Cut U.S. commitments, not muscle
In that year of happy memory, 1972, George McGovern, the Democrat presidential nominee, declared he would chop Defense by fully one-third.
A friendly congressman was persuaded to ask Defense Secretary Melvin Laird to expatiate on what this might mean.
The Pentagon replied that the Sixth Fleet might have to be pulled out of the Med and provided the congressman a list of U.S. bases that would have to be shut down.
Radio ads were run in the towns closest to the bases on the Pentagon list, declaring they would be closed and all jobs terminated should McGovern win.
Something akin to this is going on with the impending sequester.
A cut of 7 percent, $46 billion, in Pentagon spending, says Army chief Ray Odierno, will mean a “hollowing” out of his force.
The Navy? The carrier Harry Truman will not be sailing to the Persian Gulf. The Abraham Lincoln will not be overhauled in Newport News. Thousands of jobs will be lost.
Reporter Rowan Scarborough writes that the Air Force has produced “a map of the U.S. that shows state-by-state the millions of dollars lost to local economies” should the ax fall.
But if an evisceration of national defense is imminent, why did President Obama not tell us in 2012? Why were the Joint Chiefs silent when they are panicked now?
Undeniably, spending cuts by sequester slicer, chopping all equally, is mindless. And with national security, it manifests a failure of both parties to come to terms with the world we are now in.
The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is gone. Mao's China is gone although a mightier China has emerged. And as ex-chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen contends, our greatest strategic threat is not Kim Jong Un or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but the soaring national debt.
What is needed is what America, since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, has stubbornly resisted doing: a strategic review of all U.S. commitments abroad to determine which remain vital to national security. Before we decide what our defense forces should be, let us determine what is in the U.S. vital interest to defend at risk of war.
Start with NATO. In 1961, President Eisenhower urged JFK to bring home the U.S. forces and let the Europeans raise the armies to defend themselves, lest they become military dependencies.
More than 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell, we still have scores of thousands of troops in Europe.
Why? The European Union's economy is 10 times that of Russia. Europe's population is twice Russia's.
On retirement, Robert Gates said any future Defense secretary who advises a president to fight another land war in Asia ought to have his head examined. So why do we have 28,000 U.S. troops in Korea and 50,000 in Japan?
If Republicans wish to remain a viable party, they cannot delegate Defense decisions to the “We-are-all-Georgians-now!” crowd that plunged us into Iraq and is bawling for intervention in Syria and war on Iran.
The GOP desperately needs a credible, countervailing voice to the uber-hawks, whose bellicosity all but killed the party in the Bush era.
Obama is president because of them. And his most popular act, according to voter surveys from 2012? Ending the war in Iraq.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”