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I’m an optimist of sorts. If somebody says, “It can’t get any worse,” I’ll reply, “Oh yes it can!” I usually tend to see the glass as half empty and think that every silver lining has a dark cloud. I also tend to waste a lot of time crossing bridges that I never actually get to.
There apparently are people who have an even gloomier outlook than I do, judging from Rick Howell’s The Liberal Agenda last week. Unlike Mr. Howell, I don’t think American exceptionalism is gone. If it is, then how does one explain the fact that such large numbers of people in other countries want to come here? Nor do I believe that our current economic downturn is permanent. We are not recovering from a normal recession but, rather one caused by a financial crisis. Recoveries from these take much longer. It took more than 20 years for us to fully recover from our last one, triggered by a stock market crash in 1929. This time, fortunately, we avoided a depression, courtesy of George W. Bush’s TARP. Barack Obama’s “stimulus” did nothing but run up our national debt.
We do have problems and one of those is our global military reach, which liberals like Mr. Howell seem to detest so much. I guess, for them, the money could be better spent to make our government even more massive than it already is so that it can regulate even more aspects of our lives than it already does.
The world does not end at the low tide mark and, as we should have learned on Dec. 7, 1941, not getting involved in global power plays doesn’t guarantee that the rest of the world will leave us alone. We need to maintain an effective global military reach.
Right now, we have fewer than 50,000 troops left in Iraq and they will leave by the end of this year unless the Iraqi government asks for some to stay. Even then, we would only have 10,000 there. This is not a huge number, much smaller than the force we maintain in South Korea because, technically, the Korean War never ended. There has never been a peace treaty, just an armistice which has remained in place since 1953.
We are also pulling out the extra surge troops from Afghanistan. This will leave us with less than 100,000 troops, and President Obama wants them out by 2014. All of this deeply concerns me because these decisions are being driven by domestic politics rather than military reality. We’ll probably pay a steep price for doing it this way.
We also have another problem brewing in the Western Pacific as China has become more aggressive in bullying its much smaller neighbors. China’s military technology has vastly improved over the last few decades and it’s reached the point where sailing a naval task force into the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea would be very risky.
Another problem is that liberals and conservatives, for differing reasons, want to cut defense spending. This is dangerous. We have built a very competent, very professional, well trained and disciplined army. If we dismantle it, it will not be easy to rebuild quickly. Furthermore, what we already have, has been so badly stretched, that we’ve had to rely heavily on the National Guard for deployments in the past decade. We could easily find ourself in the near future with too many challenges for the forces we will have available to meet them.
In addition to personnel issues, cuts to the Navy are further complicated by the long lead times for ship construction.
Fortunately, I think the problems we face can still be fixed. We’ve certainly pulled out of worse situations over the past 235 years.