Cutting the DoD's budget request is a step in the right direction
by Stephen Walt
Strategy is about relating means and ends. From that perspective, it doesn't make sense to spend as much as we did when the economy seemed to be healthy. Nor does it make sense to pursue the overly ambitious and misguided foreign policy that we tried (unsuccessfully) to pursue under President Bush. Given the results of those policies and our current financial plight, this stubborn defense of the budgetary status quo has a head-in-the-sand quality that would be laughable if the issues weren't so important.
A prominent example is Robert Kagan's recent warning against any attempt to cut the U.S. defense budget. He opposes any trimming even though the United States spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world put together and even though the U.S. economy is facing its biggest crisis since the Great Depression. Salon's Glenn Greenwald has already shown that Kagan's claim that the Obama administration was planning to cut actual U.S. defense spending (as opposed to the budget request) is simply bogus, and the rest of Kagan's argument is no better.
As I argued a few weeks ago, there are powerful political forces that will make it hard for Obama to make major cuts in defense spending, unless the economy continues to spiral downward. (And let's hope it doesn't!) But there is also little reason to think that modest reductions would jeopardize U.S. national security.
The sooner Americans came to terms with our present circumstances and start asking the DoD to make the same financial sacrifices that households are making all over the country, the better off we going to be.