Hear that? Sabers are rattling across the globe, from the South China Sea to North Korea to Ukraine and back again. Tehran hasn't stopped efforts to become a nuclear power. And those are just the big ones.
So it was with concern that we read the Heritage Foundation's 2022 index of U.S. military strength, which concludes that the American military is "only marginally able" to defend the country's vital interests. And as far as vital interests, the United States' are more vital than others. We keep the shipping lanes open. But the Heritage Foundation also looks at our ability to defend the homeland, our ability to successfully conclude a major war, and, yes, the "preservation of freedom of movement within the global commons."
It further assesses the American military as unable to successfully manage major conflicts on two fronts, something of a built-in requirement for this nation.
It's plausible that such reports are tailored to rankle Congress and help generate more defense funding. Nevertheless, it paints a troubling picture. Potential enemies are closing the gap in terms of technology and manpower, while U.S. leadership seems to focus instead on diversity, equality and inclusion (aka DEI).
The U.S. still outspends every other country, but military expenditures dropped 1.4 percent in 2021 to $801 billion, 3.5 percent of the GDP. Meanwhile, Red China's military spending topped $293 billion last year, a 6.8 percent increase, and rose for the 27th straight year, according to VOA. In 2022, its military spending is expected to grow another 7.1 percent. Those man-made islands and submarine bases in the South China Sea can get expensive.
And now, an analysis from retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr suggests that the U.S. military's emphasis on "wokeness" is weakening not just the nation's ability to defend its interests but may be driving away recruits.
Gen. Spoehr served in several senior leaderships roles at the Pentagon and led the Army's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School at Fort Leonard Wood. He served with the 82nd Airborne and 1st Armored divisions. We assume he knows his stuff.
He believes the U.S. military has been let down by its leadership, which seems to fear the wrath of a woke mob as much as any advancing army.
"Wokeness in the military is being imposed by elected and appointed leaders in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon who have little understanding of the purpose, character, traditions, and requirements of the institution they are trying to change ... Wokeness in the military has become ingrained. And unless the policies that flow from it are illegal or directly jeopardize readiness, senior military leaders have little alternative but to comply."
With defense spending currently not even keeping pace with inflation, it's worrisome to read that the Pentagon has set aside $3 billion for climate initiatives in 2023. Climate initiatives? Do we plan on lobbing EVs at Chinese carriers? And these days, war college is more concerned with critical race theory, now added to its curriculum, than ever. Gen. Spoehr says the military's current training tract amounts to indoctrination.
Meanwhile, the Red Chinese are outspending the U.S. on things like hypersonic weapons, quantum computing and other technologies. (Dare we suggest the Chinese are winning the space race?)
Since 2015, the military has lowered physical fitness, combat and marksmanship standards to meet DEI demands. The general notes that there is now no required combat fitness test.
Which may help explain why, over the past two years, military recruiting has plummeted. In late June, the U.S. Army revealed that it had met just 40 percent of its recruiting goal for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Last month, The New York Times featured the military's increasingly hapless effort to attract new recruits. The Army has been forced to offer enlistment bonuses as high as $50,000.
The Heritage Foundation's 2022 index assesses the country's overall military strength in categories ranging from very weak to very strong. The U.S. military received an overall grade of marginal, just as it did in '21. (Basically, a grade of C.)
The U.S. military is "likely capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict," the index found, but it would be "hard-pressed" to do more and is "certainly ill-equipped" to handle two such conflicts.
The military faces "worrisome trends" in force readiness, declining strength in key areas like trained pilots and continued uncertainty regarding the defense budget, which is having negative effects on major acquisition programs and installation-level repair capabilities.
Find almost any retired veteran and ask what he or she thinks of the military's current state of readiness. We spoke with two retired Army officers, both Arkansas natives, who we won't name here. Their consensus is that America could not defeat both Red China and Russia in such a scenario. America could not defend Taiwan. And on its own could not prevent Russia from taking Ukraine. The military has been devastated by politics and poor leadership at the Pentagon, they say. Soldiers today are soft and poorly led. A two-front war? "Not a chance."
Furthermore, "we are good at targeted killing and overwhelming poor countries for a short time."
Here's hoping that one day all armies are soft from lack of use and neglect. But that day, if it ever comes--we don't think it will--remains an unrealistic for today's world. Meanwhile, America's focus on DEI may one day translate into a military that's DOA.
In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev reportedly suggested America would be taken without firing a shot. It would be destroyed from within, he said.
Chilling words, some 66 years later.