The proposal, described by several Pentagon officials on the condition of anonymity in advance of its release on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.
The officials acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries.
I know there is a lot that can be cut from our military budget. We can close down bases that Congressman have forced the military to keep open because they don’t want to lose those jobs in their home states. We can cancel certain progams for new weapons. But to reduce the force to such a small size that we can’t send the American military to another country’s aid? You know what else that means?
We won’t be able to take on Iran.
Even so, officials said that despite budget reductions, the military would have the money to remain the most capable in the world and that Mr. Hagel’s proposals have the endorsement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Money saved by reducing the number of personnel, they said, would assure that those remaining in uniform would be well trained and supplied with the best weaponry.
The new American way of war will be underscored in Mr. Hagel’s budget, which protects money for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. And in an indication of the priority given to overseas military presence that does not require a land force, the proposal will — at least for one year — maintain the current number of aircraft carriers at 11.
I am not a military strategist. But let me remind you of two words: The surge. When we were losing Iraq, we put more boots on the ground, and turned the war around. We also fought smarter, enlisting Iranians against foreign terrorists. More boots on the ground also turned the tide in Afghanistan. (And the withdrawal of all forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is leading to the Taliban and Iranians winning now.) But you can’t put more boots on the ground if you don’t have them.
Our enemies are happy today. Iran is sending ships to American maritime borders. Hezbollah has been infiltrating South America for decades, and has hundreds of agents right here in the U.S. And China is adding to its military strength.
I’m no military strategist, but it seems to me that having just been in two land wars at once, changing the military so that it’s unable to fight two land wars at the same time might be a bit… stupid. Unless your plan is to make sure that America will never again invade two countries at once.
Which is what I’m starting to think our president really wants. He swore to “fundamentally transform” this nation. And he is keeping that promise, though he has broken every other.