Mao vs. Osama

MAO vs. OSAMA….Noah Shachtman has some more thoughts about the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, details of which are slowly leaking to the press:

My quick, subject-to-instant-revision first impression: Rumsfeld & Co. are focusing more on China than they are on Osama.

….Terrorist-type threats will get some new attention. But the Defense Department isn?t about to optimize for that threat, the way it did for the Soviet Union. Big money will continue to be spent on fighter jets designed to duel with the Soviets and destroyers designed for large-scale ground assaults. Grunts on the ground won?t get much more than they do now. The war on terror may be ?long.? But, apparently, it?s not important enough to make really big shifts.

I’ve never had a strong overall opinion about Donald Rumsfeld’s “transformation” project, which seeks to make the military smaller and higher tech. It’s an effort that seems to have both good points and bad, and I’m not savvy enough about it to offer any substantive analysis.

Except for one thing: as near as I can tell, Rumsfeld’s vision barely changed a whit after 9/11. “Transformation” is still a project designed to make us better at fighting a conventional war against a conventional enemy ? which is fine as far as it goes ? but doesn’t really address the emerging low-tech job of fighting terrorism and failed states.

This has long struck me as a serious weak point in George Bush’s approach to the military, and it’s one that Democrats ought to take advantage of. I hear a lot of bloviating about “running to Bush’s right” on terrorism, most of which is little short of idiotic (what are we going to do, start screaming that he’s not invading Iran fast enough?). But criticizing the QDR as hostage to moldy old Cold War thinking while doing too little to address the modern threat of terrorism is both good policy and good politics. Liberal military analysts ought to be latching on to this big time.