A junior high gym teacher in my hometown school system once said “If you assume something, you make an ass out of you and me.” This pithy wisdom occurred to me as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced significant defense budget cuts in today’s proposed congressional budget submission of next year’s Defense Department budget. Predicting future national security contingencies is an especially dangerous assignment, and the biggest failure of this budget submission is it’s childlike faith that the U.S. will not become involved in any large-scale ground combat operations for the foreseeable future. This myopic thinking about not being prepared for major wars has sadly characterized U.S. national security planning many times during our history and it has reared its ugly and amnesiac head again today.
While this proposed budget is on target in its desire to increase drone attacks and special forces operations in future wars, it is dead wrong in its assumption the U.S. will not become involved in large scale ground wars. We are currently witnessing bloody and tragic internecine strife in Ukraine which has enormous geopolitical implications for the U.S. and the west. Ukraine is a fractured and polarized country which was once part of the Soviet Union. The eastern part of the country still remains pro-Russian in its outlook while the western part of this agriculture rich country seeks closer ties with European political and economic systems. For the moment, it appears that the pro-western forces in Ukraine are in the ascendancy, but we must not forget that Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the 20th century’s greatest tragedy and is determined to recreate something resembling the Evil Empire. Putin has immense leverage over former Soviet countries and European countries in the form of oil and natural gas delivery capabilities. We should be doing everything we can to support the development of a more democratic and honest Ukranian government and increase its ties to the West with the hope that it may eventually be possible to incorporate Ukraine into NATO. If we are really prepared to say we support Ukranian national aspirations for freedom we need to have credible military forces and economic leverage to use against Moscow’s expansionist ambitions. So far, Putin has played Obama like a fiddle and this proposed defense budget will only worsen our geopolitical situation.
The Obama Administration has hailed its Asia-Pacific tilt in defense policy. For this tilt to be successful it must be backed up with credible land, air, sea, space, and cyber forces. Any military conflict we have with North Korea will make heavy use of land-based forces and we need comparably endowed forces to deter and defeat China in any confrontation over Taiwan or energy resources in the South China Sea. Additionally, any potential military operations against Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East/South Asia region will require the U.S. of significant quantities of ground forces. Significant and robust maritime, aerospace, cyber forces, and robust and adaptable intelligence capabilities must also be an integral part of an effective and overwhelming U.S. response to any aggression we confront. This budget proposal fails to recognize that holistic reality.
There are areas where the defense budget could be trimmed without damaging national security. The defense procurement process takes to long to get needed weapons to our forces, there is waste and inefficiency in the military health care system, the defense commissary system is no longer necessary, and military personnel should be willing to pay slight increases in their health care. A one year pay freeze could also be done without to much political damage though this will cause morale problems if it persists for a long-time.
The military should eliminate unnecessary administrative flab such as the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) which is concerned with promoting feminist social engineering. DOD should also consolidate separate armed service science branches into a single entity, and it should work toward eliminating the incredibly ill-advised 2010 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell while also not paying benefits to same-sex couples currently serving. We must not forget that the purpose of the military is to defend our country by winning wars via killing enemies and destroying their assets. It is not intended to facilitate leftist social engineering.
This is truly a defeatist defense budget unquestionably signifying the desire of Barack Obama, Chuck Hagel, and the Pentagon bureaucracy to continue retreating and slinking away from our essential role in international power politics. I’m confident much of this budget will fail in Congress. Still it’s intentions will be clearly noted and ruthlessly exploited by our enemies in transnational terrorist organizations and in world capitals as varied as Moscow, Tehran, Pyongyang, and Beijing who will seek to exploit our newly exposed weaknesses accordingly. It will also be discouraging to our friends in the streets of Kiev, Eastern Europe, and international capitals including Canberra, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Seoul, and elsewhere.
We continue engaging in the delusional belief that good will begets peace. We continue deluding ourself that evil rulers, groups, and regimes can be held at bay by self-restraint and appeasement. Sadly, this proposed budget will endanger our national security and that of our allies. I’m afraid we will again learn the hard way the consequences of weakness and delusional naiveté in national security policy as we did with German U-boat sinkings in World War I, with Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Communist victories in Southeast Asia and Africa following the Vietnam War, and on 9/11. We must accept the Hobbesian reality of 21st century international geopolitics and adhere to Italian political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli’s maxim that it is better to be feared than loved when it comes to guarding out national security.