COMMENTARY | If there is a greater example of exquisite timing than the Obama administration’s announcement of massive defense cuts just before Putin marched into the Crimea. This has not escaped the noticed of Bob Gates, former defense secretary.
Gates stated the obvious truth that the last thing one should do during unsettled times is to cut back on military power to deal with that unsettledness. Indeed shrinking American military power tends to add to chaos in the world.
Besides Russia and the Middle East, world-wide threats include Chinese ambitions in the Western Pacific, chaos brewing in Venezuela, and the continuing butcher shop that is sub-Saharan Africa. This suggests that the United States needs a military the size and potency to deal with these problems, tamping them down before they spiral out of control and results in a shooting war or two.
Increasing military spending may run counter to the Obama administration’s evident desire to use the armed forces as a cash cow to pay for its social spending. But if we do not want to pay later in both treasure and blood, we need to pay a little bit now in treasure alone.
That means figuring out what the right size the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps needs to be and what sorts of technology and weapons systems will be needed to deal with a variety of threats. To threats range from the perennial one of terrorism to dealing with a rebuilt Russian Army to Chinese naval and air power to, frankly, hard to predict future dangers.
The bottom line is that the United States will need to increase military spending. Congress is likely to scotch the current administration’s military cut backs. But until a new president who has a clear strategic vision is sworn into office, we are destined to see a clash between people like Gates who see the danger and the current administration which wants to deny that it exists.