A Sideways Glance at Military Strategy

This is a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on January 12, 1977, eight days before the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, who succeeded Gerald Ford.

James (“just call me Jimmy”) Carter has filled his new Cabinet with “old” faces. Will the old
faces, and the old minds behind them, come up with the same old answers? It is likely.

Despite promises of efficiency–which means collecting our tax money faster–the Carter regime is likely to follow the pattern set by a certain former governor of Georgia: more government employees, more government spending, and more government debt.

Perhaps Mr. Carter can improve on the performance of the Ford flivver. There will be plenty of opportunities. Shortly before leaving office Mr. Ford apparently decided not to ask for an aircraft carrier in the new budget to be submitted to Congress. Not having the carrier (we already have a dozen or more, all in good shape) and the planes that would go on it, could save us over $4 billion during the next several years. This may seem sensible, but there’s more.

It is reported that during the past year, Mr. Ford-through his super-salesman. Mr. Kissinger, agreed to renew the leases on some of our bases in Spain. Turkey. Greece, and the Philippines. It is estimated that the right to have bases in those countries would cost over $4 billion during the next several years. (The bases themselves are optional extras.) Maybe the Navy should have its new carrier. Make that two!

But, politicians should not be accused of stupidity until all the returns are in. I, for one. can
plainly see the method to Mr. Ford’s machinations. First, he expects that Congress will agree that the Navy should not have a new nuclear aircraft carrier.

Second. Mr. Ford expects that Congress will not be foolish enough to pay $4 billion to our third-string allies for the privilege of parking military hardware on their property on the remote chance that it will be useful in a war.

Third, the Puerto Ricans will overwhelmingly endorse Statehood, and Congress will vote it.

What does Puerto Rico have to do with carriers and bases? Puerto Rico is a big island.
(Right!) It can hold a lot of airplanes, tanks, and missiles. (Right again!) It’s probably just
as strategically located as the Philippines, and less likely to be overrun than Spain, Greece, and Turkey. (Give that man a cigar!)

Therefore, we get a new State, new taxpayers, a well-located base bigger than a thousand
aircraft carriers, and save $8 billion in the bargain.

Who said that Mr. Ford couldn’t ski and chew gum* at the same time? Top that. Jimmy.

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* During his presidency, Ford became the brunt of jokes for a few well-publicized instances of clumsiness. One joke was that he couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Ford was, in fact, an excellent athlete, who counted skiing among his abilities. Thus “ski and chew gum at the same time.”