Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined his plan for a downsized military. The plan will shrink the Army to its smallest size since the eve of World War II. At that time, there were around 270,000 active duty soldiers, a number that surged to nearly 1.5 million during the fighting in Europe and the Pacific.
Under Hagel’s’ recommendations, this new Army would be reduced from today’s 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000.
“As I weighed these recommendations I have as I often do looked to the pages of American History for guidance, in doing so, an admonition by Henry Stimson stood out,” Hagel said as he wrapped up his presentation. “Writing after World War II, Roosevelt’s secretary of war during that time, said that Americans must act in the world as it is and not in the world as we wish it were. He was a realist. This is a time for reality.”
Military analyst Andrew Bacevich agrees.
“Nobody would be happier than I would be if we were to be on the verge of a Stimson revival,” he tells Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti. “Henry Stimson is one of my favorite characters in 20th century American history. He served twice as secretary of war, and secretary of state and governor general of the Philippines and was really one of the first wise men, somebody who took the world as it is, without illusions.”
After 13 years of war, Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who served in Vietnam and now teaches at Boston University, says it’s time for some realism when it comes to military and foreign policy. He looks back to a lesson he believes the nation should have learned from the Cold War.
“Military power is most effective when it used to defend, to deter, and that it really ought to be used as a last resort. I’m all in favor of a strong United States military but I think that it’s time for us to temper our expectations of what military power can do, when it should be used and what the costs are likely to be.”
He says it’s about time the military focuses on defense instead of projecting power.
“I think the role of the United States Army should be to defend the United States of America, and the threats to the United States of America are relatively modest and that means we can get by with a relatively modest Army.”
- Read Bacevich’s op-ed in The Washington Post
- Related: Bacevich discusses his new book “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country” (includes book excerpt)
- Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His latest book is “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.”