Last week, the Lexington Institute's Daniel Goure observed that these officers were hardly alone: "The Vice Chiefs [of Staff of the four armed services in congressional testimony] described a military worn out by continuous combat or allowed to age out as the result of a defense buildup that failed to adequately modernize the force. Each of the services has been plagued by readiness problems that, in some cases, have interfered with their ability to deploy forces."
Responsible legislators are expressing concern as well. For example, last week the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, declared that cuts of the magnitude now in prospect, "would have a disastrous impact on our military and we wouldn't be able to carry out our missions."
Earlier last month, the Senate's Number 2 Republican, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, took to the floor of the Senate to challenge a remark by President Obama to the effect that we had to protect our government's "core commitments" like food stamps at the expense of national security spending. Sen. Kyl observed that there is no core commitment that supersedes the obligation to provide for the common defense, the first business of the federal government.
Yet, President Obama, congressional Democrats and at least a few Republicans aredetermined to make the sorts of reductions that will prevent us from assuring the common defense. Some, particularly in conservative circles, are doing so out of a conviction that only a strong economy can make possible a strong military.
Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative reminded us recently of a remarkable statement byRonald Reagan in which he addressed precisely this point: "In a December 1992 address to students at the Oxford Union Society, in a passage that is eerily relevant to today's debate, [the former President declared]: ‘It is a fashionable assertion in these troubled times that nations must focus on economic, not military strength. Over the long run, it is true, no nation can remain militarily strong while economically exhausted. But I would remind you that defeats on the battlefield occur in the short run. As the tragedies ofBosnia, Somalia, and Sudan demonstrate all too well, power still matters. More precisely, economic power is not a replacement for military power.'"
History has taught us a painful lesson that we are poised to learn all over again. Cutting "security spending" in a dangerous world is an invitation to enemies - actual and prospective - to make it much more dangerous for Americans and their vital interests. It invariably proves to be a false economy, and the costs are measured in lives as well as immense amounts of dollars.
We literally cannot afford to make this mistake. Those responsible will surely be held accountable - later, if not sooner. They may never be forgiven, however.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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