortunately people often miss the most important point Clausewitz made, namely that if you do go to war you have to be ready and willing to throw everything at it – or as they say today, to go all in. That is something that is politically difficult at best. I support(ed) Trump, but agree with this author that bigger does not automatically equate better. Being financially sound is also a top priority. It is a balancing act – good luck to us all 🙂 – and a happy Thanksgiving to y’all!

  • Subsailor

    So, has Cmdr. Dolan registered as an agent for the Peoples Republic of China?

    If not, he probably should, to avoid any unpleasantries later………….

    • The Plague

      Spot on.

  • Steve

    Classic, as soon as I saw it was an article by CDR Dolan, I knew it would either be in favor of whatever Emperor Obama had done or against whatever someone not in league with Obama wanted to do. Surprise, surprise, I was right.

    It appears to me that Dolan starts with the conclusion that the Obama Administration’s view is correct and then works back to fill in the rest. Dolan conflates military force to deal with non-state actors (Islamic terrorists most prominently) with state peers, near peers or want-to-be peers. We need to be able to deal with both. As Aubrey points out below, China and Russia fit the bill as to state actors that we must be prepared to deal with.

    Dolan claims that “the lesson is simple enough – the side with the most weapons and soldiers does not always win.” He is undoubtedly correct that the better resourced side does not always win but I venture to say that the side that is better resourced has a huge advantage.

    Perhaps CDR Dolan will be able to find employment in the Obama Presidential Library soon. He has been a most-loyal water carrier.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    All in all it sounds pretty leftist,,,,supposedly 20% of Military active backed Clinton,,a few token vets tho I have never met a fellow Vet who did,,tell it to Marine avaiation with 70% of its aircraft deadlined or performing as they are today with the losses etc.

  • The Plague

    “Despite overwhelming military superiority since day one, the U.S. is still in Afghanistan and Iraq, where advanced laser-guided weapons, Air Force B-1 bombers, the world’s best special forces, and every conceivable military advantage has not been able to deter or destroy our determined enemies to give up the fight” – let me make a few remarks on this bag of lard :
    1.) The CIA and special forces had cleaned out Afghanistan in about 3 months. Then came the Army with its baggage of “political oversight” and corresponding ROE. Then they spent years losing what had been gained in those first 3 months. Then they “surged” to regain the loss. When they eventually succeeded, the Chimpanzee-in-Chief gave it all up.
    2.) The remarkable lack of success fighting “Islamist terrorism” is not due to any deficiency of equipment or personnel. It is due to US military might not being applied to the roots of the problem, which is what has characterized every single war since the big #2 :
    > In Korea, the problem was in China, but that was off-limits.
    > In Vietnam, the problem was in China, Cambodia, and Laos, but those were off-limits. (Except for Nixon’s limited airstrikes into these areas which officially did not happen)
    > In the first Gulf war, the problem was in Iraq, but that was off-limits.
    > In the second Gulf war, the problem was in Iran, but that was off-limits.
    > In Afghanistan, the problem is in Pakistan, but that remains off-limits (Except for a few very limited strikes)
    > In the particular case of “Islamist terrorism”, the roots of the problem are in Qatar, Saudi-Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Russia ( yes, Putin needs this problem to distract the CIA into chasing camel-jockeys, create chaos in Europe, create a pretext for invading into the Middle East, consume US military power punching sandbags, etc ) – but all these remain off-limits.
    New weaponry is very much needed, because the old foes are still the same as they ever were, building up their forces using money from Western fellow travelers, buying and stealing Western technology, waiting for the opportunity to strike while the US is expending resources fighting never-ending wars against low-grade proxies, because Western politicians exercise intentional blindness and always make sure that the enemy’s “hinterland” is never struck.

  • Aubrey

    By the way…just a thought:

    Isn’t this supposed to be the naval news page?

    This post is pure opinion and should have been on the blog site, not the news site. There really is a difference.

    By posting it here you identify it as the pure and accepted view of the USNI, in spite of the “opinion” label in the title. That is not only a poor idea, it is offensive to approximately half the member base.

