I have long believed that America’s allies have not adequately shared in the financial burden of keeping the world safe. Be that Korea and Japan in the Far East or UN military activities or be it our NATO allies, America has always picked up the lion’s share of the cost. I know that I am not alone among conservatives in feeling this way. The “kinetic action” in Libya is just another example.
Apparently, according to an Associated Press report via Yahoo News, out going Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates shares this opinion. In Brussels as part of his farewell tour, he pulled no punches when referring to NATO. Here is some of what Gates had to say:
In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.
Gates has made no secret of his frustration with NATO bureaucracy and the huge restrictions many European governments placed on their military participation in the Afghanistan war. He ruffled NATO feathers early in his tenure with a direct challenge to contribute more front-line troops that yielded few contributions.
“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.
“Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform, not counting the U.S. military, NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more,” Gates said.
“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” he said.
While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission,” he said. “Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”
There was a time when the failings of our allies was no more than a nuisance. Today, with our weak financial situation, plans to take military action must take into account the cost of such action like never before. In other words, our military policies are seriously impacted by our financial condition. The author of the Inform The Pundits blog who goes by the handle AZLeader has similar thoughts. Here is some of his/her analysis:
Throughout most of American history the cost of war has been the leading cause of debt growth in this country from which we never fully recover.
In this millennium, despite all the wars and military conflicts we have been in for so many years, war is NOT the primary driver of our nation’s debt growth. Logically, with all that activity you’d think that war was driving debt growth, but it is not.
According to the Congressional Research Service, a government agency, total war expenditures since 9/11 up through 3/18/2011 is about $1.3 trillion but debt growth has been more than 5.5 times that amount since then.
Most of the $3.72 trillion added to the National Debt since Barack Obama took office was mostly from excessive and ineffective government spending during the Great Recession.
Debt growth today is driven more by social programs and economic uncertainty. It is almost as high, percentage-wise, as during the Great Depression.
The author goes on to discuss at length the recent comments of Secretary Gates. afterwards we are given the authors views on the political implications of our financially constrained military. Although I find myself agreeing with the author in many respects, I also find myself in disagreement with his/her opinion of the conservative’s views on the military budget and certain current military activities. Let’s take a look:
This puts conservatives into a quandary.
Conservatives know that it is the right moral thing to do to support the Arab Spring Movement and fight the War on Terror. Liberals don’t like dictators or terror either so both might actually be on the same side this time.
But the conservative belief in a strong defense and spreading democracy is now at odds with their equally strong belief in fiscal responsibility.
Liberals, who have never thought twice about the cost of any government social program whatsoever, are fundamentally clueless about this nation’s fiscal crisis. That is why Democrats, with their tiny little kahunas (See Rep. Andrew Wiener), have only proposed superficial cuts in spending and won’t do more before November 2012 unless the economy tanks again.
Conservatives better understand just how desperate the situation is and that drastic action needs to be taken now. That is why Republicans have the kahunas big enough to make meaningful spending cut proposals and take the heat from the liberal media.
AZLeader then concludes from this analysis as follows:
For conservatives, the question is which belief is stronger – fiscal responsibility or strong national defense?
Conservatives want to bring democracy to the Middle East but also know it’s cost conflicts significantly with being fiscally responsible.
If conservatives remain steadfast that there should be no cuts in defense then it will undermine their chances for success in the 2012 elections. Inflexibility on modest tax increases will undermine their chances to.
Republicans don’t need to abandon their principles, but do need to give a little ground in order to gain the backing of the average American and win BIG in 2012.
As I said, there is much of the author’s analysis with which I agree. Mostly the principle point That America, because of its financial condition must now think twice when considering the use of its military in some conflict half way around the world. This is a significant change for the U,S at least in my life time.
Where I have a difference with the author is his/her opinion that conservatives feel a moral obligation to support the Arab Spring movement and the spread of democracy around the world and that we are conflicted by our desire for a strong defense and fiscal responsibility.
I follow a lot of conservative/libertarian bloggers and pundits and I find no support for the Arab Spring movement or the spread of democracy around the world. Conservatives today understand very well that democracy without constitutional constraints will always lead to tyranny. Most conservatives today think we should bring our troops home from Afghanistan and that as a general rule we should not be engaged in nation building.
Also, I see no conflict for conservatives when it comes to fiscal responsibility and a strong defense. These are not mutually exclusive issues. Although we do believe in a strong defense, I think most conservatives recognize that we can reduce waste in the military without sacrificing strength and readiness.
As for the conservatives inflexibility to consider “modest” tax increases to get a deal on spending cuts, the author may have us there. I don’t know what the author means by “modest” but raising taxes is problematic for us because we know that increasing taxes on the so-called rich would be counter productive. Should we be willing to throw the rich under the bus in order to get where we want to be on spending cuts versus the debt ceiling on the assumption that we would pull them out from under the bus after the 2012 elections? Maybe. But, I would prefer we agree to reform the tax codes and eliminate loopholes as a way to increase revenues.
My differences with the author aside, I believe the point that he/she makes about our financial condition affecting military policy is both valid and important. What do you think?