January 6, 2012
The mighty American military machine that has for so long secured the country’s status as the world’s only superpower will have to be drastically reduced, Barack Obama warned yesterday as he set out a radical but more modest new set of priorities for the Pentagon over the next decade.
After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that defined the first decade of the 21st century, Mr Obama’s blueprint for the military’s future acknowledged that America will no longer have the resources to conduct two such major operations simultaneously.
Instead, the US military will lose up to half a million troops and will focus on countering terrorism and meeting the new challenges of an emergent Asia dominated by China. America, the President said, was “turning the page on a decade of war” and now faced “a moment of transition”. The country’s armed forces would in future be leaner but, Mr Obama pointedly warned both friends and foes, sufficient to preserve US military superiority over any rival – “agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats”.
The wider significance of America’s landmark strategic change was underlined by British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who used a visit to Washington to warn that America must not delay the production of US warplanes bound for British aircraft carriers. The US strategy is expected to make a drawdown of some of the 80,000 troops based in Europe.