We spend so much money on defense not because we are warlike, but because we are peaceful. In the same way that police power rests upon an overwhelming presumption of victory sooner or later, so does the ability of America to use “soft power” or “smart power”, or whatever aggrandized title goes along with high-paid talking clubs these days. It’s useless without the military might to crush an arbitrary number of enemies, sooner or later. No doubt Peru has excellent diplomats, but they truly do not matter.
The dangers of a hollow force are not found in a degraded ability to win a war, or the makeup of a win-win-hold or win-hold-win posture. The threat is to our ability to do any of the above while simultaneously deterring bad guys and opportunistic troublemakers from seeking advantage in our preoccupation. We do this by maintaining enough credible reserve capability to crush n+1 minor irritants.
China’s developing blue-water Navy is only a threat so long as we allow it to grow.
If we are to undergo sweeping defense cuts, this need not be so dislocating, and we can in fact survive such cuts without giving up any security. All that is required is the willingness to go deflate some hopped-up dictators and troublesome or hostile countries and organizations at a time and place of our choosing, to borrow a magnificent phrase. As the Libyan fiasco showed, even the combined power of NATO cannot hold a candle to the distracted and ashamed half-presence of American power, even when they have candles in stock. China’s developing blue-water Navy is only a threat so long as we allow it to grow. So sink it, and garrison Taiwan. Drop JDAMs from time to time in areas where Kim Jong-Il may or may not be. In time he’ll disappear, one way or another.
Solicit the Iranian man-in-the-street for the location of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Make it very public and very plain that if they want us to whack him, we’ll do it, but they have to provide the intel. Naturally, we’ll use our own targeting data, but if we can plausibly cover it with a visible request from an oppressed people yearning for freedom, how can it go wrong? Hit or miss, the effect on Iran will be salutary, and most impressive to the Death-to-America crowd (ex-Berkeley). And Syria. And Venezuela. And so on.
we just won’t put up with any shenanigans, which are far more expensive than oil
The benefits are widely distributed. Energy prices will come down. Our Marxist left has always accused us of a “kick their ass and take their gas” mentality, which doesn’t square with gas prices these days, or any day since the first gulf war, much less the second. But as well be hanged for a ram as for a sheep, and we could use the gas anyway. After Iraq collapses due to Obama’s surrender, let’s just lay claim to the oil-rich regions and the logistic requirements, and defend them with zero tolerance for anything. It’s not counter-insurgency, it’s security–a line of death in the sand. Heck, we can still pay for it, we just won’t put up with any shenanigans, which are far more expensive than oil.
far less harmful emissions than the Communists
Think of the environmental benefits as well. If you really want to clean up the planet, there is no faster way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than to bomb factories in China. Every morning, noon, and night. Let a thousand craters bloom! Every bombed-out factory in China will displace production to a cleaner, more humane factory with more worker protections and far less harmful emissions than the Communists run in their sprawling continental prison. Prices will rise moderately, which will moderately depress consumption, or allow substitutes to flow. Much the same can be said for production in India, but we like them most of the time, so we will give them a pass and instead remind them that one day we will ask them to do us a favor. Hint: it will involve Pakistan.
We can win in Afghanistan by shutting down Pakistan’s ability to make trouble there, and it might even work out well for the Pakistani people as well, but that is not required. After all, drastic reductions in defense spending mean that we are willing to accept drastic reductions in the results we expect. So we can still achieve our foreign policy goals, but it will have to be done without meeting some of our traditional measures of success. The maintenance of peace where possible and the reduction of unnecessary casualties are expensive.
the willingness to do it. And a pistol
Why? Because counter-insurgency is expensive, costing lives and cash at an alarming rate compared to good old-fashioned kill-em-all warfare. Deterrence is expensive, costing hundreds of millions of man-years of patrolling and maintenance under adverse conditions, whereas bombs are cheap. Containment is expensive, readiness is expensive, “soft power” is expensive. To simply issue the orders and be done with the niceties is a huge savings not only of money, but of life. To guard a fort against a threat takes round-the clock patrols, but it only takes a single man with a pistol to simply shoot a threat before there is trouble. All it takes is the willingness to do it. And a pistol, of course.
If we are to make defense cuts, then a mature decision-maker must address the issue of what it is we will no longer receive. We spend so much on defense not because we love war, but because we love peace. But go ahead, secretive Supercommittee. Go ahead, feckless Republican leadership. Go ahead, welfare-state big-spenders. Slash the budget for the Department of Defense, but keep in mind that once the money is gone, and we can no longer afford peace, we will be reduced to–shall I say it? A Department of War.