Panetta: `Blizzard’…or Snow Job?

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Threats facing U.S.

“We are no longer in the Cold War,” Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing Thursday. “This is more like the blizzard war, a blizzard of challenges that draw speed and intensity from terrorism, from rapidly developing technologies and the rising number of powers on the world stage.”

USA Today ran with the quote:

Panetta: U.S. Now Faces A ‘Blizzard’ Of Threats

Please. You don’t need a defense-secretary nominee to know which way the wind blows. Snow job seems more apt.

It’s tough to see what the world’s mightiest military can do about “rapidly developing technologies and the rising number of powers on the world stage,” or how efficient a tool it is at grappling with the terror threat. Too often, it seems in Washington, the U.S. military is the answer to questions better addressed by other means: commerce, education, development.

The Arab Spring is stunning not only because it’s happening, but because it is such a rebuke to the fires stoke by the late Mr. bin Laden and al Qaeda. It didn’t happen at the point of a gun; it happened because emerging technologies — the (Pentagon-invented) Internet, cell phones, Facebook and Twitter — are opening the blinds for many oppressed young people in the region. Those rumbles have been felt as far away as China, Iran and North Korea. And (grin) they will continue to be felt.

There is only one blizzard on the horizon: someone, somewhere, gets hold of a nuclear weapon and detonates it somewhere.

Pretty much everything else is a series of flurries. No one wants to minimize what our troops have been through over the past decade, but today we have about 150,000 personnel involved in three — three! — wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Cost and casualties are too high, of course, but well below those of prior wars (at least in their cost in blood). The world is no longer engaged in a superpower standoff where life as we know it could end tomorrow. We’re not mobilized — at all — for the current conflicts. Whether this is good or bad is beside the point — it’s reality.

So yes: China could become a menace, if we, and they, allow it. And cyber attacks could be a problem, but only if we repeat the mistakes that let 9/11 happen. Imagine how the world would be different if we had harnessed a tad of common sense and foresight and installed reinforced and locking doors on commercial-airliner cockpits when hijackings began proliferating in the 1970s.