    • Marcd30319

      My point exactly, but that’s how Sam LaGrone and his bosses want to run this blog as its own outfit separate from the Institute and its Board of Director. And allowing anybody with a Disqus account to freeload here while members pay their dues adds insults to injury.

  • Marcd30319

    Looking back, many of the reasons and rationales put forward by former Commander Nolan in this “opinion” sound the same as those put forward by the Truman administration to justify deep cuts in the Navy’s budget after World War Two.

    Why have a Navy? Didn’t the Navy achieve its historical mission with the defeat of Japan? The Soviet Union doesn’t have a blue-water navy and is unlikely to ever have one to challenge the US Navy, so why even have a Navy? Who needs aircraft carriers or amphibious ships or the Marine Corps? Carrier can’t carry the A-bomb and there will never be another amphibious landing like in the Central Pacific campaign. Let the Air Force with the A-bomb and the B-36 carry the ball and enforce the peace.

    Then Korea happened. The A-bomb and B-36 couldn’t be used without started a third world war. Because it concentrated on the B-36 and A-bomb, the Air Force’s tactical aviation were short-ranged jets based in Japan that could not reach the battle front in Korea. What made the difference was mobility of Task Force 77 consisting of the carriers USS Valley Forge and HMS Triumph. TF-77 carried out tactical air support around the Korea peninsula as US and ROK force retreated to the Pusan pocket. Thanks to Douglas MacArthur, the US naval amphibious forced landed the Marines deep behind enemy lines at Inchon supported by TF-77 carrier aviation.

    People do not learn from history and ironically must relearn the lessons of history the hard way!

  • Young CAPT

    Dan. Three reasons… China, Russia and the security of sea lanes and our national interests into the future. Your Clausewitz and Pel War support are shallow and allow for easy defeat of your argument. C-

  • John B. Morgen

    We really don’t know what President-Elect Trump is going to do with the United States military, once he gets into office. All we are hearing is simply words, and already Trump has back-down from some of his campaign positions. Thereby it is safe to say that everything about increasing the military is really up in the air until Trump enters the White House. In sum, It doesn’t really matter what anyone has to say, including Commander Dolan’s comments because Trump is an open but unwritten book, filled with blank pages….So let’s sit back and watch this new TV series, and please pass the popcorn…..

  • Andre

    What is required is increased spending on high-end capabilities, similar to the initiatives during the Carter administration that were expanded upon during the Reagan and Bush tenures. This means that the Army needs to take a back-seat, except where artillery, cyber/EM warfare and air defense is concerned, and that the F-35, B-21, LRSO, LRASM, Virginas and Columbias receive the necessary resources. High-end warfighting technologies are often dual-use, and so defense spending in this area can benefit the overall economy (as the Second Offset did) whereas spending on low-end occupations does not achieve the same effect. Ultimately, defense spending is at a historical low as a percentage of GDP, and if there is fat to trim it is in entitlement/mandatory spending programs.

  • Jay

    Pointing out the obvious. DoD budget is a jobs program and massive corporate welfare without accountability — not about “defense” so much.

  • Hugh

    World stability is based on many things, including the militaries and trade. Germany started preparing for war around 1900, and made their move in 1914. Japan likewise around 1900, and made their move in 1941. Have no illusions about China. As for Trump’s policies, dumping trade agreements will further open the way for the Chinese.

  • FourWarVet

    So, considering being thrown under the bus by a few of you, I reread the piece and the wide range of interesting comments, some of which are directed at me.

    As a graduate of the Naval War College (2006), I find Dolan’s arguments pretty typical of the thought provoking lectures that I heard in Spruance auditorium. One thing I learned there is how to listen to ideas that I may not agree with and still have a civil conversation.

    Here’s my take… the author examines the possibility of taking Trump at his word and growing the size of the US military 30%+ . He asks what purpose would this serve, how much would it cost, would it actually deter our enemies, and what risks are involved? These are all fair questions that critical minds should be asking before we add trillions more to the national debt.

    He offers historical examples to support his conclusions (assumptions?). He concludes by saying that some incremental changes are a good idea, but building capital (improving our national economy) may do more to strengthen our posture than a massive military buildup that lacks a threat to justify the expense.

