A Trump Mandate: Restore America's Military Strength

It'll take some time to undo eight years of damage.

James Shott · Jan. 24, 2017

Everyone knows that the U.S. military is critical to the nation’s security, and that it’s also important how foreign countries perceive America’s strength. That perception of our military and its civilian leadership can encourage careful, thoughtful and peaceful behavior by other countries, or a cavalier, carefree “we’ll do as we please” approach. We might also mention that national defense is one of the few duties our federal government engages in that’s actually enumerated in the Constitution. Health care? Nope. Education? Nope. Military? Definitely.

Now that the Barack Obama presidency is over, we must begin restoring the military and the world’s perception of America’s strength, both of which have been severely damaged over the last eight years. The security of not just our nation, but also of the world to a large degree, depend upon a strong America.

Back in 2015 Obama stated that the U.S. is now "the most respected country on Earth" thanks to his administration. That comment drew ire and fire from many quarters. For example, Charles Krauthammer wondered “what planet he’s living on,” and pointed out that "allies who’ve depended on us for so long are finding themselves left hanging in the wind.“

Two years ago, The Heritage Foundation said this about funding for the military: "Consecutive years of across-the-board budget cuts have significantly weakened the U.S. military. The military will likely need several years of reinvestment to return to a sound footing.”

Indeed, as with Obama’s other messes, it has taken years to get here and it’s going to take more than one election cycle to get out of it.

It’s instructive to look at just how Obama’s eight years have affected the Armed Forces from the perspective of active members of the military.

A poll conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families was a voluntary, confidential survey taken by 1,664 active members of the U.S. Armed Forces. It reflects that 51.5% of those responding had a generally unfavorable view of Barack Obama’s presidency, and that 29.1% had a very unfavorable view, the largest response of the five possible answers.

The Marine Corps had the strongest level of disapproval at 60.3%, followed by the Army at 53.0%, the Air Force at 49.6%, and the Navy was the least disapproving at 45.9%. Enlisted service members had a 52.1% disapproval rate, while 48.8% of commissioned officers disapproved.

Asked how Obama’s social engineering affected readiness, participants responded that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” helped, while it hurt to force gender integration within combat units and to allow transgenders to serve openly. Feeding the last item was a major motivator in Obama’s commuting Bradley Manning’s sentence.

Survey participants also believe the U.S. is less safe because of drawdowns from Iraq (59%) and Afghanistan (54%), and less emphasis on large-scale overseas missions (42%), but more safe from greater reliance on special forces (58%) and training missions (51%). And they believe the top four significant threats to the U.S. come from the Islamic State and al-Qaida (70%), domestic Islamic terrorists (67%), China (64%) and Iran (49%).

Obama has made all those threats worse.

They say the military is smaller and weaker, and the threats against the nation have increased.

In a campaign speech last September, candidate Trump outlined his view of the U.S. military. He promised to ask military brass to present a plan soon after he takes office to defeat and destroy the Islamic State. And he pledged to work with Congress to eliminate the last vestiges of the defense sequester.

Among the goals he seeks are: Building an active Army of about 540,000; a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions; a Navy nearing 350 surface ships and submarines; an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft; and developing a new state-of-the-art missile defense system. (Recruiting is easier said than done, however.) And he intends to offset the spending for these goals by cutting waste and streamlining the bureaucracy, rather than increases in the $600 billion or so spent each year on the military. (There is, after all, some waste at the Pentagon too.)

“I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna mess with us,” Trump said in a video posted on his campaign website. Not exactly as eloquent as Ronald Reagan’s promise of “peace through strength,” but it’ll get the job done.

Along those lines, Trump’s choice to run the Defense Department is retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who was confirmed by the Senate Monday. Mattis is a man well respected for his service and expertise, and he’s expected to operationally strengthen all Armed Forces.

A strong military is just smart: Better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it. We now have a president who understands that a strong military presence can solve a host of problems before they ever materialize. And a president who strongly and unwaveringly supports what is good for America is a great improvement over the weak and tragic performance of the last eight years.

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