President Obama’s plan to slash the size of the American military by at least 10% is dangerous and covered in a deceitful “strategic reassessment,” which is a crude attempt to deflect attention from the bottom line of a much shrunken American military.
There is a fiscal crisis, but it isn’t because of defense spending but because of entitlements which the president will not discuss in detail much less reform. Dramatic cuts in the number of soldiers, sailors and Marines are a substitute for the hard work of shrinking the payout state and cutting off the president’s favored constituents.
Search the reporting on the radical downsizing announced yesterday for hard numbers. You won’t find them. The president is trying –thus far successfully with the assistance of the MSM– to downsize the American military under the cover of the GOP primaries. The failure of the Supercommittee and the train wreck of the debt ceiling showdown this past summer has left the House GOP divided and its freshman caucus demoralized and apparently defeated. But the House GOP simply has to rally to save the Pentagon from the president’s wildly irresponsible plans.
I interviewed House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon yesterday (transcript here) and a member of his committee, Virginia’s Rob Wittman who also serves as chair of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of Armed Services (transcript here.) Please read their assessments and call your representatives and senators to demand these cuts be stopped and the military preserved at its present strength. A Harry Reid-led Senate so dysfunctional that cannot even pass a budget in three years ought not to be in charge of the nation’s defenses and ought not to be allowed to cooperate in the gutting of the American military.
“Fund the Marine Corps not NPR” should be the theme of a growing pro-defense movement. The Ron Paul-led isolationist slice of the country has seen it voice amplified by the GOP debates, but the Iowa caucus showed again that it is a tiny, tiny part of the GOP and should be pushed aside by the traditional demand of Republicans for a strong and vibrant military defined by a 300 plus-ship Navy and the modern era doctrine of the ability to successfully fight two wars at the same time.
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have got to avoid being drawn into the sorts of fights the MSM loves —like Rick Santorum’s dust-up on same sex marriage with college students yesterdayy– and instead must insist that the campaign focus on the president’s radical fiscal irresponsibility at home and appeasement abroad, now backed by a plan to hollow out the American military.
Mark Steyn and I talked about the president’s plans for the Pentagon yesterday. Here’s that exchange:
HH: Today, the President announced that the condition, the first condition that allows for that upward mobility in American prosperity, the American military, which defends sea lanes and allows prosperity, they are tandem. I know you’ve argued you lose your military when you lose your economy. But he’s not waiting to lose the economy, Mark Steyn. He’s going to cut tens of thousands of active duty uniformed personnel, billions more from an already skinnied-down Defense budget. It’s, I have talked today with Congressman Buck McKeon of California, who’s chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Rob Wittman, sub-committee chairman of the Armed Services Committee. It’s an outrageous assault on the American Defense posture.
MS: That’s true, but as you indicated at the beginning, in a certain sense, it’s inevitable. You can have big government at home, or you can have an assertive national defense that can project force to any corner of the planet abroad. But you can’t have both. I mean, if you look at the United Kingdom between the 1950s and the 1990s, in a sense, social spending and Defense spending sort of more or less inverted. This is, by the way, where I disagree with Ron Paul. When Ron Paul romanticizes the 19th Century isolationist republic of the founders’ vision, he forgets that there was a global order at make on the planet then. It was called the Royal Navy. And America benefited from the fact that the Royal Navy patrolled the oceans.
MS: It was, there is no one to succeed to America’s role as America succeeded to Britain’s role. And it simply, and what I think is dangerous about this is that both on the left and the right, there are people who think that the books can be balanced on the backs of the military. And in fact, if you abolish the entire Pentagon, it doesn’t actually, it’s barely the size of the most recent debt ceiling increase requested by Obama. So it’s not going to do it. You can actually get rid of the whole Pentagon, sell off every aircraft carrier, sell the nukes to North Korea and Iran, and Sudan, and anyone else who wants them, and it still won’t solve the fiscal crisis, the fiscal abyss into which America has lower itself into.
HH: Because that is a Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid-driven abyss. That’s all…
MS: That’s right. And in fact, I mean, where I agree with, I mean, for example, by about mid-decade, U.S. taxpayers, just in the interest on the debt, are going to be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. No nation can afford to pay both for its own military and its principal rivals. And that’s why although I think that there are certainly savings to be made in the military budget, and I certainly think an awful lot of money is wasted in the military budget, the idea of using the military as an excuse not to go after the big social spending, I think, is wicked, and delusional, both from the left and the right.
“Wicked” and “delusional” are exactly the sort of terms that the GOP’s would-be nominees need to use about a plan that slashes the military even as Iran threatens to attack our aircraft carriers the next time one enters the Gulf and which is thrusting ahead with its plans for nukes and just as the PRC surges out its new naval forces.
This is so wildly irresponsible that the president chose to announce it while Congress was out-of-town and the steady hands that have long defended defending America like Buck McKeon and Jon Kyl were out of town.
But the MSM simply laid down and most refused to go and find them to comment, which was perfectly possible as shown by my interviews with McKeon and Wittman. The reporters at the Pentagon didn’t even go out and ask what it would mean to, say, the Marines to lose 10 to 15% of their troops, taking the Army from 570,000 to 520,000 and possibly as low as 490,000 and the Marines from 200,000 to at or below 180,000. To say, as the Washington Post did, that “new military strategy, contained in an eight-page document, will guide wrenching decisions on defense cutbacks,” isn’t reporting. “Details will be made public in the next few weeks as the White House finalizes its proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year,” is cooperation with the Administration in cloaking the huge national security cut-backs. (The Post to its credit at least managed to find McKeon for a quick quote and the Wall Street Journal managed to allot one quick aside to John McCain before quoting a retired general who supported the president’s plans and a left wing think-tanker who wants even more radical cuts.)
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are both strong supporters of a robust American military and of increased defense spending. Romney’s speech on foreign and defense policy delivered at The Citadel in October laid out his vision and he needs to return to it in the debates on Saturday and Sunday, and throughout the campaign. If Santorum’s momentum continues, he too will have to lay out the specifics of his defense plans, but he has a very reassuring record as a national security realist.
Both men have to show the way on the issue to a confused and disorganized D.C. GOP, and face down the isolationists as well as the deficit hawks who don’t care or who don’t understand what is coming at America and its allies from Iran in the near term and the PRC in the medium term.
Whatever the questions are from the ABC and NBC hosts this weekend, the candidates have to make sure that debate over America’s military and thus its “common defense” gets the attention it must have.