Defense secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a military budget that will reduce the U.S. Army to pre–World War II levels. The spin is that this will be a smarter force better suited to 21st-century challenges, but everyone knows that it is all about accommodating the trillion dollars in defense cuts adopted during the recent Beltway budgetary wars.
The Pentagon has been a bipartisan target of opportunity. Democrats oppose defense spending because it’s defense spending; Republicans oppose it because it’s spending.
We obviously aren’t at the same point as the British in the 19th century, when Bismarck scoffed that if the British army invaded, he’d have it arrested. But 570,000 troops were barely enough to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the Hagel budget will take us to 450,000, or — if the defense sequester isn’t further relaxed — even fewer.
Most defense secretaries aspire to be the next George Marshall. Secretary Hagel evidently wants to be the next Harold Brown, who presided over the Carter-era hollowed-out military.
It is not quite true that the cuts are undertaken without any strategic thought. The Obama administration’s strategic thought is . . . that we need no strategic thought. It is said that the British acquired an empire through a fit of absent-mindedness. We are losing our global influence the same way. Because we can’t be bothered.