Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The probability of spending cuts now...

That is to say, not very likely.

With the military operation in Libya in full swing, and a clear end game not in sight, defense spending is being taken off the list of potential budget cuts. The Politico article does a good job of giving some general opinions across the spectrum, and two quotes stood out to me.

Josh Holly, communications director for the Armed Services Committee, is worried about "not being properly positioned to deal with the contingencies that might be on the horizon, whether that be a modernizing military in China or (a military action) in Libya."

The Pentagon is already spending close to $700bn a year, and even halving that figure would allow to the military to 'deal with the contingencies that might be on the horizon.' The right amount of spending depends on what you want to do. A policy of global intervention and treating the Pentagon as a giant jobs program does require a giant budget, but if people realize that fiscal apocalypse is a realistic possibility absent serious consideration being given to defense cuts, then some headway can be made in reducing spending. It's about making serious and rational choices.

We're also treated to the China bogeyman. Given the importance of naval power in the coming decades, the number of carrier strike groups is a good indicator for worldwide military might. The United States maintains 11 of these groups, China is working on its first. The possibility of a security dilemma with China is somewhat a reality, but we don't need to start planning for WWIII just yet considering the huge advantage we already possess.

The next quote is from Sen. Joe Lieberman in his typical hawkish fashion: "Congress should be very careful and cautious about any reductions in defense spending, given the many profound responsibilities shouldered by our military at this time"

The military is shouldering many profound responsibilities at this time, and it's strictly by choice, not necessity. We can't pretend that this mission in Libya is necessary for national security, just as we can't pretend that winning 'the hearts and minds' in Afghanistan is a realistic conclusion. Defense hawks like Lieberman believe in a false dichotomy. Either we garrison the world, intervening wherever we please, and have an unsustainable defense budget, or we completely disengage and become an isolationist nation. Reducing our force commitments and rethinking our global posture while still talking and trading with other nations is the sensible position, and unfortunately it's a position that seems on the fringe in the Beltway.

No comments:

Post a Comment