In the past four years, administrations of both parties have had to surge ground troops to war theaters in order to make success possible in missions central to the national security of the United States. Just last week, the Obama administration announced an additional 1,400 Marines would be deployed to southern Afghanistan to help secure the progress the surge has achieved there.
But now President Obama, to save $6 billion a year—one-half of one percent of the federal budget deficit—has announced a cut of some 47,000 troops from the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps. We paid a big price for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s obdurate refusal to increase the size of the armed forces after 9/11. Finally, Congress insisted on such an increase, and Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates, agreed—and the surges in forces were possible (though still dependent on tens of thousands of reservists and National Guard troops—the fact is that, if anything, the size of the regular ground forces remains too small). Now we’re going back to the future, to a truly undermanned armed forces. What’s next? Get rid of the armor on the Humvees? We’ll just have to go to war in the future—or try to deter war—with the military the Obama White House has decided we can have?
And make no mistake: This was a White House decision. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen announced the cuts yesterday. But these cuts were imposed by President Obama. Gates and Mullen fought to minimize the damage. And then they were trotted out to make the announcement. You might think President Obama would at least have the courage to bite the bullet himself on an announcement of such national importance. But the president isn’t a bite-the-bullet kind of guy.
Luckily, there are Republicans in the Congress—and, I dare say, some Democrats—who understand these cuts are dangerous. They should move to reject them, and the other reckless cuts in a military budget that’s already stretched awfully thin.