You have to give President Obama credit. It takes serious gall to tell the American military to its face that you are putting it on the road to second-class status.
That’s exactly what our commander-in-chief did at the Pentagon yesterday, as he announced nearly half a trillion dollars in new spending cuts, after already chopping $480 billion during his first three years in office. He also set out plans for drastic reductions in our force size and continuing weapons programs, including the F-35 fighter — our last best hope for maintaining American dominance in the skies.
Obama’s been trying to reassure Americans all this won’t endanger our national security or our strategic interests. Everyone in or out of uniform who’s free to speak knows better — and that with a full-scale war still underway we are standing on the brink of our weakest military posture since Jimmy Carter, and our smallest forces since before World War II.
Part of Obama’s rationale is his declared belief that America no longer needs to have a military big enough to fight two wars at once — even though that’s been our historical experience more often than not (think the European and the Pacific theaters in World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War with Russia, Iraq and Afghanistan).
More important, President Obama doesn’t understand that our military’s role isn’t just fighting wars. It’s providing a strong strategic presence that will influence events in our favor — and away from that of adversaries and rivals. Even he admits these drastic cuts can only come through shrinking that presence world-wide, which means deep cuts in our forces in Europe and the Middle East, while expecting a shrinking navy (which could wind up with barely 230 ships by 2020) and air force to keep our interests safe in the Pacific region — where China is surging.
Yet as the latest confrontation with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz shows, while a war rages in Afghanistan and a peace threatens to come unglued in Iraq, not to mention Pakistan, the Middle East is still a major crucible of conflict. And even if our European allies are willing to take up the slack and beef up their defense budgets as we leave — a highly dubious proposition — our vote on what happens there and with a belligerent Russia and increasingly anti-Western Turkey will count for less and less.
Still, the lasting damage the Obama chainsaw does is not to our military’s present, but to its future.