Should Progressives Concern Themselves With Defense Strategy and Line Items?

Littoral Combat Ship(Pictured: The Littoral Combat Ship.)

The Progressive Realist re-posted an essential piece by Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money. Prompted by the Defense Department’s purchase of the controversial Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), he reiterates his position that “progressives consistently underestimate the importance of discussions about military doctrine and technology.” Farley explains (emphasis added).

I believe that, right now, progressives have evacuated the field on questions of military doctrine and technology (with a couple of important exceptions, as noted below), leaving the conversation to conservatives and “centrists”. Effectively, this means that the “left” side of the US debate on the composition (rather than the size) of the defense budget is represented by people like Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, or (at very best) by the folks at the Center for American Progress. . . .

Progressives should start making arguments framed around the question of whether or not the F-35 (or the LCS, or whatever you feel like) is the kind of weapon that could underpin a progressive vision of US foreign policy. . . .

Finally, I think that we are approaching a political reality in which real cuts to defense spending will become possible, and that staking out genuinely progressive positions on issues of military doctrine and technology actually have a chance of affecting the composition of US military forces. . . . I think it’s very important that progressives start thinking through the details of defense issues now.

Most progressives are allergic to weapons. With a few exceptions, such as William Hartung (whose new book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, has just been published), we find it counterintuitive to immerse ourselves in the details of defense acquisition, not to mention “war-fighting” (sorry, I’m incapable of typing that without adding quotes) strategy. Do Focal Points readers agree with Robert Farley that, indeed, it’s exactly the kind of work we should be doing?