The decision to withdraw more than 40,000 U.S. military personnel from Iraq by Dec. 31 means massive quantities of valuable mission-essential gear -- armored vehicles, heavy generators, engineer equipment, trucks, aviation support materiel and even air defense and communications infrastructure -- must be left behind. According to officers on the ground, the Iraqis lack the logistics systems and training necessary to maintain most of the gear our troops will not bring home. In a matter of months, most of it will be inoperable -- or, as it's described by our military, "deadlined."
Former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter says, "The price tag for this hasty withdrawal and no residual 'base rights' goes well beyond the cost of abandoning this gear." Units returning to home bases in the U.S. will remain "combat-ineffective" for months or years to come because we are not buying replacement equipment necessary for the next fight.
Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who served as a deputy undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration, warns that "the inevitable loss of unit readiness will provide a rationale for the White House and Congress to make even further cuts in U.S. Army and Marine ground combat and combat support units for years to come."
Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely notes: "We're making the same mistakes we made at the end of the Vietnam War. After a decade of fighting, cutting defense is popular, but it emboldens our enemies, and whether the politicians know it or not, we do have enemies."
These experts are spot on. The ayatollahs in Iran, intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and radical Islamists, such as those grasping for power in Egypt and Libya, are the immediate beneficiaries of the "Obama Doctrine" and the O-Team's already-announced cuts in defense. In Asia, Japanese, South Korean, Australian and Taiwanese defense officials have told anyone who will listen that Beijing is building offensive capabilities to fill the vacuum created by "America's withdrawal from the Pacific."
Today's U.S. military is smaller than it was in 1938. We now have fewer combatant ships at sea and carrier battle groups able to project power than we had at the start of World War II. Jimmy Carter believed his cuts were a risk we could afford to take. Ronald Reagan disagreed, and he beat Carter by promising "peace through strength." In rebuilding our military, he created millions of new jobs, restored American credibility and brought down the "Evil Empire."
Will any of today's Republican presidential candidates follow the Reagan model and replace the current occupant of the Oval Office? We should hope so.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.