The issue of whether the Federal government should cut defense spending has been coming up this week in the 2012 Presidential campaign, and one thing is clear: If you believe that American military spending should be thoroughly examined and trimmed, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is your guy.
Obama, during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday, accused Republicans of putting Pentagon funding in danger by calling for tax cuts. The cuts, claims the President, will further deepen the Federal government’s massive deficit and allow for automatic spending cuts, which don’t spare the military, to kick in.
“People in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong,” he said to VFW members in Reno, Nev. “And there are a number of Republicans in Congress who don’t want you to know that most of them voted for these cuts. Now they’re trying to wriggle out of what they agreed to.
“Instead of making tough choices to reduce the deficit, they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans, even if it risks big cuts in our military. And I’ve got to tell you, VFW, I disagree.”
Romney, in turn, criticized the President for even positing that across-the-board defense cuts were an option.
“Don’t bother trying to find a serious military rationale behind any of this, unless that rationale is wishful thinking. Strategy is not driving President Obama’s massive defense cuts. In fact, his own Secretary of Defense warned that these reductions would be ‘devastating.’ And he is right,” Romney said.
The candidate continued,”… I am not ashamed of American power. I take pride that throughout history our power has brought justice where there was tyranny, peace where there was conflict, and hope where there was affliction and despair. I do not view America as just one more point on the strategic map, one more power to be balanced. I believe our country is the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and that our influence is needed as much now as ever. And I am guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion: This century must be an American Century.”
Obama, in a rare visit to the Pentagon earlier this year, held a press conference to discuss what he called a plan to reduce the size of the military while making sure that it remained a strong defensive and strategic force. Included with the plan was the agreement between the White House and Congress to cut a projected $480 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade. The cuts, however, are largely symbolic, as the military budget will simultaneously increase to account for the rate of inflation during the same time. By the end of the year, if Congress fails to reach a budget agreement, an additional $700 billion in defense cutbacks is set to be triggered. Lawmakers are unlikely to allow this to happen, according to most analysts.
As Romney and Obama make the same defense-cuts-make-us-less-safe arguments and offer different solutions (Obama’s tax increases and Romney’s politically impossible promise to increase defense spending without higher taxes), special interests are also having their say.
Last week, former Vice President Dick “Halliburton” Cheney told House Republicans that it would be fine to slash military spending in a safe world, but we don’t live in a safe world.
“There is no significant change in our strategic stance to justify these cuts,” Cheney told members of the House Republican whip team in the basement of the Capitol, according to a POLITICO source in attendance. “Actually, things are not better, they’re worse.”
With a spending allotment that has roughly doubled over the past decade as the United States finds itself perpetually battling “terror,” it seems Cheney’s claim that things are worse should defeat his own argument against cuts. If American defense policy isn’t really working (or, in Romney’s words, bringing “justice where there was tyranny, peace where there was conflict, and hope where there was affliction and despair”), why keep throwing money at it?
Here’s what American taxpayers have gotten for their benevolent investments:
Nearly a decade occupying Iraq at a cost of about $1 trillion in overall military spending has yielded a country rife with violence and extremism — a country less stable and arguably far more violent than it was under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The ongoing struggle in Afghanistan with 2,000 Americans killed; 16,000 Americans wounded; 12,000 Afghan civilian deaths and U.S. expenditures of $400 billion has yielded a politically corrupt and violence-stricken country with a bleak future. The country will likely depend on the United States as a crutch for decades, despite the fact that American-trained members of its military and police continue to shoot American service members and civilians.
The United States intervened in Libya earlier in the year, handing the country over to Islamic extremists; a similar scenario will likely play out in Syria in coming months.
Each of the places that have seen U.S. military intervention in the past decade, some experts argue, have become hotbeds for the same sort of violent Islamic extremism that sparked the Mideast invasions following Sept. 11, 2001.
Cheney is right; things are getting worse abroad. Of course, defense contractors and companies that receive government contracts for nation building won’t see anything get worse unless across-the-board budget cuts kick in. Last week, as Cheney was making his rounds speaking with Republican lawmakers, another man with interest in defense spending was also seen at the Capitol: the president of Lockheed Martin.