- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009


News item No. 1 concerns the testimony of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 24. “[Deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan] poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world,” she said.

News Item No. 2: Headline in The Washington Post Page 1, top right, above the fold, May 4: “U.S. Options in Pakistan Limited” News item No. 3: Jackson Diehl’s Washington Post column May 4 : “A senior [Obama administration] official said “it’s not good when your national security interests are dependent on a country over which you have almost no influence.”

In the matter of two weeks, we have gone from the U.S. secretary of state testifying to Congress that a nuclear Pakistan run by Islamist radicals would be a “mortal threat” to America, to, yesterday, the admission by the administration that we have limited options to avoid such a “mortal threat.”

What are we to make of such a development? Does anyone take serious words seriously anymore here in Washington?

I and many others had previously warned of the dangers of a nuclear Talibanistan (which have been obvious and talked about for years). Experts I have talked to in the past week do not believe Mrs. Clinton overstates the case. Nor do I. She is very careful with her words - and they fit the danger.

If Pakistan’s nuclear weapons get into the hands of Taliban or al Qaeda, even unlaunched, they would provide the weapons-grade, fast-fissile material necessary to create a nuclear holocaust here in the United States or elsewhere.

How did it come to be that the government of the most powerful nation in the history of humanity (population 300 million plus, with a gross domestic product of $14 trillion, larger than next three economies - Japan, China and Germany - combined) confesses that its options are limited on a “mortal threat” to our nation?

And what are we going to do about it? I don’t blame the Obama administration - not yet. It inherited our current national military strength. But it has been obvious for years that we are not prepared to deal with a world that refuses to behave as we either predict or prefer. We need to start catching up with the growing contingent threats.

It was in understanding the inevitability of contingent or unexpected events to emerge that led Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the great 19th-century Prussian field marshal and army chief of staff, famously to observe that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Thus, he believed that “War is a matter of expedients.” He was suspicious of “rigid, inflexible, and totalizing grand strategies and theories,” arguing instead for a strategy and preparations that provided for a series of plug-in points that could be shaped to meet the military challenges of the moment - as a war unfolded.

So too should we be materially prepared for world political events or be prepared to pay the consequences. That is why, a year ago, when I was writing my recent book “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century,” I argued that we must face the reality that, given the growing threats in a rapidly morphing world, we will need a bigger army than our current all-volunteer force. “The questions that any statesman or strategist has to confront are obvious: What if our armed forces are suddenly needed to take out Iran’s nuclear program? What if Pakistan falls to the jihadists, and we need troops to secure that country’s nuclear weapons? What if China invades Taiwan? What if North Korea, in a desperate gambit launches an attack on South Korea? What if the vast resources of the North Pole spark a military rivalry between Russian, Canada, the United States and other countries? What if Saudi oil fields require protection? What if we have to secure our southern border from increasingly ambitious drug cartels or civil disturbances in Mexico?” (“American Grit,” page 32.)

Well, in the mere year since I wrote those words, three of those seven contingencies (Iran, Pakistan and Mexico) have gone from speculation to the daily headlines. The blood is not yet on the ground regarding them, but prudent investors would start buying coffins. And yet we plan not at all.

Our troop strength is so limited that President Obama has to move troops out of Iraq - risking turning inherited near-success into possible strategic failure - to slightly beef up Afghanistan. Now, while we may perhaps have some time, we should start a crash program to increase troop and material strength.

With the recession, we could probably induct more volunteers than seemed possible during prosperity. However, that is only a half-measure. We eventually will need more Army and Marine combat troops than will volunteer (and increased Navy and Air Force sea and air-lift and fighting capacity, which we could start building now).

It should be inadmissible for the U.S. government to identify a “mortal threat” without at least offering up a plan to defeat it. Where is the plan? Where is the public clamor for a plan?

Tony Blankley is the author of “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century” and executive vice president for global affairs of the Edelman public relations firm in Washington.

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