As much of the country gets worked up over the selfie portrait of a young Fort Carson enlistee skipping a routine flag salute, a real threat to national security gets lost in the noise. The Obama administration wants to gut America's military might during a dangerous time in the world, proposing a cut in personnel so extreme the Army would revert to pre-World War II staffing levels.
We applaud President Barack Obama for a goal of stopping this country's "long and large stability operations." Rational Americans don't like war. They want it as nothing but a last resort for defending our country's vital interests. Wars kill and, contrary to conventional wisdom, harm our economy.
In addition to the direct costs of crushing opponents, we incur the long-term social and economic costs of children who have lost parents. We incur the social and economic costs of young Americans going tragically through life without limbs, dependent on others around them.
So, yes, we should try to avoid war by all reasonable means. But we will not achieve less war by weakening our defensive posture. Not a chance. The best offense is a good defense. Sending the world a message that will be perceived as a reduction in our military might only makes us a more tempting target for countries and terrorist organization that hate us. As a vulnerable target, we get drawn into wars. We're supposed to walk softly and carry a big stick. It's called peace through strength.
The cuts, proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week, include a 1 percent cap on salary increases; increased fees on military personnel for health care; $1 billion in cuts to commissaries; cuts to housing allowances; elimination of A-10 attack aircraft; elimination of U-2 spy planes; a reduction in growth of drone programs; a reduction of active duty Army personnel from a planned level of 490,000 to 444,000; a 5 percent reduction of Guard and Reserve troops; cancellation of the Ground Combat Vehicle program; cuts to 20 anticipated purchases of combat ships and a reduction of 8,000 Marines.
Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world is increasing military spending. Other countries would love to be in our position of strength.
"As defense budgets at the Pentagon and in many NATO countries shrink, China's People's Liberation Army is gearing up for a surge in new funding," reports the New York Times.
The Guardian tells us "Japan is to significantly increase its defence spending over the next five years to acquire surveillance drones, fighter jets, naval destroyers and amphibious vehicles..."
The Telegraph in London reports that defense military spending is "soaring" in Russia and "surging" across Asia and the Middle East.
Americans want and need an efficient military that prioritizes efficiency and leading-edge technology. The United States government must not weaken our military strength as if we have the luxury to let down our guard. This country is loved, envied and despised around the globe. Our sovereignty, and the freedom Americans enjoy, depends on maintaining military strength that our enemies cannot come close to matching.