Disarming US as wolves lie in wait (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) Peter Brookes 05/16/12)
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Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. — Niels
In the unknown future of US national-security challenges, safe still
beats sorry — especially when those challenges already appear
Which is why the current defense-spending debate — especially the
matter of another $500 billion in cuts, beyond the half-trillion
dollars’ worth already being lopped off — may be as consequential as
any budget decision in recent history.
That’s right: The choices we make about the defense budget, including
future weapon systems and troop levels, are fateful; the results will
be with us for decades.
Pentagon officials have warned of elevated risks, worried that we’ll
no longer be the global power we are today if another $500 billion is
slashed from the defense budget, as is planned for year’s end.
Yet some Americans seem to be living in a blissful bubble, oblivious
to a world rife with trouble and threats to US security. In some
corners, American leadership is not only out of fashion, it’s frowned
But such naivete won’t deal with current problems or prevent crises
in the coming years.
Take the Middle East/North Africa. The Iranian threat is hardly
diminishing. Few would dispute that Tehran will not only have nukes
in a few years, but an intercontinental-ballistic missile to carry
Lawless, ungoverned spaces in Yemen and Somalia support the
aspirations and activities of terror groups such as al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula and al Shabab. Al Qaeda in Iraq is active again and
maybe aiding and abetting terror in Syria.
Syria itself? The Assad regime’s survival will certainly find
Damascus committed to revenge — and even more wedded to its drive for
The promise of an “Arab Spring” has become the reality of an “Arab
Winter,” with Egypt, Tunisia and Libya of continuing concern (thanks,
especially, to reports of thousands of handheld, surface-to-air
missiles missing from Libyan arsenals).
Elsewhere, stability in Afghanistan after our 2014 departure is an
open question. A likely security vacuum could leave it vulnerable to
the re-rise of the Taliban, al Qaeda and their allies. Instability in
(nuclear) Pakistan is good reason for insomnia.
Meanwhile, Team Obama’s strategic shift to Asia will be more of a
dainty pirouette than a muscular pivot, absent the forces needed to
project US power across the Pacific.
With the military might it’s amassing, Beijing is developing the raw
power to challenge Washington for pre-eminence in East Asia — and,
Then there’s North Korea. Not good. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
says, “We’re within an inch of war everyday in that part of the
There’s more. You have to wonder, for example, whether perceptions of
US decline made the Russian chief of the general staff think it was
OK recently to threaten to pre-emptively strike American missile
defenses in Europe.
A world without a strong America is deeply disquieting, one where US
interests will be under assault from a number of different
directions, including cyberspace.
Fact is, as Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) noted last week at The Heritage
Foundation, “We don’t always have the luxury of deciding where and
when we will have to confront evil in the world.” The 3 a.m. phone
call is a come-as-you-are affair; we better be ready.
Thankfully, some in Congress such as Kyl and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
are working to stem America’s slide to second-rate-power status by
finding ways to trim the federal budget that shift the heavy reliance
away from defense-spending cuts.
This is no time to give short shrift to American security. We need a
hard-nosed foreign policy backed up by a strong defense. The past
shows the painful consequences of being weak and ill-prepared.
Threats will develop irrespective of our ability to defend ourselves.
Wishful thinking about a future no one can accurately predict is no
foundation for a national-security policy.
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former
deputy assistant secretary of defense. (Copyright 2012 NYP Holdings,
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