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  • A Leaner, but Not Meaner, Military

    The echo chamber of Washington is hard at work. The consensus is growing that the U.S. military will need to aim for a slimmer but still perfectly effective military, thanks to the budget and capability cuts of the past three years. However, given the magnitude of ongoing defense budget cuts, a hollowing force simply does not translate into a “meaner” military.

    For the past half-century and more, America has taken a leadership role in the world. This has manifest vital national interests all around the globe. As a result, the U.S. military has global responsibilities and reach. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are forward deployed, and the Armed Services project power around the globe every day to protect our citizens and our economy. This serves to maintain and deter strategic interests (from trade routes to countering powers like Iran) and fight and win wars.

    However, the military’s role is even broader, because our forces also respond to domestic emergencies and natural disasters here at home and abroad for tsunami and earthquake victims, for example.

    These are hefty responsibilities that require an adequate budget. However, Washington continues to raid the military’s budget like a piggy bank, and the effects are starting to show, with rapidly declining readiness across the military.

    Still, some are calling for reduced defense budgets on the assumption (or hope) that America’s military will be less engaged around the world. But a smaller military would still be charged with meeting the threats, demands, and challenges of the 21st century.

    The argument for a leaner but meaner military just doesn’t add up. This is particularly true if the military goes hollow or becomes less capable as a result. A world without the U.S. military as the guarantor of freedom is not pretty. With even more defense cuts being considered today, the U.S. military could quickly become only a regional power and cede our long-held military supremacy that has contributed to our role as a global superpower.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to A Leaner, but Not Meaner, Military

    1. Ron Swaren says:

      While the US military should still be capable of responding to threats it should also be capable of doing this in conjunction with other nations. This is the concept that George Bush Sr. pursued in his call for international cooperation in Operation Desert Storm. This is sometimes known as a Regional Security Initiative or as President Bush (41) put it: "a new world order."The bloated military costs occur when we are engaged for long periods of times in a more-or-less unilateral conflict whose effects we then are required to fund for decades.

      Having the proper deterrent hardware is a different matter altogether.

    2. Bell Pepper says:

      Mackenzie,

      You write a great opinion piece, with few facts. The military budget isn't being raided – it has steadily grown since 2000. As a Navy veteran now consulting on military budgetary matters, I would submit that more than $200 billion could be cut from the Defense budget with no "theoretical" impact to our War on Terrorism. See graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Defense_Sp
      I underscore "theoretical" because I realize abruptly cutting $200 billion would not force the best cuts, but the fastest, which would hinder our capabilities. The Pentagon needs to anticipate cuts now for actual cuts later.

      As you can see from the graph, baseline military spending has grown significantly since 2001. Has that translated into a more capable force? I would submit, with first-hand experience on both sides of budget transaction, it has not. Similar to the Education budget we libertarians and conservatives want to cut, it should be equally recognized that more military spending does not translate into military strength. It should also be recognized that the use of our military for humanitarian efforts is a misallocation of public funds.

      We should begin building a stronger force here at home; instead, our military – both the physical assets, and the fighting men and women – are being expended without a clear strategy, and without a clear threat to the United States. This has never been more underlined than with our current President's commission of forces to Uganda to hunt down a warlord, outside of Congressional oversight or declaration of war. Never mind the televised NATO-assassination of Gaddafi, who was not a threat to us. Never mind his assassination of Al-Awlaki without due process, on foreign soil, for speech crimes. His killing occurred via secret kill memo; for whom else does the President have a kill memo?

      The bottom line is this: The best way to service our national security through military spendingis to build up our assets and increase our capabilities. The old Latin saying, "Si vis pacem, para bellum" – "If you want peace, prepare for war" – was best demonstrated by Ronald Reagan with his strategy of "Peace through strength." Reagan showed us, in the most volatile struggle since World War II, that possessing a strong military does not require the arbitrary use of it.

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