The New York Times on February 1st under the editorial title “New Strategy, Old Pentagon Budget” called for the paring down of our excessive military budget. The New York Times concludes “…there is still plenty of room to cut deeper without jeopardizing national security.” It tellingly said: “We know that it is politically easier to continue programs that outlive their usefulness or outrun their cost estimates — especially when Republican politicians are so eager to promise the Pentagon a blank check. And especially when the defense industry and its lobbyists are spreading so much cash around on Capitol Hill. But the country cannot afford to continue on this way. And there is no strategic argument for doing so. The era of hard choices at the Pentagon has barely begun.”
Coincidentally, the same day the conservative Financial Times of London had an op-ed by its regular American columnist Edward Luce, titled “The mirage of Obama’s defense cuts,” which questions the wisdom of the high level of our defense budgets in a time of drawing down on our wars and given the important need to build. As Luce said, “More than any other country America knows that national strength is built on economic foundations.” He even quoted my old professor George Kennan to that effect. Luce makes the case that defense cuts for economic growth are a good trade-off given the continued clear superiority of American strength and that the 8% contemplated cuts can be increased. He uses the fact, which we have noted at this blog, that our defense expenditures are some 8-10 times that of the next ten countries in the world. He notes that our DOD budget is six times what China spends today.
All in all these commentaries are what many military and budget experts are also saying. They, like the Times, have said, for example, we can reach real savings by cutting back on our nuclear weapons complex. The Times specifically said we could save in this area with “significant cuts in the number of deployed strategic weapons, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles.” Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) according to the Times estimates that cuts could save $78 billion over the next decade. It backs up what we have been saying here that there is much more room for real reduction than so far has been on the table. The only problem which the Times, the FT columnist and we have been saying is that the Republicans seem to want to give the military a blank check and make our defense a political issue rather than a choice based on real risks and strategic realities.
By Harry C. Blaney III.