The Cruelest Cuts

The Obama administration takes a giant bite out of the military.

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.

As always, this chain saw approach to the military is what every military cutback has been about for progressives: maintaining the inviolability of the welfare state, for which spending is set to hit nearly 11% of GDP by 2020, before the projected $2.6 trillion slated for ObamaCare--a number that will undoubtedly rise--is factored in. Yet this is where that inviolability inevitably leads:

"Entitlements now account for around 65 percent of all federal spending and a record 18 percent of GDP. The three largest entitlements--Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--eclipsed defense spending in 1976 and have been growing ever since. If future taxes are held at the historical average, these three entitlements will consume all tax revenues by 2052, leaving no money for the government’s primary constitutional obligation: providing for the common defense." (italic mine)

Yet it is more than just a desire to expand the welfare state that drives this president and his administration. Mr. Obama is a dedicated progressive who cannot hide his disdain for American exceptionalism. The Hoover Institution's Shelby Steele explains:

"[The American left] seeks to trade the burdens of greatness for the relief of mediocrity. When greatness fades, when a nation contracts to a middling place in the world, then the world in fact no longer knocks on its door...To civilize America, to redeem the nation from its supposed avarice and hubris, the American left effectively makes a virtue of decline--as if we can redeem America only by making her indistinguishable from lesser nations."

How far is Mr. Obama willing to go in that regard? His administration recently acknowledged that it is pursuing a policy aimed at giving Russia detailed information about the performance of our offensive and defensive missile capabilities. Ostensibly this will be instrumental in breaking the deadlock in missile defense talks with Moscow, in that it will assure the Russians we mean them no harm. Yet section 1227 of the defense law prohibits spending on such a measure, until Congress receives a report on the numerous details involved. Furthermore, the president is required to certify to Congress that Russia will not share the secrets with other nations, or "develop counter-measures" to U.S. defenses.

Mr. Obama kicked section 1227 to the curb. In a signing statement, he said he considered the restrictions "non-binding."

In conclusion, two significant questions arise.

First, are Americans willing to completely abandon this nation's role as the "last best hope of mankind" for a welfare state that will consume 100 percent of government revenue forty years hence?

Second, for those who believe we must gut the military in order to improve the economy, how much would our economy improve following a nuclear detonation over a major American city?

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