Must We Defend?
by Patrick J. Buchanan: 'Bibi'
"We need to
be honest with the president, with the Congress, with the American
people" about the consequences of cutting the defense budget, said
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his valedictory policy address
to the American Enterprise Institute.
military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places
and do fewer things."
to ignite a debate the country seems reluctant to have. With a federal
budget running out of balance by 10 percent of gross domestic product,
what are we Americans willing to sacrifice? What are we willing
to forego? What are we willing to cut?
budget items are Social Security, Medicare and defense. To Democrats,
the first two are untouchables. To most Republicans, defense is
off the table. Indeed, the likelihood is that any budget deal to
which both parties agree will contain escape clauses to enable Congress
to avoid the painful decisions and kick the can up the road.
situation the U.S. military faces.
life of the planes, ships, missiles, guns and armor that date to
the Ronald Reagan buildup of the 1980s is coming to an end, and
the cost of replacement weapons is far greater. A fleet of 2,440
F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, will cost over $1 trillion.
care costs have risen 150 percent in 10 years to $50 billion a year.
The pay and benefits of today's forces, which are one-tenth the
size of those we deployed in World War II, have seen comparable
increases. These costs are eating deeply into the dollars for new
And while we
no longer face a Soviet Union with nuclear and conventional forces
equal to our own, U.S. commitments have not been reduced but augmented
since the end of the Cold War. Six Warsaw Pact nations were brought
into NATO, along with three republics of the old Soviet Union.
the disarmament of Europe continues in the wake of the debt crisis.
Of special concern are cuts by the Tory government of Great Britain,
our most reliable ally for 70 years.
While the U.S.
Army and Marine Corps have been shuttled in and out of Iraq and
Afghanistan, China has fought no wars – but grown its defense budget
by double-digits annually for two decades.
She now possesses
submarines, missiles and aircraft sufficient to challenge the United
States in the Western Pacific and is clearly intent on forcing a
U.S. strategic retreat from the region.
choices ahead," said Gates, are "about the kind of role the American
people – accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past
two decades – want their country to play in the world."
We face the
necessity of choice, and perhaps the place to begin is for Americans
to ask two questions.
is so vital to our security we must defend it at the risk of war?
Second, what Cold War commitments can we relinquish now that the
Soviet Empire no longer exists and Russia no longer represents a
Once the Afghan
War is over, certainly, a U.S. withdrawal from South and Central
Asia would seem in order, as this is about as far from the United
States as one can get.
The same would
hold true of Korea. From 1950 to 1953, the United States, with a
330,000-man army, fought both North Korea and China. At issue was
not only the fate of the peninsula, but the orientation of Japan
in the Cold War.
has twice the people and 40 times the economy of the North. Pyongyang
has no Stalinist Russia or Maoist China backing it up in a war with
the South. Can we not now withdraw our remaining 28,000 troops and
restrict our commitment in any new war to air and naval support?
not only claims Taiwan, but the Senkaku Islands that Japan claims,
and all of the islands in the South China Sea, which are also claimed
by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Is it our obligation
to validate all of these claims against China? What is our vital
interest in any of these disputes when every president since Richard
Nixon has agreed that Taiwan is part of China? Cannot these countries
buy from us the weapons to defend themselves?
Europe is as
prosperous and more populous than the United States. And the Russian
army is no longer in Germany, but 1,000 miles to the east, behind
the Baltic republics, Belarus and Ukraine.
is the necessity now for a U.S. troop presence in Europe?
is rarely attractive. But what is apparent today to almost all is
that this country is now and has been for at least a decade living
far beyond her means.
We borrow hundreds
of billions annually from allies, to defend those allies. We borrow
hundreds of billions annually from our children's future to maintain
our present lifestyle. Our leaders have yet to show the toughness
and maturity the new times demand.
J. Buchanan [send
him mail] is co-founder and editor of The
American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books,
the Right Went Wrong, and A
Republic Not An Empire. His latest book is Churchill,
Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. See his
© 2011 Creators Syndicate
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