For those who haven’t heard, the Secretary of Defense has recently announced a shift in priorities that includes the cancelling of several high-cost programs which attracted criticism from many who believe them to be excessive or no longer necessary – among them them the F-22, an air-superiority stealth fighter jet with roots in the Cold War; the Airborne Laser, a missile defense system mounted on a modified Boeing 747, and the missile defense shield, which consists of radar detection and interceptors to shoot down any threats from East Asia. The President’s new Marine One Helicopter was also cancelled, but that is far less of an issue, since those helicopters do not see much combat action.
Now, for the threat we currently face – Islamic terrorists, rebels who hide in caves or in the shadows of Arab cities, those with no radar, and very limited rocket technology – these cuts (combined with a greater focus on anti-insurgent technology) are a good thing. Its true that a multi-million dollar warplane that can avoid radar detection has limited use (or at least little advantage over other, less high-tech warplanes) against those like UBL, and its true that a missile-shield has little use against terrorists who’s closest resemblance to a missile is a steal pipe on the back of a truck – and who’s nuclear delivery system is most likely to be a backpack or suitcase. So, in this regard, this shift in priorities will help us to fight the current enemy more effectively.
But what about the future? Al-Qaeda will not remain our primary opponent for the next 100 years, eventually the leaders will die, the money will dry up, and security improvements will severely restrict their ability to conduct attacks. Even a quick glance at the front pages of CNN or FOX News will tell you who is in line to be our next major military adversary – Rogue nations like Iran or North Korea, or restless superpowers like Russia and China. All of these nations have developed armies, modern military hardware, and most have ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. We’ve seen how Russia and China aren’t afraid to use force to spread their influence, and anyone with access to the news knows that North Korea and Iran have been creating problems for years – so with these threats in mind, is it really a good idea to be cutting the kind of technology that gives us an advantage over other nations? Probably not.