The editorial Defense in the 21st Century, (Aug. 21) was a courageous, if subtle, attempt by the Times to tell the would-be emperors that they have no clothes. Strangely, at this point in U.S. history, we have a bipartisan consensus among the presidential candidates to further inflate an already bloated defense budget during a post-Cold War era when no worthy enemies are on the horizon. All of that excessive defense spending is occurring in a country with perhaps the most secure geostrategic position in world history (the United States has two vast oceans as moats on the east and west, two friendly neighbors on the north and south, and the most capable nuclear force on the planet.)
The Times seems to advocate dumping the questionable requirement to fight two wars simultaneously for a 1+ war requirement. According to the Times, the United States should be ready to fight one war on short notice with four to five Army divisions, five Air Force air wings, and three aircraft carrier battle groups, while relying on reserve air power--eight reserve air wings--to give the country time to mobilize the rest of its reserve forces for an unlikely simultaneous second conflict. But the United States currently has 10 Army divisions, about 12 active and eight reserve air wings, and 12 carrier battle groups. The implication of such a significant cut in force structure is clear: the defense budget could be reduced significantly. In fact, even if the United States cut defense spending by about 40 percent, it would still be spending about three times what the second ranking nation spends. These facts have apparently eluded the two candidates in their dash for votes.
Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.
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