A US-Soviet analogy for the Asia-Pacific situation

by Chris Zappone

A really disappointing piece by an American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Auslin on China’s regional aggression. But before I proceed, recall that the AEI was a real hotbed of thinking behind the disastrous Iraq War – so treat thinking about war from this group with great caution.

With that warning on the table, Auslin gives some background to the Chinese military build up in Asia, and what a looming threat it’s going to be for US allies – as evidenced by China declaring its air defense identification zone and its plans to “reportedly” purchase Russian Su-35 fighters, “among the most advanced in the world.” He then goes on to lament the effect budget cuts are having with military planning. Note to Auslin, you might want to have a look around the AEI for the austerity hawks and ask them if budget cuts aren’t the solution to Obama’s America.

Auslin bemoans the cutbacks and the questions the US military’s ability to respond to China’s assertive/reckless behavior in the Pacific. It’s debatable if China’s air defense zone (already ignored by the US) is the opening move of a new Pacific War. But Auslin already has a solution for the US challenge in Asia. What’s the fix? Why spend up on the military, of course. He quotes US Air Force General ‘Hawk’ Carlisle discussing the readiness of US pilots in the region:

Perhaps Gen. Carlisle’s biggest concern is the reduction in flying hours. Regular training keeps U.S. pilots the best in the world. In 2014, however, the Air Force plans on cutting flying hours by 19%. With sequestration and budget cuts, American combat air forces currently are getting only between five and eight hours of flying per month. “That’s unacceptable,” Gen. Carlisle says, noting that the U.S. is approaching the training level of Soviet forces in the Cold War, which hampered their flying ability.

Yes, but General Carlisle and Mr Auslin, it wasn’t the Soviet pilots’ readiness that brought down that Communist country; it was the fact the Soviets spent so much on their military they failed to properly invest in and fund a livable, viable society. Today, there is a risk that China successfully leads the US toward a costly and risky arms race in which China fakes large military expenditures that the US actually makes. (links) And there is a real opportunity cost involved with these kinds of choices.

Analogies between the fortunes of the US and Soviet Union are inevitable. But one the most worrying parallels is of a country on such perpetual war footing that it can’t focus on keeping its own people clothed, fed and employed.

But don’t expect the military geniuses at the AEI to tell you this.