The Myth of Defense Cuts

Despite all the hysteria, wailing, and gnashing of teeth from Washington war hawks, there are no spending cuts proposed in the defense budget, nor is there any change at all in our defense policy. Typical of the frenzy was the comment by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) that the “massive cuts” and supposedly new strategy “ensure American decline.”

But it’s all a charade. There is no change in defense policy, actually an offense policy, and there are no cuts in the defense budget. The actual defense budget grows steadily each year and will continue to grow. One way politicians hide this fact is that the “defense budget” does not include the actual cost of ongoing wars, which are all off-budget expenses. In a grand event staged at the Department of Defense, the president once again put on a show, employing large, grandiose words to describe small, insignificant shifts in policy in order to make it seem like there is “change.”

Anyone watching this presidential performance, or any presidential speech for that matter, might recall the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls back the curtain: pay no attention to the man behind the podium. When you pull back the curtain, all President Obama announced was that there will be slightly less of an increase in defense spending over the next 10 years. America’s foreign policy, a policy supported by both Democrats and Republicans, will remain basically nothing less than global military dominance. We will still police the world, and we will still wage war wherever and whenever we please.

A good friend of mine, a retired military public affairs officer, told me the first thing that jumped out at him when he read the supposedly new strategic guidance document, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” was the use of a very old term: “power projection.” This doctrine has been enshrined in the Defense Department lexicon since the Cold War. Power projection, according to the official definition, is “the ability of a nation to apply all or some of its elements of national power — political, economic, informational, or military — to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability.” Plainly stated, it is a license to wage war.

In other words, we intimidate other nations and implement U.S. policy by means of force, or the threat of force. Basically, we bomb people and invade countries in the name of “national security.” It means doing exactly what our Founders warned us against, going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.” Since the war on terror began, this concept has been called “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them at home.” The sacred name of “power projection” is invoked by the Navy to justify new aircraft carriers, by the Army to legitimize sending troops to foreign nations and building forward operating bases there, and by the Air Force to rationalize building long-range bombers and overseas air fields.

In order to “deter and defeat aggression” the president says the U.S. Armed Forces should be able to “secure territory and populations,” “project power in areas which our access and freedom to operate are challenged,” and “conduct a sustainable pace of presence operations abroad.” The practical application of this doctrine is the continuation of hundreds of U.S. bases, at home and abroad, manned by thousands of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. In the name of deterring aggression, America claims the right to preemptively attack anyone or any nation we deem an enemy and to wage “humanitarian” war, a contradiction in terms if there ever was one. In short, the “new” defense policy is merely a continuation of the old imperialistic, “in your face” foreign policy that has fueled distrust, animosity, and hatred of the United States among the very people and nations we claim to be protecting.

Curiously, amid all the hysterical protestations about how mythical cuts would destroy the Defense Department, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was not being victimized. In a speech at his alma mater, Duke University, Gen. Martin Dempsey said, “We the military are not being victimized by this budget issue. This is something the joint chiefs have embraced as what’s best for America. We’ll figure it out.” Like his predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen, the general appears to understand that out-of-control national debt is a danger to our national defense as much as it is to the rest of the nation. It is too bad that the Washington power elites do not have a similar understanding.

America needs to return to the foreign policy advocated by our Founders: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship” with all nations and all people who desire the same and entangling alliances with none. Rather than being the global “nosy neighbor,” America should become the world’s “good neighbor” and return to our historic libertarian tradition of abstaining totally from foreign quarrels and military interventions. The U.S. Armed Forces should be reorganized, retooled, and refocused on its proper mission — to defend the territory of the United States from a direct, overt attack and provide the best possible security for the lives, liberty, and property of the American people.

History teaches us that the key elements to prosperity are freedom and peace. You don’t go to war with people you like or with whom you trade. Libertarians have the perfect message, the perfect philosophy for peace and prosperity in America and in the world. Peace and prosperity is what we offer Americans, and they are ready for it.

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Author: Lee Wrights

R. Lee Wrights is founder and editor of LibertyForAll.net, America’s premier online libertarian newsletter.