January 5, 2012
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Hard not to see this one coming. President Obama orders about half-a-trillion dollars in defense cuts, and then asks for a strategic “review” — which, surprise, tells us that the Pentagon didn’t need that money after all, and the White House now has a strategy that will keep us safe without it.
Why exactly will we be able to get by with a smaller and less capable military than we had when Obama came into office? Because, the president told us yesterday, he has made the world safer for America.
Unfortunately for the White House, the evidence Obama presented for this claim was laughable.
He cited operations in Iraq, for one. Bad example: Thanks to the imprudent total withdrawal of US forces, the fragile coalition trying to hold that country together may now fall apart — squandering a decade of effort to make the Middle East less of a threat to US interests.
Meanwhile, the coming US pullout from Afghanistan is rapidly looking like a replay of the Paris Peace Talks — the negotiations that set the stage for the collapse of South Vietnam. Apparently, all the president wants is for there to be enough of an interval after we leave that he’ll be able to argue that the next collapse into an orgy of violence and terrorism wasn’t his fault.
He also trotted out the killing of Osama bin Laden — who even before Obama took office had been reduced to al Qaeda’s propagandist-in-chief. Are we to believe that half-a-trillion in defense dollars went to getting al Qaeda’s chief speechwriter?
The president makes all these comments with a straight face, even as Iran taunts the US over its withdrawal from the Middle East and the US Navy goes apoplectic over the rise of China’s regional power. Meanwhile, the world’s most inexperienced and unpredictable leader has his finger on North Korea’s nuclear trigger.
Not only is the world not a safer place than when Obama came into office, the strategy his Pentagon has produced to deal with today’s challenges may well make it far worse.
Let me translate the Pentagon report into English: The administration is going to gut the Army and Marine Corps, while hitting the Navy and Air Force less (for now). The “strategy” basically says, We have a four-legged stool; we’re going to cut off two legs.
There’s conclusive proof that all this is purely budget-driven: the president’s own Quadrennial Defense Review. In that report to Congress the Pentagon must, by law, outline the nation’s long-term needs. The last review, not two years old, laid out a much more robust force. What’s changed?
When the president presented that report to Congress, he knew he wanted to be out of Iraq by 2011 and out of Afghanistan by 2014. He knew China was rising and that Iran and North Korea were a problem. The only thing he didn’t know was the Arab Spring would erupt — and that so far appears to have left the world more troubled, not less.
It is completely unreasonable for the White House to argue the world has changed so much that we can just do all this with less.
What makes the president’s strategy look even more ridiculous is that it doesn’t even account for all the cuts envisioned under recent law: Defense may well still lose another half-trillion dollars. Even the Pentagon acknowledges that the new “strategy” is worthless if those reductions go into effect.
Since Obama has promised to veto any legislation that would exempt the armed forces from the threatened “contingency” cuts, that means this strategy isn’t even worth the paper it’s written on. It’s little more than a gimmick to hide (at least until Election Day) the fact that Defense is being slammed.
The president declares this move to be the ultimate expression of “smart” power. Hmm: Smart, strategy and stupid all begin with “S”; looks like the White House confused one word for the other.
Or maybe hopes the American people are stupid. Why else think a document thick with Pentagon-speak can hide the fact our armed forces will soon be able do a lot less to provide for the common defense?
James Jay Carafano is a defense expert at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The New York Post
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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