Long ago, the Roman writer Vegetius wrote perhaps the wisest thing anyone has ever written regarding war and peace:
“If you want peace, prepare for war.”
In other words, if your potential foes know you are strong, that you are willing to use force to defend your interests, and that they are not likely to win, then they will not pick a fight with you.
President Obama and his dullard Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, have evidently never read Vegetius:
Stating that a postwar environment was the time to do some shrinking, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a budget proposal Monday that reduces the Army to pre-World War II levels despite “a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States.”
“Our force structure and modernization recommendations are rooted in three realities: first, after Iraq and Afghanistan, we are no longer sizing the military to conduct long and large stability operations; second, we must maintain our technological edge over potential adversaries; and, third, the military must be ready and capable to respond quickly to all contingencies and decisively defeat any opponent should deterrence fail,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon today.
You can read the details in Bridget Johnson’s article, but, quickly, the Army would be reduced to 450,000 soldiers, the Marine Corps to 182,000, the Navy would be kept at 11 carrier battle groups (unless further cuts are needed), and, among other cuts, the Air Force would eliminate its entire force of A-10 “warthog” ground-support aircraft. I’m sure infantrymen everywhere are thrilled with that one.
Hagel’s opening statement is nonsensical: in one breath he proposes devastating cuts to our military capabilities, while, in the other, he claims (rightly) that the world is growing “more volatile, more unpredictable,” and “more threatening.” When he claims this configuration will allow us to defend ourselves from foes by relying on high tech, he ignores his own assertion that the world is unpredictable. Who knew on September 10th, 2001, in the wake of the Clinton-era defense cuts, that we would find ourselves in a war that required liberating and occupying two nations? While we are leaving Afghanistan and have left Iraq (God help them), we are still at war with a transnational terror group waging holy war against us. What if they should take over another country as a base (Syria? Mali? Iraq, again?)? Do we then shrug our shoulders and say “No can do?” What if North Korea decides to invade the South, again? Those A-10s will be sorely missed, I guarantee it.
Those are just two among the myriad possible threats we face as dictators grow emboldened by our feckless leadership. When Ronald Reagan launched our military buildup in the 1980s, it wasn’t just to have plenty of ships and tanks on hand, it was to demonstrate a will to resist the world’s tyrants, so that they would make no miscalculation. The Obama-Hagel defense cuts, on the other hand send just the opposite message, one of weakness and a lack of confidence, of opportunity for the enemy because this administration is renouncing our traditional role as guarantor of a liberal world order.
And it’s deliberate. In an essay that now seems truly prescient, Charles Krauthammer made it plain that, for an ideology that sees American power as a problem, not a solution, for the world’s challenges, decline is a choice, one made in sacrifice to the desire to turn the US into a gelded European social democracy:
This is not the place to debate the intrinsic merits of the social democratic versus the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. There’s much to be said for the decency and relative equity of social democracy. But it comes at a cost: diminished social mobility, higher unemployment, less innovation, less dynamism and creative destruction, less overall economic growth.
This affects the ability to project power. Growth provides the sinews of dominance–the ability to maintain a large military establishment capable of projecting power to all corners of the earth. The Europeans, rich and developed, have almost no such capacity. They made the choice long ago to devote their resources to a vast welfare state. Their expenditures on defense are minimal, as are their consequent military capacities. They rely on the U.S. Navy for open seas and on the U.S. Air Force for airlift. It’s the U.S. Marines who go ashore, not just in battle, but for such global social services as tsunami relief. The United States can do all of this because we spend infinitely more on defense–more than the next nine countries combined.
Those are the conditions today. But they are not static or permanent. They require constant renewal. The express agenda of the New Liberalism is a vast expansion of social services–massive intervention and expenditures in energy, health care, and education–that will necessarily, as in Europe, take away from defense spending.
This shift in resources is not hypothetical. It has already begun. At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making “hard choices”–forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today’s urgencies and tomorrow’s looming threats.
That was in 2009, and now we’re seeing the inevitable product of that vast expansion of the welfare state. And the world is going to become much more dangerous because of it.
To paraphrase Vegetius, “If you want war, pretend your enemy wants peace.”
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)