Defense Secretary Robert Gates, one of the longest serving chiefs of the Pentagon in the history of the United States made it clear that he feels cutting the defense budget will reduce the size of our military and will diminish our role as a nation and a military worldwide. Isn’t that the point?
One of the reasons Osama bin Laden cited for attacking the United States on 9/11 was the number of military bases we had throughout the world--particularly the Arab and Muslim world; troops were stationed at or near some of their holy sites.
Gates noted that Americans are “simply tired of war,” and that couldn’t be more true. Polls show that more and more Americans favor bringing the remaining troops in Iraq home and not only reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan, but pulling out all together. [See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.]
The question is, in a post bin Laden world, does America need to have the number of troops and bases worldwide? Do we need to have that large presence? Although the world since the death of bin Laden might look to us as the big brother who saved it, hasn’t playing big brother gotten us into more and more trouble and conflicts (hello Vietnam) than we should have been involved in!? And how much blood has been shed for that presence? [See cartoons about Afghanistan.]
Defense Secretary Gates noted that neither the money nor the political will to return to the big military budgets of yesteryear is there; which is why the parting shot confuses me. I understand as a military man he might long for those days, for the troops and the military, but even Gates himself admitted that barring a catastrophic event, there simply is not the need for the global influence we have had and we honestly cannot afford to maintain it. Yes, a smaller military will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things; but in a world where the Middle East is looking to us for a Western brand of democracy and freedom, will we need it? [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Middle East uprisings.]
The fear of Gates that Congress would somehow “hollow out” the military is unfounded. Just looking at Republicans and their proposals--whether it be the Paul Ryan plan or any plan of the past--they love to spend on tanks and artillery; they prefer cutting education and any job held by someone in a union, in the public sector.
With the Pentagon’s budget this year of $530 billion--which does not include the $150 billion that it costs to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-- and if the Republicans are serious about cutting spending, they must look at Defense. And if the Republicans are serious about creating jobs, they better start. That money funds the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps; and those soldiers will be in need of jobs. And I’m just not certain about how many jobs the Ryan plan will create (none) or about the removal of the grey wolf from the endangered species list…hmmm…