Obama's New Military Strategy: Rumsfeld Redux?
January 8, 2012 • 9:49AM

Who would have though it? A President Obama, who as a presidential candidate, campaigned against the wars that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played such an instrumental role in giving us, has brought him back, in spirit, at least, if not in body. The defense strategy that Obama personally traveled over to the Pentagon, last Thursday, to deliver looks and sounds very much like the "defense transformation" that Rumsfeld was pushing in 2002. The new document emphasizes "lean and agile" expeditionary forces enabled by air and naval power, and employing the most advanced information age technology, that can strike anywhere on the globe at any time against any target we deem a threat. Obama even echoed Rumsfeld's mantra about getting rid of Cold War-era systems.

And while most of the loudest talk is about Iran, these days, the real target, as in Rumsfeld's day is China.

The similarity between Obama's new strategy and Rumsfeld's outlook hasn't gone unnoticed, either, as a number of articles have popped up on the topic. "It is easy to emphasize Asia, technology, and quality over quantity," Pentagon adviser and Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst Anthony Cordesman told The Hill on Thursday. "In fact, this is what Secretary Rumsfeld did." Winslow Wheeler, an analyst with the Center for Defense Information, added that the Obama plan's shifting of the nation's defense strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region "re-emphasizes the focus on the Air Force and Navy as the 'transformative' military services — Rumsfeld's word, not theirs — but they seem to mean very much the same thing." Wheeler notes that while it started out with great support on Capitol Hill, Rumsfeld's transformation "did not result in much success in Iraq and Afghanistan and required substantial augmentation."

What The Hill and other comparable analyses neglected to mention is that the brains behind Rumsfeld's transformation is still ensconced in the same office in the Pentagon still busily steering defense policy in that direction. Andrew Marshall, who has been the director of the Office of Net Assessment since 1973, invented the idea of the "Revolution in Military Affairs" in the 1990's, after the end of the Cold War. According to the RMA, information technology was supposed to completely revolutionize the conduct of warfare, making the battlefield "transparent" to us and invisible to the enemy, enabling us to hit him with such precision that we could fight and win the war entirely on our terms. None of that came to fruition, of course, but that hasn't stopped Marshall from populating the institutions and think tanks in Washington with his co-thinkers, people he has trained over the decades, and their influence is highly visible in Obama's new doctrine.

The other component of Marshall's outlook , also visible in Obama's not-so-new policy, is the view that war with China is inevitable in the not so distant future. The Air-Sea Battle doctrine and the new stealth bomber to be developed, both components of the new strategy, are both reflections of that outlook, and are products of Marshall's kindergarten.