Speaking earlier this morning at the American Enterprise Institute, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that he was “very concerned about” what the Obama administration’s proposed defense budget “might mean for our long-term national security. Given the threats we face, now is not the time to cash in a peace dividend.”
It looks like we are about to make the same mistake we made in the 1970’s and 1990’s. We are about to cash in a so-called “peace dividend” by growing domestic spending and weakening our defenses. History has shown that cashing in a “peace dividend” does not make America safer – or the world a more peaceful place. Cashing in a peace dividend only hollows out our military forces – as our country did in the years before 9/11. Cashing in a peace dividend only emboldens other nations — as well as non-state actors — to test America’s resolve to defend our people and our interests.
I think the implication here is pretty clear: We spent less on defense in the 1990’s (actually an untrue statement) and then — 9/11 happened! Interestingly, when George W. Bush invaded a couple of countries after 9/11, this so-called “hollowed out military” won quickly and decisively. Whatever one thinks of the decision to invade in the first place, what really “hollowed out” the military were the poorly planned and incompetently managed occupations that followed.
Given that the Obama administration’s proposed defense budget marks a 4% increase in defense spending, in addition to the obvious fact that the United States is still deeply involved in two wars, the idea that it’s trying cash in a “peace dividend” is pretty nonsensical.
It’s certainly fair to ask for a more explicit explanation of the strategic logic behind the defense choices the administration is making, but I think Cornyn’s remarks this morning need to be understood as part of a broader attempt by conservatives to retrench behind an issue — national security — that’s traditionally been a strong one for them. Unfortunately for them, we’re coming off of eight years of deeply irresponsible and demonstrably incompetent conservative stewardship of America’s security, something which has little to do with the planes and ships America did or didn’t buy, and more with the the threats that the Bush administration both misunderstood and misrepresented. On that, neither Cornyn nor any other conservative has much to say.