The president-elect dropped in on some Marines stationed in Hawaii yesterday, a fine gesture of appreciation for the military he will soon be leading.
The Los Angeles Times reported in a separate article, however, that “President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has signaled that the incoming administration will look to cut the Pentagon budget, of which military personnel costs are a rising share.” This in an article on the many demands on the Army, which are paralleled by demands on the other services.
Even as Iraq settles into a stable and largely peaceful normality —Iraqi Christians who fled during the period of the greatest violence are returning to the country, and Christmas was celebrated openly there yesterday— and U.S. forces can be carefully drawn down, the demands in Afghanistan and elsewhere are mounting. As much as Democrats would love to replay the nineties and declare another “peace dividend,” they can’t do so without endangering basic U.S. security. As a matter of simple politics, the worst thing that the new president could do would be to shortchange the military and with it the security of the country.
Rather than cutting at the Pentagon’s budget, the new Administration should continue President Bush’s focus on the well-being of the troops that are carrying the burden of the war through pay and housing improvements. Visiting the Marines and other forces around the country and the globe is a very good practice for the new president to continue, but he should let his transition team know that the military’s budget will continue to increase on his watch, not be slimmed down.