November 10, 2011
The Bus to Abilene

And so it begins.

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced the establishment of a “Multi-Service Office to Advance Air-Sea Battle Concept,” billed as a panacea for the Pacific Rim, promising everything from a “Nexus of Networking” to a new “Cold War posture on China” and a solution to that “Nettlesome Anti-Access” problem.  The office brings together the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps in a singular effort geared to address rising Chinese influence and potential global military expansion. Now, they’ve even extended a belated olive leaf to the Army, providing a token folding metal chair for one lucky guy in green.

Yes, Virginia, there’s room on the bus to Abilene for everyone. Or is there?

Also yesterday, AOL Defense cited an official from the AirSea Battle Office explaining the reasoning behind the new concept: “We gotta make sure the military relearns how to fight real wars, against enemies with real militaries.” If accurate, that’s a stunningly ignorant statement from people known for their Jedi-like ability to charm vast amounts of cash from the coffers of Congress.  With one bloody war winding down in Iraq and another moving toward transition in Afghanistan, we need to stay on message.

What we need is some magic fairy STRATCOM dust.

Not to disappoint, that bus to Abilene comes equipped with a healthy supply. In yesterday’s LA Times, Andy Krepenevich continued his John Bonham-worthy drumbeat on AirSea Battle in an exclusive op-ed, appealing to Congress to save a program that has yet to produce anything. Not to be ignored, the Wall Street Journal weighed in this morning on the provocative nature of the concept. Even the blogs got into the game, with both Information Dissemination and Small Wars Journal unwittingly contributing to the buzz on AirSea Battle.

Where is the Secretary of Defense in all of this? Reportedly, by some accounts, concerned “about how China will perceive an officially minted version of AirSea Battle.” You see, AirSea Battle kind of flies in the face of that other “P” that emerged from the Quadrennial Defense Review: Prevent. And while there is a certain amount of flexing that occurs within the realm of conflict prevention, enduring success is generally achieved through engagement, not escalation. China is in the midst of a remarkable period of economic colonialism that has allowed them to achieve significant influence on every continent – there are even indications that they are building penguin sweat shops on the Ross Ice Shelf. We are at a tipping point in American history; do we stake our claim in the future of the global economy, or do we spend ourselves into irrelevance and become another Empire of Dust?

In an era of austere resourcing, AirSea Battle is not the answer we seek.  It’s time to draw a line in the sand. It’s time to define our national interests for the 21st century. It’s time to chart a path to the future that is diplomatically supportable, strategically sound, and preserves our global presence and influence.

Or we can board the bus to Abilene.

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