Let's talk about love – and not the type of love that results in sailors getting an injection of antibiotics after a port call in Thailand. I'm talking about a deeper, spiritual kind of love: The Pentagon's passionate love affair with great power competition.
Nearly a decade ago, the Defense Department was betrothed to an idea called "counterinsurgency;" but the Pentagon ditched COIN at the altar after a Jody named Afghanistan ruined the romance. Now the U.S. military is head over heels in love with countering Russia and China – so much so that the Pentagon has named a cockroach "The Global War on Terrorism" after its ex so it could be fed to a Meerkat.
Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Pentagon – probably near the Fighter Pilot Bar – there is likely a black-and-white picture of the building being dedicated in January 1943 that includes your friend and humble narrator in the background being scowled at by Army Col. Leslie Groves.
Even though your spry correspondent was technically born decades later, if you work at the Pentagon long enough, you develop a special relationship with the building, much like Jack Nicholson's character in "The Shining."
26 January 2019, Venezuela, Caracas: Juan Guaido, who has appointed himself interim president, speaks to supporters in the Venezuelan capital. (Photo / Rafael Hernandez/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.)
Beloved readers: Your friend and humble Pentagon correspondent has been spending the last week trying to figure out why in the name of the Risen Mattis that Venezuela has suddenly become a national security hotspot.
As far as your dimwitted reporter can determine, neither the Taliban nor Al Qaeda nor ISIS have established a caliphate in the Bolivarian Republic. None of North Korea's nuclear weapons or ballistic missile facilities have been moved south of the border. And Caracas is the one place where Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani hasn't taken a selfie – yet.
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan hosts a bilateral meeting with Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya at the Pentagon, Jan. 16, 2019. (DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
You can learn about leaders from the books that inspire them. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis frequently turned to "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius to put things into perspective – both in combat and in the vipers nest known as Washington, D.C.
Now the torch has been passed to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who looks to more recent history for leadership lessons. One book he often recommends "Freedom's Forge," about how American industry teamed up with the War Department during World War II to build more ships, planes, and tanks than Germany and Japan could possibly match.
For years, defense officials have pleaded for more money to stop the rash of aircraft crashes and to reduce casualties if war broke out with Russia or China. But a recent story suggests the Pentagon may have had some extra $100 bills tucked away in its thong.
Bloomberg's Anthony Capaccio and Roxana Tiron first reported that the Defense Department actually had too much money. Between fiscals 2013 and 2018, the Pentagon did not spend $28 billion in money appropriated by Congress, the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office found.