“Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top… It’s the dirt that does it… if there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it.”
– T.K. Jones, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces (1981)
Throughout the post-WWII period the Pentagon and the vast majority of our countrymen were focused on Russia in the guise of the Soviet Union as our grand nemesis. Remember containment, roll back and the evil empire? I remember the frequent air raid drills in Mrs. Bender’s first grade class. I remember the deployment of Pershing II MRBMs to Europe and all that talk of surviving a nuclear war. At one time I was ready to jump into southeast Poland and take on the headquarters of the Soviet Northern Group of Forces. The Air Force assured us that they could get us in. We weren’t given an exfiltration plan. We were given the odds of surviving past thirty days on target… one in ten. Those were crazy-assed time filled with crazy-assed talk and crazy-assed ideas.
When the Warsaw Treaty Organization and then the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a collective and cathartic relaxation of tensions. But all that talk about a peace dividend made the Pentagon uneasy. The common saying was that war is hell, but peacetime is a mutha fukka.
The attack on 9/11 was more than a shock to our country. It was the arrival of a new nemesis, a new evil empire for the Pentagon to focus its energies on, a new reason to be. The new focus required new resources. Everything was justified by the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). All the military expansion from equipment, to manpower and overseas deployments was justified with four letters… GWOT. Unfortunately this massive military expansion was accompanied with an unhealthy singular focus on a peculiar implementation of counterinsurgency doctrine.
With the half-hearted and half-assed winding down of our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon rightly turned its attentions to rebuilding our conventional warfighting skills and capabilities. Human nature dictated the naming of a new nemesis, a peer nemesis to justify the rebuilding of these long neglected capabilities. DIA brought out the old “Soviet Military Power” and renamed it “Russia Military Power.” It’s just as glossy and paints the new Russians just as formidable and dangerous as the old Soviets. It’s all marketing to extract greater resources from Congress. GWOT has been replaced by Putin’s Russia.
It is doubly unfortunate that DOD’s identification of Russia as a peer nemesis coincided with the public hysteria surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 election. It makes for a dangerous situation, but no more dangerous than it was back in the days of “With Enough Shovels.”