Friday, July 30, 2010

The Historical Cost of Skimping on Defense

Max Boot discusses the historical cost of cutting the American defense budget in the Washington Post:

This prompted the following discussion--

I don't have a problem with cuts in defense spending assuming the following:

1. There are cuts in spending as a whole. If defense cuts are part of a broader effort to bring about some level of fiscal sanity then I am all for it. If the reason for defense cuts is so we can expand federal largesse in other areas then forget it.

2. Our policy makers and senior leaders are serious about scaling back commitments. If we are going to cut back, fine, but then we can't be everywhere. That means certain nations who have been underfunding defense since about I don't know, 1945 will have to step up and start behaving like adults. It also means we can't be the world's welfare provider everytime there is a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis. If we are going to cut back forces it means we will have more occasions where we are watching the news and we see horrid things happening and our response will be, "Not our problem." We already do it (see Darfur), we're just going to be doing it more. Tought choices, but that is what our leaders get paid for.

Alas, I suspect (but am not sure) that this will not be the case. As Joe K. has pointed out before, DOD spending suddenly becomes “discretionary spending” we can cut whenever there’s a fiscal crisis. I’m skeptical there will be a logical, across the board approach to this. Congress would never have passed the healthcare monstrosity otherwise.

We will be cursed for intervening. We will be cursed for “not doing enough.” Europe is too far gone to recover their defense commitments without serious political and social upheaval. Plus, deep down, they are STILL relying on us to do their foreign policy work for them. Our politicians, as usual, will try to have it both ways.

I’m sure the Chinese will be picking up the slack as soon as their blue water naval ambitions are realized. Perhaps the African Union can fill in until then…(sigh) I think I’m beginning to understand how people become “isolationists”.

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