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On January 3rd, President Obama released his vision for military expenditures going forward. It is a plan that calls for reducing troop strength by tens of thousands because, Mr. Obama contends, ”we’ve succeeded in defending our nation, taking the fight to our enemies, reducing the number of Americans in harm’s way, and we’ve restored America’s global leadership.” An integral part of the new strategy? Abandoning the capability to fight two major ground wars simultaneously. ”Yes, our military will be leaner, said the president, “but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.”
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, cut right through the rhetoric. ”This is a lead-from-behind strategy for a left-behind America,” he contended. “The president has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense.”
The scope of the divestment is daunting. The additional $500 billion in new spending cuts come on top of the $480 billion this president cut out of the military budget his first three years in office. Neither of these cuts reflect the possibility that an additional $500 billion in possible cuts will kick in next January, under “sequestration.” And since the 2012 budget request already calls for the reduction of 27,000 soldiers and 20,000 Marines over the next four years, it is likely those numbers will increase as well.
Critical technology has also gotten, or may get axed as well. The Airborne Laser, a project aimed at destroying enemy missiles soon after they blast off was killed 2010, along with the Future Combat Systems, a program deigned to coordinate mobile forces and unmanned vehicles. The latter was killed with the promise that modernization resources would go directly to the Army and Marines. So far it hasn’t happened, and now it may not. The Navy’s hypersonic electromagnetic rail gun, a project designed to intercept anti-ship missiles–like those that could be aimed at our carriers in a fight with Iran or China–lost funding in 2011. Cutbacks could also include the F-35 fighter plane, despite its radar-evading stealth technology that would allow us to maintain our dominance in the air.
Why? Incredibly, the president claimed “the tide of war is receding.” No doubt that would be news to Iraqis who are enduring large-scale attacks and the possibility of a civil war, due primarily to our premature withdrawal. So too for the Afghans, who must now contemplate the return of the Taliban, with whom the Obama administration has seen fit to negotiate, using Islamic cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a “key mediator,” despite his rabid anti-Semitism and his issuance of a fatwa urging the killing of American troops. No doubt Iran, fresh from conducting military exercises in the in the Strait of Hormuz last week, and further maneuvers near the Afghan coast on Saturday, would be equally surprised. And then there’s the multiple threats the Islamist uprisings, nostalgically referred to as the “Arab Spring,” have the potential to engender as well.
Yet the president remains undeterred, with his administration projecting military budget outlays of 2.7 percent of GDP by 2021. That number is comparable to our military outlays in the year 1940–one year before America’s fatal flirtation with both isolationism and peace literally blew up in our collective faces at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
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