    In the wide range of vitriolic comments many of you offered, you attacked the author, not his ideas or conclusions. The right way to do this is to offer a counter argument, which in this case would be to explain why bigger is better and why we need that today. As he says, WW-2 it was justified, the Cold War it was justified, why is it justified today?

    • Cocidius

      My thoughts exactly and well stated. It’s almost like some commenting here didn’t actually READ the article.

    • Marauder 2048

      Many of us gave nuanced, well-thought out replies and criticisms.

      I think Dolan is trying to say that greater military strength doesn’t necessarily translate to
      improved military or policy outcomes and may have unintended consequences. And that there are other ways to strength than military spending.

      Most of us did [b]not[/b]:
      a. find these arguments novel or persuasive
      b. find these arguments well supported by historical evidence
      c. accept the guns vs. butter premise

      So one idea is to have these type of pieces reviewed by some of the regular commentators around here. They can trash it it private so that it gets improved to the point that we don’t have to trash it in public.

    • Captain Obvious

      Good. At least someone else who understands common sense. Good to know there is someone else who knows how to think and read. This comment section is too high in ignorance.

  • Lazarus

    Regarding the Thucydides reference to Sparta becoming nervous about Athens growing power; Sparta was a paranoid militarist state built on the backs of helot slave labor against whom the Spartans committed regular atrocities. One wonders of Sparta would not have attacked Athens regardless of Athenian naval power? The pre-WW1 German naval buildup was aimed specifically at Great Britain. Is it a wonder that the UK responded in a belligerent way? It is not as though Britain decided to build an Army. Japan decided to attack the US in order to deflect America from interfering with it’s grab for resources on the Asian mainland and in the Dutch East Indies. The US had already made it fairly clear (since 1921) that it regarded Japan as its primary opponent, as the bulk of the US Navy’s combat power was stationed in the Pacific.

    Any rebuilding effort by the incoming Trump admin would hardly be aimed at any power(s) in a threatening way. Overall US military capability has been shrinking since 1991. If anything, a more robust U.S. armed forces should signal aggressive foreign powers to not test US resolve. That was the goal of President Reagan’s military revival and it worked rather well.

  • cjakobsson

    While there is good reason to seriously question most of Donald Trump’s policies, there is much to be said in favor of building up US military forces. The foremost reason is the fact that it increases our security if we are prepared – if we take a hard hit on the first day of a new war – to come back and go on the offensive on the second day of the war. Another advantage is that in the event of a prolonged war, the burden of the fighting can be spread out among more people, so that the likelihood of people suffering mental health issues as a result of repeated combat deployments, becomes less when we have a larger force. Another advantage of a big Navy is the fact that the Navy is a valuable humanitarian and diplomatic asset in peacetime as well as being a valuable fighting asset in wartime.
    There is reason to question – and to vigorously oppose – the policies that Trump is proposing to put into effect that undermine Constitutional rights on the home front and human rights on a global scale. But when Trump says we should focus on an increase in military strength, he is right about that. One of the biggest mistakes that our country has historically made over and over again is that of cutting back on our military forces every time we think we are entering into an era of peace. What we should be doing with military forces when we think we are entering into an era of peace is to use those forces as diplomatic assets, because in peacetime they can be very useful for that purpose.

  • incredulous1

    This is an unintelligent hit piece that is self-contradictory and often answers its own questions. The opinion as he admits is not grounded in fact, but musings about what he assumes might happen. The reality is that Trump cannot give cart blanche to build anything we want without scrutiny. But the even more salient reality is that Trump will give the service leaders what they need and ask for to fix the neglect that has been taking place.

    Forget about the two war front scenarios for a minute and count the number of combat ready aircraft in the Navy and Marines. We all know how unacceptable that is to the service chiefs and how inexplicably acceptable it is to the current administration. Deterrence does work – even against the Chinese as has been demonstrated. but you it must be credible, not rotating a few A-10s into Clark for a couple weeks and then leaving it for dead. The EDCA with Manila has been made into a joke by Obama out of deference to Xi Jinping. The MGTAF in Darwin that was supposed to be the center piece of the failed “pivot to Asia” never even reached half strength. We left Japan without carrier coverage for a significant period this summer – which is not acceptable. So we have executed the opposite of deterrence which only invites the completion of the choke point by the PLAN. And now they have built another choke point to the Suez in Djibouti and continue to build new ships at X4 the speed of Japan. We cannot let this go undeterred or we will be left wondering what happened in a few years.

