By Robert L. Capehert
IF a nation desires peace, it must be prepared for war.
So goes the thinking of Jim Talent’s piece, The Army You Haven’t, in the September 16th issue of National Review.
Mr Talent’s thesis is manifold.
One, defense cuts throughout the 1990s and now underway under Pres. Barack Obama’s administration have left the U.S. Military woefully underprepared for present and future contingencies.
Two, substantial defense cuts are taking place as threats to America increase rather than decrease.
Not a good proposition. No, not at all.
Talent points out this is important regardless of whether a person supports an active and engaged American military force, or whether one subscribes to the growing popularity of a non-interventionist foreign policy.
Most interesting, however, is Talent’s documentation of defense cuts that preceded the years before 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ironically, I can remember a Wall Street Journal op-ed written sometime before the presidential election of 2000.
The author of the piece (the name escapes me) wrote that regardless of whether George W. Bush or Al Gore were elected president neither man would have the military arsenal to go to war that Pres. Ronald Reagan built — and that George W. Bush’s father unleashed in Panama ’89, nor the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991.
Over the course of the second Bush presidency, little was made of this fact, but Talent does a good job illustrating America’s problems on the battle-field of Iraq can be linked to massive military cuts enacted throughout the ‘90s.
The wisdom went something like this: America did not expect to be in a large-scale conflict for a generation. The thinking was America would not face a threat for the foreseeable future where large numbers of boots and the needed equipment on the ground would be needed.
And so, Pres. Clinton’s budget busting was largely done on the back of the U.S. Military.
But world events are uncertain. Given al-Qaeda’s spread in global reach and the Clinton administrations inability to put together an effective policy to rid the world of Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network, 9/11 happened — and thus, war.
Whether one supported the Iraq War does not change the idea the United States must be prepared to win any war at any time.
And war is hardly ever a circumstance of convenience. As Talent wisely writes, war is often something not anticipated — even with a non-interventionist foreign policy.
But Talent’s greatest contribution to the current military budget debate is when he documents the effect of budgetary cuts on the U.S. armed services throughout the 1990s.
Active duty Army was cut almost in half. And the Federal government failed to maintain and purchase equipment used in counter-insurrectionary conflict — which meant a lack of up-armored Humvees much needed in the conflict in Iraq.
And who suffered because of these massive cuts? The men and women of the armed services first and foremost — and America secondly, as a military conflict that should have been won easily, were unnecessarily prolonged.
Lastly, Talent outlines the purpose of American armed services: protect the homeland from direct attack, defend the rights of Americans to trade and travel in the “common” areas of the world (sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace) and maintain power in key regional parts of the world that are of vital American interest. Talent than explains all of these functions are intimately Constitutional; the primary duty of the Federal government.
And of course, Talent shows America’s fiscal woes cannot possibly be blamed on military spending but are due totally to unfunded liabilities on entitlement spending.
All this brings us to libertarians (of which I am one along with Dave Beilstein) and the increasing popularity of a smaller footprint militarily in the world — and from others, like some over at The American Conservative — of an increase in the notion of anti-war conservatives.
Conservatism, which means the preservation of classical liberalism glimpsed through the lens of the U.S. Constitution, is a philosophy of realism — of ideas, which, submit to the reality of the world we in fact live in.
I have never liked the term anti-war. That is like a medical physician being anti-surgery. Surgery is necessary because of the reality of the human body — because of the reality of the human condition.
War too, is necessary because of the reality of nations and people. War is a check on the violent and unjust aggressive nations use to wage against each other.
Certainly, many wars are fought without a submission to wise policy. And I am convinced the United States would be wise to put an end to using war as a “social engineering” tool.
War has its limits and its purposes.
But with all of those prudent considerations — it is simply wise submission to reality that the United States be always prepared for war.