The defense mess is really your fault, you know, because you voted for John Kerry. I warned you that if you voted for Kerry, idealism would replace national interest as the main driver of security policy. I warned you that defense priorities would be set by people with little military experience who substituted academic theories for the judgment of warfighters. I warned you that weapons programs would be slashed and the Pentagon would put all its money into people. But you didn’t listen. You voted for Kerry anyway. And now everything I predicted is coming true.
Just kidding. The President’s inaugural address making pursuit of freedom the centerpiece of America’s security posture was actually a masterpiece. A bit heavy on the supernatural, perhaps, but consistent with a long tradition of crusading rhetoric from Jefferson to Wilson to Roosevelt to Kennedy to Reagan. Even a cursory reading of U.S. history reveals that the only way to sustain popular support for a global posture is to give the public a cause to believe in, so that’s what Bush’s speech was about. He didn’t sound so much like a Democrat as an American.
But when we come to the matter of how the President’s Pentagon team proposes to implement its part of the freedom posture, the plans do start to sound a little, uh, Democrat. Maybe that’s not so surprising, since defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is less of a neocon than a Nixon Republican — pretty liberal by the standards of today’s Republican Party. Still, isn’t it kind of odd how much The New York Times and left-wing military reformers agree with Rumsfeld’s spending plans? Look at what he wants to do:
— Slash missile-defense spending to less than 3% of the Pentagon budget. The most promising, boost-phase programs would be cut the most, and fielding of the Air Force’s E-10 radar plane for tracking stealthy cruise missiles would be delayed until 2015 (or later).
— Reduce spending on every category of warship, from aircraft carriers to submarines to destroyers to amphibious vessels. Policymakers are already contemplating a cut in the number of aircraft carriers to nine, similar to what Dukakis planned in the 1980s.
— Shrink the Army’s industrial and depot infrastructure nearly a third, despite the challenge of sustaining forces in Iraq. The cuts are based on fiscal 2003 data, which do not reflect surging demand for armor upgrades and repairs arising from recent conflicts.
— Terminate the Air Force’s next-generation fighter, a plane begun by Reagan and supported by the President’s father. Rumsfeld would squander an investment of $40 billion to save $10 billion, even though other countries have caught up with the U.S. in air power technology.
Freedom’s a fine thing, but without the right tools it can’t be defended much less spread. Republican defense secretaries used to understand the difference between rhetoric and real preparedness, but this Pentagon team seems to be pursuing a posture only liberals could love.
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