    I would have to say that the Trump team will not tolerate what has happened with the PCU Ford and the F-35. If we are going to field a technology then we need to make it work first. No more pathetic breakdowns like the LCS and Zumwalt.

    No more sending China the message that we aren’t serious about keeping sea lanes open. Working toward the budget and force structure from that angle does a much better job of addressing the question.

    I tried to be nice here, but it seems Dolan is some kind tool.

  • Joe Lene

    There are never guarantees of success…but all things being equal, bigger DOES equal better. Quantity having a quality all its own. And for reasons…read the NSS. We cannot execute the 1+1 plan with today’s force structure.

  • Captain Obvious

    It’s funny to see so many armchair generals debating on how this actual man with actual military experience and with a deeper understanding of Geo politics than any of you, is clearly wrong XD. Seriously, do learn to read and check your “facts” before you spew ignorant garbage on this forum.

    • Marcd30319

      Tell me, Captain, are you a member of the United States Naval Institute or is your rank self-appointed?

      • Captain Obvious

        My title was very much self appointed. I am no captain nor do I pretendo to be one. You might be surprised to know that you (yes, YOU) inspired this funny little name. As I was reading you vitriol laden posts full of ad hominem attacks and lack of… well, thought, I thought to myself, this Marcd guy sure is missing the obvious. And so Captain Obvious was born here I this thread thanks to you. Quick to point out the obvious and ready to offer hindsight on any given subject. XD

        • Marcd30319

          So the short answer is that you are not a member of the United States Naval Institute.

          This mean that unlike myself and 55,000 USNI members you do not pay any dues that supports this news blog and its message board.

          One of the reasons that this news blog staff asserts in allowing anyone with a Disqus account access to this message board is that such unfettered access will induce non-member from the general public to consider joining the United States Naval Institute.

          Your continued commentary here at this message board confirms my strong suspicion that this assertion is specious.

          Now that you have been found out, in your haste to deploy your Alinsky-esque counter-measures, you have stumbled rather embarrassingly and obviously.

          The fact that one of my posts here received 12 up-votes and after seven posts here you have received NO up-votes should be a wake-up call on how unimpressive your “opinions” are here.

          Now go cash your Soros check before it bounces, and leave the discussions on this board to the adults.

  • Marcd30319

    As far as you being able to post here at this message board, that is something I hope to remedy. Free-loading trolls spreading lies are not welcomed here. I know you feel micro-aggressed and need to go to a safe zone to recuperate, so tootles.

    • Captain Obvious

      First of all, I am not trolling you nor feel micro aggressed against. I am however, questioning your ideas. As for safe spaces, you want to remove my right to comment here and I am the one looking for a safe space?

      • Marcd30319

        Since I pay for this site through my membership dues while you freeload using your Disqus account, isn’t that fair?

  • Dwimby

    I’ll go with: Trump’s actions WILL better the US military all around. Consider the demoralized state, and decimated manpower extant, resulting from Obama’s ideological anti-American perversion. Just that alone, when it ends in January, automatically will “better” the US military, just by Obama leaving. Then Trump will do lots more. Lots! For starters, look who he is chosing for his cabinet. That speaks volumes about where we are going to go militarily. Trump is coming on stronger than Reagan did vis a vis our military. If we were to get to a 600 ship (I hope we aim for this again, plus the same equivalent for all our strategic forces) then sabre rattling stops and all the jerks abroad in the world slime back into their holes. But, if we continue to let our military slide then the same jerks become bolder than they otherwise would. Strength through deterence via the building up of a significantly strengthened military. That is where we MUST go. That is my “opinion.”

    ASIDE: we must stop the baby bombing in Syria. We must grow a new set and stop this slaughter. I hope Trump focuses on this soon. Obama has failed in the Middle East. Abjectly and totally. In fact he and Hillary “own” the chaos there, lock, stock and barrel.