When I was growing up in a Midwestern farming village, several World War I, World War II, and Korean War vets lived there. As a teenager, I worked for some of those men. I was struck by their opinions about military strength. They unanimously supported a strong military and rued America’s military weakness before December 7th, 1941.
Years later I visited the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The museum’s first exhibit shows the relative size of America’s military and those of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. That exhibit consists of plastic figurines intended to depict the size of the three nations’ armed forces.
The exhibit’s message is simple: relative to the armed forces of either Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan — let alone both — the U.S. military’s size was incredibly tiny. Viewing that exhibit, one wonders how America won against such odds, even allowing for the fact that we had allies.
The disparity between America’s military preparedness prior to Pearl Harbor and that of Hitler’s Germany or Hirohito’s Japan was not limited to numbers. Thanks largely to Congress’ niggardly funding of our military during the 1920s and 1930s, there were qualitative weaknesses of our tanks, naval torpedoes, and warplanes. Sadly, public opinion during those decades buttressed Congress’ stinginess vis-à-vis the military.
No one should underestimate U.S. military personnel’s valor. American soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen were as good as or better than those they met on the ground, on the sea, or in the air.
Getting back to the military veterans I interacted with when young, my memory is how insistent they were that America never again tempts aggressors by military weakness.
Those veterans are almost all gone now.
I can’t help wondering, however, how they would react if they had heard U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who announced on February 24th that a combination of the Obama Administration’s policy decisions and budget cuts mandated by the Sequester — the idea for which originated in Obama’s White House — would leave the U.S. military smaller and weaker than it has been in 74 years. The National Guard will also be reduced. Hagel went on to say that the U.S. would no longer be the world’s foremost military power. He also noted, apparently with equanimity, that reducing U.S. military capacity would likely entail risks to our military personnel and to the nation.
There are also revelations that the Obama Administration will reduce benefits paid to America’s military and the nation’s veterans in order to increase spending on an already bloated welfare state. The Obamians’ antipathy to America’s serving military personnel and our veterans is a national disgrace.
It shows once again that America’s national security cannot be entrusted to left-wing Democrats.
Once the budgetary savagery Hagel outlined for the military is in place, the U.S. will have a Navy with the fewest ships at sea since before World War I, the smallest Air Force ever, and an Army and Marine Corps smaller than at any time since 1940. Weapons systems that would modernize and upgrade our military capability will be canceled, and older weapons systems, such as the A-10, will be eliminated.
Furthermore, if budgetary cutbacks necessitate curtailment of training, that means additional degrading of America’s military capabilities.
In addition to severely reducing America’s conventional military capability, Obama has drastically curtailed the country’s nuclear weapons capacity.
The upshot of Obama’s budgetary butchery is that America is following the pattern set by Europe’s nanny states: huge expenditures for welfare programs necessitate spending a pittance for national defense.
These drastic defense cutbacks come at a time when the U.S. faces potential threats from terrorism and from totalitarian regimes such as North Korea, mainland China, Vladimir Putin’s irredentist Russia, and Iran.
The Obama Administration plans to end military action in Afghanistan, possibly as soon as December 31st, 2014. (Obama has already admitted defeat in Iraq.) If the Taliban regains control of Afghanistan, all the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives and health will have done so in vain.
What does the end of America as a superpower mean? Several things, of course; none good. Limitations of space preclude mention of more than just two.
First, one wonders if people in the U.S. and what used to be referred to as “the West” fully comprehend what the end of America’s role as superpower will mean. The last time one hegemonic nation was replaced by another, the U.S. supplanted the United Kingdom as the Western world’s foremost military power.
When the U.S. assumed the role of Western superpower, most people barely noticed. West Europeans could “enjoy” their nations’ political and military decline secure in the knowledge that America would keep the forces of evil at bay.
As American military power fades, however, the next superpower– be it mainland China, Putin’s Russia, or an Islamic Caliphate — people, especially in the West, will notice. The new world order will be starkly different from the by-then long gone era of Anglo-American dominance. The subtitle of Mark Steyn’s After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (2011) conveys the likely consequences of gutting America’s military.
There is another aspect of America’s coming military weakness that should be considered. Once before since 1945 — beginning with the “Vietnam Syndrome,” but especially during Jimmy Carter’s presidency — reductions in America’s military budgets, which were far less deep than Obama and his minions envision, the U.S. was left with a hollow military.
Not only was America’s military weak in the late 1970s, the nation’s leaders lacked the will to protect our national interests. The U.S. had truly become the “paper tiger” that Mao Zedong had speculated about in an earlier era.
We saw some of the consequences of the post-Vietnam, Carter-era reductions in the Pentagon’s budget in the 1979 Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and the collapse of the Shah’s regime in Iran, which was soon followed by the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran and the imprisonment of American diplomatic personnel. Add the failed rescue mission in April, 1980, and you get a sense of what the wages of weakness entailed.
With Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, and the restoration of American military capabilities during his administration, the U.S. reasserted its status as the West’s dominant power.
Finally, recall that congressional starvation of America’s military between the world wars occurred by and with public opinion’s support. Will the public acquiesce in Obama’s gutting of the U.S. military now?
If a recent Gallup poll (2/6-9/14) is any indication, there are grounds for concern. When Gallup asked a random sample of adults if they thought the U.S. was spending too much, too little, or just about the right amount of money on “defense and military purposes,” only 28% opined it was “too little,” 32% said it was “about right,” and 37% answered that it was “too much.”
(Most people haven’t a clue about the defense budget’s amount, but that’s another story.)
This poll occurred before Hagel spoke. I’ve not seen public reaction to his announcement, but, assuming we can credit Gallup’s figures, one ought to worry.