COMMENTARY | Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, no military hawk he, is sounding the alarm about impending cuts in the military now slated to happen automatically should the so-called Super Committee fail to arrive at a deficit cutting deal.
The United States would have the smallest land force since 1940, just before the buildup that occurred running up to World War II. It would have the smallest Navy since 1915. It would have the smallest Air Force ever.
In short, the United States would cease to be a military power of any significance. Its ability to influence world events would be all but nil.
Panetta is looking at the elimination of what is left of the missile defense program in Europe and the ending of one of the three legs of American’s strategic nuclear deterrence, besides cutting numbers of troops, planes, and ships.
One wonders how it came to this. No doubt most people who voted for the automatic sequestration should the Super Committee fail did not think it would come to this. But with the Democrats on the Super Committee dragging in their heels about taxes, rejecting every Republican attempt to compromise, one begins to suspect that a few on the left view the gutting of the military as a feature and not a bug of the automatic sequestration.
That the far left would love to slash the military is not surprising news. Proposals to gut military spending have arisen from Democrats dating back from McGovern. Less military spending, the theory goes, means more money for social welfare spending in their minds. A smaller, weaker military would not be used by any president to fight wars that liberals disagree with – which is just about all of them.
Fortunately schemes to gut the military tend to be political losers in the United States. Then Senator George McGovern proposed huge military cuts and lost 49 states in his bid for the presidency in 1972. Conversely Ronald Reagan handily won the presidency partly on the promise to restore America’s military might that had degraded during the Carter presidency.
Americans understand that savings derived by cutting military spending are always paid back in interest in the long run, in money and in blood. They understand the ancient Roman admonishment, if one wants peace, one prepares for war. Too bad some members of Congress do not understand that simple truth.