“The world has to get used to taking care of itself,” analyst Loren Thompson declared at a confab in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Thompson and a host of speakers reached a consensus: owing to the financial crisis and the inability to pay for complex weapons programs, the United States will have to “scale back its global commitments and revise its global strategy,” in the words of one reporter covering the event.
Analyst Gregory Martin, a retired Air Force general, said the erosion of world influence is largely the result of weak public support for the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, which are built by Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. “If you can’t afford that [mix], then your national objectives have to be scaled back,” Martin said.
In other words, stealth fighters equal national power. And the absence of stealth fighters equals weakness.
The economic crisis is having an effect on every country, unevenly. Arguably, the U.S. is faring better than most as investors flee to the comparative safety of the dollar. Power in the world is a relative thing: if everyone else gets much weaker, and we stay the same or only grow a little weak, then we are, in fact, more powerful than we were before. Get it? The global recession, alone, does not mean we are losing influence. In fact, the recession might even boost our influence, by underscoring just how much the world depends on America as a consumer market.
But more importantly, American national power does not hinge on fighter jets. We could retire every single fighter in the U.S. Air Force, tomorrow, and still remain the most powerful nation in the world, by far. National power is a complex and shifting thing, comprising military force, financial and cultural influence, leadership in international coalitions and organizations and even language. Every country in the world teaches American English to its business students, aviators and sea captains. Does that have anything to do with the F-22? Do some of our biggest exports — music, movies and television — depend on a squadron of F-35s flying orbits over North Dakota?
Ignore the noise coming out of Washington’s punditocracy as the Obama Administration shapes its first defense budget. And when that budget is published, and it (inevitably) includes cuts to Air Force fighter programs, take a deep breath before panicking and consider:
Nearly everyone telling you we must buy a given quantity of stealth fighters, or lose global influence, has a financial stake in advocating such purchases. Of the speakers at the Wednesday confab:
* Thompson’s colleague, Rebecca Grant, also runs her own consultancy for the defense industry
* Gregory Martin has been a Northrop Grumman consultant
The U.S. Air Force is in deep trouble, but it’s trouble of its own making. And it’s testimony to just how overwhelming, and sustainable, is America’s military, cultural, linguistic and financial dominance in the world that our primary military air service can commit slow, institutional suicide without alarming too many people, aside from a few hardware nerds like me and the consultants who get rich gabbing about certain pointy airplanes on behalf of wealthy corporate clients.
Boeing Unveils New “Stealthy” F-15
Getting the Most from Your New F-22
F-22s to Darfur? Not so Fast …
Advocating a Systemic View of Air Superiority
More fighter-jet hyperventilating
Growler Chomps on Raptor
A U.S. Navy F-22? Don’t Hold Your Breath
Nearly 100,000 Jobs Depend on the F-22? Not Really
Only 60 More Raptors? Everybody Panic!
Russian Super-Fighter Not So Scary
In 2014, the F-35 Might Cost More than the F-22
600 F-22s? Hilarious
F-35 jumps the shark
Raptors in Japan
New Russian fighter to challenge F-35
The amazing shrinking air force