In a much anticipated budget speech yesterday, President Obama laid out his plan to reduce deficit spending by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. As part of the plan, the President called for $400 billion in defense spending cuts but offered no specifics, saying he will order “a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.”
The pro-Military Industrial Complex war hawks at Keep America Safe, the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute quickly got to work. “Obama Guts Defense” the Weekly Standard’s Thomas Donnelly protested shortly after the President’s speech concluded. Seeing that Obama offered no specifics on what was being cut, it’s unclear how Donnelly — who’s piece was approvingly retweeted by fellow war hawks Michael Goldfarb and AEI’s Danielle Pletka — knows that DOD will be gutted, but nonetheless, he continued:
The president then went on to praise Defense secretary Robert Gates for “courageously tak[ing] on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future [Pentagon] spending.” Like Vince Lombardi with a halftime lead, he concluded, “I believe we can do that again.” [...]
Indeed, it will be very difficult to ‘do it again’ on the modernization accounts; there’s not too much left to cut or stretch out. And further reductions in the size of the force, particularly among American land forces, is a way of asking those in uniform to again to more with less.
There’s not too much left to cut? The United States is “overwhelmingly the largest [military] spender in absolute terms, with 43 per cent of the global total, six times its nearest rival China” and U.S. defense spending has nearly doubled since 2001. And according to Donnelly, one cannot “alter fundamental facts about the international system,” thus Obama simply can’t review America’s missions and global role (tell the rebels in Libya they can’t change the “facts about the international system”). But that’s it. That’s all Donnelly has to “explain” how Obama is gutting Defense. (Here are a few good reasons why defense spending should be cut, and how it can be done).
But the war hawks weren’t done. Without any sound substantive argument to counter Obama’s proposal, they tried to create the narrative that Gates and the military aren’t happy by passing along a Reuters article headlined “Pentagon warns on big U.S. defense cuts.” Yet, the article has no “warning” as such. It merely reports that the Pentagon said the U.S. “would have to abandon some military missions and trim troop levels” — which is pretty much what Obama said in his speech. And the NRO claimed that it “certainly doesn’t seem that” Gates is “on board.” While again, there is no proof of this (Gates never said he doesn’t support the plan), the Defense Secretary is not the Commander-in-Chief. And as for Gates, it looks like his days at the Pentagon are numbered.
Debating ways to cut the Pentagon’s needlessly massive budget “is long overdue,” one observer noted. Perhaps that’s what the war hawks are trying to prevent.