I don’t normally take the time to point out that I find foreign policy statements at Commentary patently wrong, because, well, that’s just to be assumed by now. But this opening salvo from Max Boot demonstrates that a) it is possible to look at an agreed-upon set of facts and reach opposite conclusions, and b) that he and I do not hold reconcilable world-views:
The U.S. is currently engaged in three active wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya)—four if you count the war on terror, five if you count the war on piracy. We are increasingly hard-pressed to stave off the aggressive military designs of a resurgent China. We have to deter a nuclear North Korea and prevent Iran from going nuclear. We have to prepare for the possibility of an implosion in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, highly unstable state. We have to maintain free movement across the global commons, meaning air and sea-lanes along with outer space and cyberspace. And at the same time we have to perform myriad humanitarian missions, such as the one currently being conducted by U.S. Pacific Command to assist Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.
Because of this set of facts/wars/military operations/instances of presidential prerogative/insert-euphemism-here, President Obama’s proposed cuts to defense spending will lead, inevitably, to American decline. I look at the list and see a series of things that could be cut from defense spending. But, I mean, this vision of America could be right, especially if you think that the ideal form of the American government is as an ineffective insurance company with the world’s largest military force. That it uses whenever it gets bored. Or needs a diversion. Or both.
Seriously, though: Boot lists three wars that we are currently fighting out of choice rather than necessity, one that is a made-up amalgam of the previous three plus pepper and spice and everything nice, and another that I didn’t even know was declared. (I thought Napster learned its lesson years ago!) China’s threat to American economic hegemony is now apparently a military threat; North Korea’s barely nuclear “nuclear” test and rockets that can barely make it off the peninsula are an existential threat; Pakistan — well, he’s got me here. Pakistan is unstable — or at least less stable than it was when ruled by the type of military dictator America now “has to” oppose — and has nuclear weapons. We should formulate a plan for this worst-case scenario, which, frankly, is more reason to reduce the thinness of our military by cutting down on the unnecessary wars in which we’re engaged.
But why do any of these require that we maintain military bases in Germany? Anyone? Bueller?
Well, I guess I’ll give Boot credit for where I do agree with him: Yes, it is hypocritical on Obama’s part to call for defense cuts within weeks of starting a third concurrent war in the Arab world. We just disagree on the question of whether the preparedness of the American military is undermined by using it as a police, rather than defense force.