Paul Greenberg

Yes, standing up to threats can be dangerous, too. Almost as dangerous as not standing up to them. It's always a temptation to think we can defend this country -- and the free world -- on the cheap. But that approach may prove a lot more expensive in the end.

An ounce of deterrence is worth any amount of empty rhetoric. The arrival of the U.S. carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Strait of Hormuz last week without fanfare said more than all this president's speeches about foreign affairs over the past three unsteady years.

These proposed defense cuts say a lot, too. And what they say is nothing good: America is going into decline again. And that message will be heard -- from Moscow to Teheran, Beijing to Caracas. Thank you, Mr. Panetta. As an old Navy pilot named John McCain put it, this package of a thousand cuts "ignores the lessons of history."

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Also the lessons of economics. Our economist-in-chief has told us the way to stimulate the American economy is to spend more hundreds of billions on "shovel-ready projects," by which he seems to mean handouts to bluer states and greener schemes. Also the better-connected lobbies, industries, corporations, labor unions and Government Supported Enterprises. The more they spend, the better off we'll all be! Call it the Solyndra Solution.

The first sign the president's stimulus package wouldn't work was that he put Joe Biden, that economic and diplomatic mastermind, in charge of it. Oh, for the days when vice presidents just stood around and waited, the days when they were seen (if you looked closely) but not heard.

What's really been stimulated over the past three years is the country's unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, the largest collection of shovel-ready, job-creating, opportunity-offering, educationally effective projects in this country -- the United States military -- is to be shrunk.

Madness, madness.

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For reasons both military and civil, political and economic, moral and practical, this country's defenses need to be bolstered -- not dismantled.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.