Following the Obama administration's announcement of an overhauled defense strategy that will guide cuts in defense spending, the right-wing media have claimed President Obama is "weakening national security" and marking a "new milestone" in "America's strategic retreat." But experts have said that the proposed plan is fiscally responsible while remaining "the world's most dominant military."
Obama Instructs Military To Reduce Spending While Maintaining "Strategic Interests"
Reuters: Secretary Gates Initiated Review To Cut Spending "Without Jeopardizing The Country's Strategic Interests." From Reuters:
A review of U.S. strategic interests that will guide Pentagon budget cuts in coming years is expected to propose keeping fewer troops in Europe and abandoning the goal of maintaining a force that can fight and win two wars simultaneously, administration officials say.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will unveil the results of the eight-month strategic review on Thursday at a joint news conference with Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
The review was initiated by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates after President Barack Obama asked defense officials to cut some $400 billion in planned spending over 12 years without jeopardizing the country's strategic interests. [Reuters, 1/4/12]
Right-Wing Media Respond To Obama's Defense Plan By Claiming He's "Weakening America"
Limbaugh: Obama Is "Weakening National Security." During the January 5 broadcast of his Premiere Radio Networks program, Rush Limbaugh said: "We have a president who's cutting the defense budget now. His priorities are winning the future, paying off his whacko donors and weakening national security in the process." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/5/12]
Kilmeade: "We Put Together This Fine Force, And In Our Generation, We Are Going To Rip It Apart." On the January 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade responded to the proposed defense cuts by claiming that "we put together this fine force, and in our generation, we are going to rip it apart." From Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: There's nothing wrong with cutting the budget and leaning it out and finding out if there's ways -- if salaries are too heavy a burden. But here's the thing. You cannot do this at the same time: Refuse to cut Medicare, refuse to cut the entitlement programs, increase spending on welfare, so the military has to be the sacrificial lamb, arguably the most successful -- the successful part of government in our history. We put together this fine force, and in our generation, we are going to rip it apart, and those generals that stood behind the president have to speak their minds, and General Dempsey, does he really agree with this as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Because it's outrageous. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/6/12]
Hoft: Obama Is "Weakening America And Punishing US Military Families At The Same Time." In a January 6 Gateway Pundit post, Jim Hoft claimed that Obama "plans on putting half a million US soldiers and Marines out of work. ... It's his way of weakening America and punishing US military families at the same time." [Gateway Pundit, 1/6/12]
Rubin: Obama "Is Willing To Pare Back Defense Spending To Dangerously Low Levels So He Can Keep Spending." From a post by columnist Jennifer Rubin on The Washington Post's Right Turn blog:
President Obama is determined to have national security on the cheap. Or to put it more accurately, he is willing to pare back defense spending to dangerously low levels so he can keep spending like there's no tomorrow on the domestic side.
It is somewhat jaw-dropping in its cavalier attitude toward national defense. Obama does not even keep up the pretense that the threats determine our defense budget. He's decided to budget only enough for some threats. [The Washington Post, Right Turn, 1/5/12]
Washington Times: Defense Plan Is "A New Milestone Marking America's Strategic Retreat." In a January 5 editorial, The Washington Times claimed, "President Obama's new defense strategic-guidance document sends a clear message to America's adversaries: Go for it." From The Washington Times:
President Obama's new defense strategic-guidance document sends a clear message to America's adversaries: Go for it.
The Obama administration frequently produces major publications that belie their own titles. For example, the president's first of several budgets with trillion-dollar-plus deficits was titled "A New Era of Responsibility." The same could be said of "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership," the strategic document introduced with great fanfare at the Pentagon Thursday morning. This mini-Quadrennial Defense Review is an eight-page admission of American impotence.
The document is a new milestone marking America's strategic retreat. The Cold War-era requirement that the United States be able to fight and win "2 1/2 wars" was downgraded to "two major-theater wars" during the Clinton administration. Under the new guidance, we are down to a war and a half. "Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region," it declares, "they will be capable of denying the objectives of - or imposing unacceptable costs on - an opportunistic aggressor in a second region." So, while Washington will pledge to defeat one adversary, in the second, smaller conflict, U.S. forces will only be able to play for a draw. This was a strategy that worked well in the Vietnam War - for our enemy. [The Washington Times, 1/5/12]
Fox's KT McFarland: Defense Plan Will "Invite Aggression Against U.S. Interests Around The World." In a January 5 FoxNews.com op-ed, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland claimed that "[t]he legacy of the Obama cuts will be even worse [than President Carter's], and invite aggression against U.S. interests around the world." From FoxNews.com:
Whose bright idea was it for the president of the United States to unveil his defense budget cuts the cusp of a crisis with Iran and in the Pentagon's briefing room? -- What were they thinking?
When I came into the Pentagon at the beginning of the Reagan administration we found ships that couldn't sail for lack of fuel, planes that couldn't fly because pilots didn't have the minimum training hours, and tanks that were patched together with spare parts cannibalized from other equipment. And most shameful of all, we had Vietnam Veterans whose medical needs were not met, and enlisted military personnel whose pay was so low they qualified for food stamps.
That was the legacy of the Carter administration's defense cutbacks.
