Obama and Defense: Mixed Messages

Obama has been speaking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to defense:

When it comes to defense, there are two Barack Obamas in this race. There is the candidate who insists, as he did last year in an article in Foreign Affairs, that “a strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace”; pledges to increase the size of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines while providing them with “first-rate equipment, armor, incentives and training”; and seems to be as gung-ho for a surge in Afghanistan as he was opposed to the one in Iraq.

And then there is the candidate who early this year recorded an ad for Caucus for Priorities, a far-left outfit that wants to cut 15% of the Pentagon’s budget in favor of “education, healthcare, job training, alternative energy development, world hunger [and] deficit reduction.”

“Thanks so much for the Caucus for Priorities for the great work you’ve been doing,” says Mr. Obama in the ad, before promising to “cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending . . . slow our development of future combat systems . . . not develop new nuclear weapons.”

My guess, however, is he’s more of the guy talking about a 15% cut than the guy talking about “first rate equipment”, etc.

Biden seems to settle it with what he has been saying. If you believe the VP’s job is to reflect the presidential candidate’s stance on issues, then this seems pretty clear that the cut is more likely than the “first rate equipment”.

Joe Biden also cut an ad for the group that was even more emphatic: “I’ll tell you what we cannot afford . . . a trillion-dollar commitment to ‘Star Wars,’ new nuclear weapons, a thousand-ship Navy, the F-22 Raptor.”

Of course, no one has ever talked about a “thousand ship navy”. And the biggest threat to the US proper (as well as its allies) remains nuclear missiles, so the practical necessity of a viable anti-missile defense system is almost inarguable, much less something to be dismissed. The “Raptor”? Is it needed? Well, “needed” in the sense that it is in our best interest to continue to advance our fighter technology and maintain the edge we have there. As a tactical and strategic advantage, air superiority is a vital tool in shortening conflicts and wars. Apparently not knowing that or appreciating that argues for military ignorance or ideological blindness.

And a little context is necessary here as well. How much is too much when it comes to funding the military? Traditionally, we’ve pegged it to about 4% GDP. The Heritage Foundation says that’s about 800 billion a year.

Even with two wars going on, we’re spending about 665 billion. While the economy may not warrant or allow us to spend 800 billion, a 15 to 25% cut in defense spending would be crippling to our efforts in those wars as well as sustaining even the force structure we have today (never mind expanding it).

There are obviously savings which could be made by attacking the procurement system and any number of other inefficiencies within the DoD. However that’s a long and involved process which isn’t going to yield fruit immediately. And, “savings” aren’t “cuts”. What Obama and Biden (and Franks) are talking about are cuts in spending.

Dangerous for the military and very dangerous in terms of national defense. If this is their plan, then Joe Biden is precisely right – somewhere in the next 6 months to a year, some group or country is going to test Barack Obama (and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it was Russia).

[Crossposted at QandO]

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