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Diminishing Our Military Capabilities

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President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Thursday spoke in justification of the more than $450 billion in additional cuts to the defense budget that they plan to disclose in the next few weeks. The glib assurances offered in their speeches aren’t supported by the facts.

The secretary and the president pretended that we will have as robust and effective a defense and military capability after the enormous defense cuts as we do today. They also pretended that we will be as capable of protecting U.S. interests and the interests of our allies against threats of the future as we have been able to protect against threats that have existed up to now. It doesn’t compute. Anyone who believes this line is a fool, even if he is not very knowledgeable about national-security matters. If he is knowledgeable about them, he’s worse than a fool. He is complicit with the president in endangering our country, the opposite of President Obama’s oath of office to “protect and defend” us.

One can accuse me of being cynical, but I believe that Mr. Obama and many of the officials he brought to power with him have a different agenda from the one they profess. They intend to diminish our military capabilities and our role in maintaining security in the world by the use of any and all devices they can find or invent. As my Hudson Institute colleagues Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey show in great detail in their July 2011 Commentary article, the speeches and writings of Mr. Obama and of many in his administration, both before and after they came to office, support this conclusion.

The Obama/Panetta claim that the proposed defense cuts will actually make us stronger and better protect us is just one part of the administration’s effort to mask the fact that our security and safety and global security are being diminished. The Obama/Panetta claim that the $450 billion in cuts they have yet to detail are inspired by some ingenious strategic review is not believable because so drastically further diminishing our capabilities plainly means we’ll be capable of doing less.

The invalidity of the administration’s contention that the $450 billion in additional defense cuts will not make an impact on our ability to deter and defeat current and future threats to our interests is evident from facts the administration prefers not to take into account. The president and the secretary ignore threats from China and Russia (e.g. China’s South China Sea claims and Russia’s recent attack on Georgia and claims to a “sphere of influence”), threats elevated in gravity by their growing military capabilities. Both countries are augmenting their capabilities with the explicit objective of defeating the U.S. air and naval capabilities in a potential conflict. The implicit Obama/Panetta claim that cutting U.S. air and naval capabilities is responsive to current threats does not hold water in light of this.

President Obama’s determination to obscure the threats he’s decided we won’t address is illustrated by yet another policy his administration recently acknowledged it is pursuing. As has been reported, the administration has decided to give Russia (and that means other potential adversaries as well, e.g. Iran) detailed information about the performance of our offensive and defensive missile capabilities. These are highly classified military secrets. It would be treasonous to divulge such information without administration authority; that information is top secret because an enemy in possession of it would be able to prevent the missile systems from being effective. These are systems that cost billions of dollars to research, develop, manufacture, test, and deploy over a period of many years. The administration’s justification for this plan that will deprive us of the effective use of the systems is its claim that doing so will persuade Russia that we mean them no harm and that Russia therefore will be nicer to us.

Of course, President Obama’s emasculation of our defense capabilities and his wishing away of the threats from capabilities that China and Russia are hard at work augmenting makes complete sense if, as I believe, the administration’s objective is to end our country’s ability to use its military preeminence to assure global  stability and protect U.S. and allied interests. But even if not so intended, these decisions are misguided and dangerous. It is very sad that many people may be harmed and even die as a result of this administration’s folly.