Right now, the US is kind of a paper tiger, few countries take the country seriously for a lot of reasons, much of which is tied to self-inflicted problems. The problem with looking weak but having a strong military is the fact you’ll likely have to use that military to prove you are strong which could have those of us living in a North Korean Nuclear Winter on the West Coast shortly. But if you appear unbeatable there is far less chance someone is going to call you out. For instance, if you knew nothing about Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger but just saw them in a bar, you’d be far less likely to call Arnold out even though Bruce could likely do a better job teaching you the error of your ways.
Right now, the US looks and acts weak which has North Korea and others calling it out but what if we created a far stronger image and worked on creating the impression that calling the US out was suicide?
Part of the President’s job is to promote US Goods and Services, it is part of their charter yet by and large US Presidents tend to be relative luddites when it comes to what is arguably the most powerful legal industry in the nation. Take Air Force One, which is due to be retired. Currently it is a 747, a plane that was designed to be a freight carrier back in the 1970s because the most believed it would be phased out of passenger service quickly in favor of Super Sonic planes that proved too expensive to operate. In short, we ship our President all over the world in a plane that was designed to primarily be a cargo carrier and only remains in service because our industry failed to make the jump to supersonic planes. It is not only a symbol of failure but it basically puts the US President in baggage class.
We deliver the president in an always aging fleet of SUVs and limousines which, though armored, aren’t particularly high tech (though one does have an impressive mini-gun). These vehicles don’t sport advancements in engine technology (they certainly aren’t electric), the have conventional engines and transmissions, and the only thing that is impressive about them is their size and inability to turn sharply or drive over obstacles. They make the President look more like someone’s aging rich grandfather who doesn’t understand technology more than they do the leader of the free world and they are far from cutting edge on personal safety let alone combat readiness.
We guard the President with Secret Service Agents who seem to use communications gear years out of date, have incomplete body armor, still don’t blend in very much, and who look pretty much like the body guards for anyone else. While certainly well trained they don’t present as anything special or uniquely capable although they may actually be both.
In short, we ship the face of our country around in an old plane initially designed for freight, in vehicles that aren’t well designed for today’s world, and surround him with guards that appear unable to do their jobs.
What if we rethought that?
Fixing The Image Of The Presidency
New Air Force One: The President doesn’t like to travel with press and is connected electronically all the time to his support staff so why does he need a big freight carrier to travel in? Wouldn’t a smaller, faster plane be easier to defend, be far less wasteful in terms of time and be a better showcase for the US Aerospace Industry? Create a contest between Lockheed and Boeing to see who could best build an Air Force One for the next 30 years rather than the current plan to deploy another 747 which wasn’t really great for the last 30. Make the plane a showcase for what the US can do in terms of communications, speed, and even defensive technology. Make it something people want to go see rather than something they’d prefer not to fly in themselves (planes from the 747’s time had inherent safety problems that generally were never fixed). I’d also suggest it had a really cool built in boarding ramp so no President was ever again stranded looking embarrassed and helpless on a runway. So, maybe, something a tad more like this. If you go fast, you don’t need a ton of room in the thing.
The US has a lot of really cool military vehicles, the JLTV, which is the replacement for the Hummer, is decidedly badass. It is designed to be armored, won’t get stuck over speed bumps, turns sharper, and can be equipped with a variety of weapon load outs depending on mission. Much like they now take and heavily modify a Cadillac or Lincoln, you could start with one of these and using skills often showcased at SEMA build the most badass Presidential Delivery vehicle every made. People wouldn’t ignore this puppy they’d get the hell out of the way and, once again, it would be a showcase of what the US can do, not a showcase of what the US once did poorly.
Finally, you could dress the Secret Service in the kind of tech currently under development for the US Military. Heads up displays behind bullet resistant face shields and helmets, exosuits (these can be pretty cool), heads up displays, and much more advanced communications packages. They basically could become walking tanks and who is going to mess with a guy that is always surround with walking tanks?
Wrapping Up: It Isn’t In Our Best Interest To Have The President Look Weak
Regardless of who sits in the Presidential chair it isn’t in the country’s best interest to have the President look week or use technology that is decades out of date. We can and do build better, faster, more secure planes and cars, we can better equip the Secret Service so they too become technology, both civilian and military, showcases and we can make the US President look more like someone you’d be stupid to mess with rather than someone that looks like a pushover. So why don’t we do it?