Commentary Magazine


Be Afraid–If You Care About Future of American Power

Be afraid. Be very afraid. If, like me, you care about the future of American power–if, like me, you believe the United States has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past 100 years and the U.S. armed forces have been our most effective instrument of power projection–then you should be scared about what is being cooked up among budget negotiators on Capitol Hill.

The so-called Gang of Six–Democratic Senators Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin, and Mark Warner, and Republicans Saxby Chambliss, Mike Crapo, and Tom Coburn—are cooking up what is billed as a bipartisan package that would cut nearly $900 billion from the defense budget during the next decade. That’s more than double the $400 billion in cuts that President Obama unveiled in April. Previously, Obama had said it would not be acceptable to cut $1 trillion from defense, as proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, but now he’s sounding sympathetic toward the Gang of Six proposals.

Congressman Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee rightly warns: “It is our belief that this proposal raises serious implications for defense and would not allow us to perform our constitutional responsibility to provide for the safety and security of our country or keep faith with men and women in uniform.”

Indeed, cuts on that scale would be nothing short of a disaster, for reasons that are well spelled out in this white paper  from the Defending Defense project launched by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative. This study demolishes many of the myths circulating on Capitol Hill, e.g., the notions that “proposed cuts represent a small part of future military spending,” that “Iraq and Afghanistan withdrawals will alleviate the military’s manpower problems and allow the armed forces to control personnel spending,” and that “even if the future force is smaller, it will be well prepared for future crises and contingencies.”

The entire paper should be a must-read for lawmakers who are flirting with eviscerating American combat capabilities–and with it the role of the United States in world affairs.