The legacy of the Obama cuts will be even worse, and invite aggression against U.S. interests around the world. Because, guess what, President Obama has only begun to cut back on America's defenses. There is another half trillion dollars of cuts on the horizon. [FoxNews.com, 1/5/12]
Experts: America "Would Still Be The World's Most Dominant Military" Under New Plan
Adams: America "Would Still Be The World's Most Dominant Military." A January 2 New York Times article quoted Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center, as saying that the United States "would still be the world's most dominant military" after the defense cuts. From The New York Times:
"Even at a trillion dollars, this is a shallower build-down than any of the last three we've done," said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. "It would still be the world's most dominant military. We would be in an arms race with ourselves." [New York Times, 1/2/12]
NYT: "There Is Broad Agreement On The Left, Right And Center That $450 Billion In Cuts Over A Decade ... Is Acceptable." The New York Times article further noted:
Pentagon officials, in the meantime, are in final deliberations about potential cuts to virtually every important area of military spending: the nuclear arsenal, warships, combat aircraft, salaries, and retirement and health benefits. With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, Mr. Panetta is weighing how significantly to shrink America's ground forces.
There is broad agreement on the left, right and center that $450 billion in cuts over a decade -- the amount that the White House and Pentagon agreed to last summer -- is acceptable. That is about 8 percent of the Pentagon's base budget. But there is intense debate about an additional $500 billion in cuts that may have to be made if Congress follows through with deeper reductions. [New York Times, 1/2/12]
Hurlburt: "How Dramatic Are These Changes? Not Very." In a January 5 post on The Huffington Post, National Security Network Executive Director Heather Hurlburt wrote:
How Dramatic Are These Changes? Not very. 2012 and 2013 Pentagon spending will represent the first real declines in military spending in more than a decade; but the total 8% cut envisaged is less than the Reagan defense builddown of the 1980s (yes, you read that right). As Colin Powell said: "When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman and Mr. Cheney was secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done. Now, how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen, but I don't think the defense budget can be made, you know, sacrosanct and it can't be touched."
Moreover, even if the more dramatic cuts in the Budget Control Act sequester were enacted, they would only return the Pentagon to 2007 levels. (Dear Congress, please return the value of my house to its 2007 level. ASAP) On the strategic level, the much-ballyhooed move away from maintaining the ability to fight and win two regional wars simultaneously is less than meets the eye: the change has been discussed since the Cold War ended, and even as we fought two wars to something less than "wins" in Iraq and Afghanistan, military strategists have quietly moved toward a "win-hold-win" model where we have enough forces to, for example, respond to a North Korean attack while keeping the Taliban out of Kabul until Pyongyang was vanquished, and we could resume the mission in Afghanistan. [The Huffington Post, 1/5/12]
Korb: "Panetta's Pentagon Cuts Are Easier Than You Think." In a January 4 post on Foreign Affairs, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb called the cuts "easier than you think" and explained that "the Pentagon does not have a resource problem ... it has a management problem." From Foreign Affairs:
This week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to announce a strategy for cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the defense budget. Civilian and military leaders have reacted with apocalyptic warnings, decrying the disastrous impact such cuts will have. They claim that without proper resources the United States will not be able to protect its interests around the globe.
But the Pentagon does not have a resource problem. As even the Pentagon's strongest supporters agree, it has a management problem.
At the end of Eisenhower's first term, the defense budget was $380 billion in today's dollars; at Nixon's, it was $398 billion; and at George H.W. Bush's, it was $435 billion. At George W. Bush's, it was $478 billion and at the end of Barack Obama's, the baseline budget will be no less than $475 billion and probably closer to $525 billion. If Obama's military and civilian team cannot protect the nation with that much money, especially in the absence of an existential threat such as the Soviet Union, he needs to get a new team, especially a new deputy secretary of defense. [Foreign Affairs, 1/4/12]
Korb: "[W]e Are Still Going To Have An Army That Is Still Bigger Than It Was On 9/11." In a January 5 post on Yahoo News' The Envoy blog, Korb further stated:
"Even if we didn't have a financial crisis, we would redo the strategy," countered Larry Korb, former Reagan administration Pentagon assistant secretary and a national security expert at the progressive Center for American Progressive [sic], in an interview with Yahoo News Thursday.
"Again, we are still going to have an army that is still bigger than it was on 9/11," when it was at 480,000 troops, Korb continued. "If we got into two large ground wars again, we now know the [National] Guard and Reserves are pretty effective. You can call them up and use them. And if worse comes to worse, you still have the Selective Service and can get large forces going there."
"We are still spending more [on defense and the military] than the next ten countries combined," Korb added. [Yahoo News, The Envoy, 1/5/12]
CNAS' Andrew Exum: "[F]ew Of The Cuts Currently On The Table Will In Any Way Harm The Standing Of The United States As The World's Preeminent Military Power." In an January 6 email to Media Matters, Andrew Exum, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, stated that "few of the cuts currently on the table will in any way harm the standing of the United States as the world's preeminent military power":
Whenever you cut the budgets of the Dept. of Defense or the intelligence community, you assume some risk in terms of how readily the United States can meet national security threats. And in an election year, any cuts to the Dept. of Defense will quickly become political fodder. Most centrist defense analysts share the Obama Administration's conclusion that we can cut our ground forces and shift some forces out of Europe without assuming too much risk. Most defense analysts also share the concern of the Dept. of Defense that any further cuts brought on by sequestration would render the Dept. of Defense unable to accomplish all the tasks expected of it by civilian decision makers. For that reason, it is important that the U.S. Congress make whatever compromises they must make on tax increases and entitlements to prevent further immediate cuts to the budget. But few of the cuts currently on the table will in any way harm the standing of the United States as the world's preeminent military power. [Andrew Exum email to Media Matters, 1/6/12]