Soon after President Obama announced the relatively modest proposal last week to reduce military and security spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years, the war hawks predictably threw a fit, throwing out false scare lines about how the President is gutting DOD and that there’s no possible way — despite contributing 43 percent of the world’s total military spending — the Pentagon could afford further cuts.
Enter the Washington Post editorial page. The Post editors — whom earlier this month argued that the U.S. needs to stay in Iraq past 2011 — today warned against cutting defense spending too drastically because one day, the U.S. military might have to go to war with Iran and/or North Korea:
[R]eaching Mr. Obama’s goal would probably require cuts in the size of the Army and Marines beyond the reduction of more than 40,000 troops already proposed by Mr. Gates. Defense analyst Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution thinks it could require the elimination of more command structures and another round of base closures. What will then happen if the United States is forced into more conflicts like those of the past decade — if it must intervene to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon or respond to aggression by North Korea, for example?
Well at least the Post editorial board is consistent. After all, Fred Hiatt and Co. have been calling for an indefinite U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been trying to push the United States toward a more belligerent stance toward Iran, even regularly running op-eds and hiring a right-wing blogger to make that case. Thus, it’s understandable that they might ask the question: How are we going to pay for all these wars we are calling for?
But of course, Obama doesn’t want to eliminate or even reduce the U.S. military’s capabilities to wage war should it become necessary to wage one and at least part of the plan involves reducing America’s costly commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, not continuing them. The war hawks really shouldn’t really lose much sleep, though. America will still have the world’s largest, strongest, and most skilled military on the planet, just one that’s leaner and more efficient.
And instead of eagerly anticipating a war with Iran, perhaps the Washington Post editorial board might want to focus on the fruits of negotiation, seeing that it does appear to be working quite well with the Iranians.
Matt Yglesias notes, “North Korea is one of the poorest countries on earth. Even if the US defense budget were to fall to $0, our allies in the Republic of Korea could easily defeat the DPRK. And even if we reduced defense spending substantially we would still retain ample ability to contribute to the ROK’s defense.”