Downsizing the Pentagon

Recently, everyone has gotten used to austerity, cuts and overall belt-tightening.  So far, the only part of the federal government that hasn’t faced the same crunch is the Pentagon.  Tasked with, at least until recently, fighting two full blown wars in the Middle East, along with operating and maintaining the biggest and most advanced defense establishment in the world, the Pentagon has found itself with a privileged status, at least until now.

Today, the President, along Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey will unveil a new defense strategy that contains cuts from $485 billion to $1 trillion over the next decade.  To which I say bravo.  Our military is one of the most important institutions we have in this country, and it’s the singular most important one to keeping us safe.  But the fact of the matter is that if we are to sustain a global level of competitiveness, we’ve got to make cuts everywhere, and defense should be no exception.

I would also add that I would hope we don’t get into any more wars in the foreseeable future.  Our capacity for achieving our goals is severely limited when it comes to pursuing them through military means.  The events of 9/11 opened up Pandora’s box here in the US, whipping most Americans who would otherwise be opposed to military actions abroad into willing acolytes of the neoconservative goal of spreading democracy by force.  It hasn’t worked, and it likely won’t work in the future.

The process was instigated by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (a Republican appointee) and the new strategy also involves a shift in focus from the Middle East to East Asia, in an effort to balance the emerging power of China.  The new policy will serve to enhance our security at home and abroad.  The single best thing the United States can do to bolster our standing and security is not by launching wars, but by pursuing more moderate, limited goals through nonmilitary means.  Curtailing our military presence in Europe and the Middle East is a long overdue step in this process, and will make US policy much more sustainable.

But, at the height of the presidential nominating process for the GOP, don’t expect them to see it that way.  It’s just one more prudent measure the President is undertaking that the tea party base of the Republican party will point to as an act of treason.  In their juvenile eyes, most anything reasonable, moderate and level headed is treason, but that’s part of their charm.


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