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Our Future, Our Choice

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
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.”

Left-leaning investor Stanley Druckenmiller agrees that the big spending must end. In the Journal’s Weekend Interview, he explained that: "A financial crisis is surely going to happen as big or bigger than the one we had in 2008 if we continue to behave the way we’re behaving," he told the newspaper.

Druckenmiller made a fortune working with George Soros. Today, the Journal writes, he is " concerned about the government's ability to pay for its future obligations that he's willing to accept a temporary delay in the interest payments he's owed on his U.S. Treasury bonds -- if the result is a Washington deal to restrain runaway entitlement costs."

To that end, Druckenmiller seems to support the Medicare reform plan passed by the House of Representatives. "We don't have a choice between Paul Ryan's plan and the current plan, because the current plan is a mirage. That money is not going to be there," he says. "I'm just flabbergasted that we're getting all this commentary about catastrophic consequences, including from the chairman of the Federal Reserve, about this situation but none of these guys bothered to write letters or whatever about the real situation which is we’re piling up trillions of dollars of debt."

As Steyn warns, "Without serious course correction, we will see the end of the Anglo-American era, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world."

Britain should serve as a warning. American decline isn't inevitable, but it is certainly possible. “In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so,” Steyn writes. But if we don’t get spending under control, we’ll be choosing to squander that winning lottery ticket.

Let’s act wisely, and instead choose to succeed, and make this another American century.

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