Rich Tucker
It's rare that a newspaper's front page news stories and its back pages -- where opinion reigns -- are in perfect symmetry. But it happened recently in the Wall Street Journal.

"The U.K. is in the midst of the most aggressive fiscal tightening since World War II -- a process that U.S. defense officials are watching with concern," the newspaper reported May 14. “In October, following a strategic review, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to cut the military budget by 7.5 percent and the head count by 10 percent over five years, and to retire lots of equipment, leaving the armed forces with 40 percent fewer tanks and 35 percent less heavy artillery. The planned cuts will come on top of an 8 percent reduction in personnel during the 13-year tenure of the former Labour Party government.”

What does that add up to? “At a hearing Wednesday before a Parliamentary defense committee, the heads of Britain’s army, navy and air force said the U.K. would no longer be a ‘full spectrum’ military force -- one capable of both low-intensity combat such as counterinsurgency and the kind of major operations required for state-on-state combat.”

Ah, some may say, that’s no problem. The Brits have been in decline for decades now, and have always been able to rely on help and partnership with the United States' military. Yet this is where today's bloated federal budgets start to hurt.

“The fact that British defense capabilities are in steep decline means that even more of the burden of defending what used to be called the Free World will fall on our overstretched armed forces,” Max Boot wrote last year. “The British can cut back secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam will protect them if anything goes truly wrong. But who would we count on in a crunch?” And the crunch seems certain to come.

“According to the Congressional Budget Office’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the U.S. government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest -- whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 percent,” Mark Steyn noted in The New Criterion. “America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have advanced from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.”


Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for Townhall.com.