The Magazine

Bush's War Budget

Feb 4, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 20 • By ROBERT KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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And then there's the matter of Iraq. There's reason to believe that President Bush's budget proposal is partly designed to pay for Phase 2 of the war. A little-discussed fact is that the Pentagon's stocks of precision-guided munitions, unmanned reconnaissance drones, communications gear, and other weapons and equipment essential to fighting an Afghan-style high-tech war have all been seriously depleted over the past four months. (Again, we can't help pointing out that these shortfalls are the product of years of inadequate funding.) The disturbing truth is that if the president decided to attack Iraq tomorrow, the U.S. military might not have all it needs to carry out the job in the most effective possible way. We're already having to replenish materiel. The new defense budget is aimed at making sure there are no such shortfalls in the future.

And here's a heads-up for Democrats and Republican budget hawks: Bush's latest proposed increase is just the beginning. There is no one-year "bump" that can repair the problems of a decade of underfunding the military. After September 11, no one can any longer doubt that dire threats exist in the world, or deny that a strong American military is the sine qua non for meeting and defeating those threats. What will be required, therefore, is a steady, sustained increase in defense spending, this year, next year, and the year after that.

Last July, Rumsfeld's deputy Paul Wolfowitz boldly warned Congress that it was "reckless to press our luck or gamble with our children's future" by spending so little on defense. He was right. And President Bush is right to propose a defense budget that, for the first time in a decade, sets us on a path to secure that future.

--Robert Kagan and William Kristol