For those who did not watch the final debate and are catching up on the context of the many 'zingers', here's what went down. Responding to Governor Romney's argument that the U.S. navy is now smaller than at any time since 1917, Pres. Obama advised the Republican party candidate to spend a little more time studying how the U.S. military works.
"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916, Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips."
This statement about the changing nature of the military is the real focus of the President's comments on Monday because it broadly opens up the topic about how the U.S. can maintain military superiority and security. Foreign Policy magazine published two articles related to this topic: 1.) "Does the military still have horses and bayonets" and 2.) "This might be China's third J-20 stealth fighter", and these articles provide some information on the spectrum of military strategic capabilities and threats.
Joshua Keating writes, in his article about horses and bayonets, "While Army recruits no longer charge dummies with bayonets fixed to their rifles, they do still receive training on how to use a knife or bayonet as a handheld secondary weapon in close combat." Even in the age of high-tech weaponry and drones, soldiers still need the physical strategic advantage over their enemy. The demand for hand-to-hand combat will always play a role within the military, despite historical practices with bayonets fading from basic training. Horses play a more ceremonial role with the military during funerals and other official events, but their utility for combat is not useless because special forces along with the Northern Alliance charged on horses while attacking the Taliban on Mazar-e-sharif in 2001. Overall, the most basic aspect of the U.S.'s military capacity remains essential for its general strategic strength, but the world of security threats and interests is far more complex, as stated throughout the debate by Pres. Obama.
Now, going beyond the basics of horses and bayonets, Pres. Obama continued to emphasize how the U.S.'s strength is not measured merely by the number of any one particular part of its military complex but by the capacity to strategically affect strategic threats. Within the last two weeks, Hannah O. and Alexandra L. presented two very important and complex issues threatening U.S. security: cyber attacks and an aggressive China, hence the pivot to Asia. Over the last few weeks, China has been scrutinized for possible cyber attacks on the U.S. and its allies, and recently China appears to have produced another J-20 stealth fighter.
In John Reed's article about China's new J-20 stealth fighter, he lays out the capabilities of China's military investments. This new fighter is speculated to either intercept bombers or strike military threats outside of China because it is engineered to be fast with cruise missiles. The other issue about the new fighter and other Chinese engineered jets is that they are made from the plans stolen (hacked) several years ago by Lockheed Martin for the developing F-35. These significant threats to the U.S.'s interests in the Pacific region add to the complexity of military threats and issues of capacity.
Though the plethora of military issues are difficult to mention in a single debate or blog, it is important to reemphasize that the real debate about military strength does not depend on the number of ships around the world. Instead, it depends on the military's strategic capacity to defend, contain, resolve, and prevent against real threats.
So, here are my questions to everyone:
1.) The president has emphasized that the U.S. has military capabilities that outshines the former capacities of the military 100 years ago, but will the price tag of this shiny technology eventually hit a wall, especially in the midst of threats for budget cuts?
2.) How should the discussion on the U.S.'s military capabilities be more accurately addressed in a multipolar world with various international organizations focused on mutual security?
3.) Also, who needs a knife in a nuke fight?