The New York Times today has another example of my favorite kind of editorial–the self-refuting kind. The Times editors applaud President Obama’s new defense strategy for a “A Leaner Pentagon” and even fret that a renewed focus on the Pacific could justify “unrestrained” spending (this at a time of plummeting defense spending). Then the editors add what is known in the trade as a “to be sure” paragraph:
Still, the United States must be ready to face multiple contingencies. Our own chilling list includes a collapsing Pakistan, another state hijacked by al-Qaeda, Iran blocking oil shipping as it pursues its nuclear ambitions or a weak or unbalanced North Korean leader making a suicidal run across the South Korean border.
I agree these are all very real, very worrisome scenarios–and the editors have hardly exhausted the list. How about the possibility of a clash with China? Or the possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack necessitating a massive response?
How, pray tell, is the U.S. supposed to get ready for dealing with all of these possible contingencies–much less for the prospect of more than one occurring at once–if the defense budget stands to be cut by as much as a trillion dollars during the next decade? The answer is, it’s impossible. Means don’t match ends. Resources are insufficient to safeguard against all these risks in a credible and convincing manner. Which is why we can’t afford to pursue the Times’ editors favored path of deep defense cuts.