National Security

Why Our Military Forces Aren't Ready for Prime Time

A new report indicates that our military would struggle to fight stronger foes like Russia and China.

John J. Bastiat · Nov. 19, 2018

As if well over a decade of neglect and budget-vampiring weren’t enough evidence, it’s now official: The U.S. faces a “crisis of national security.” That’s the blunt verdict from the National Defense Strategy Commission (NDSC), the bipartisan, independent assessment board formed by the House and Senate Armed Services committees. Unlike previous go-along-to-get-along reports that attempted to “make nice” with both sides of the political aisle, this report pulled no punches, estimating that the U.S. would be hard-pressed to fight more than one major conflict at a time and might even lose a war against either China or Russia.

Never at the top of any Democrat president’s priority list, national defense took an especially precipitous plunge during the Obama administration’s so-called “sequestration” budget pogroms. Barack Obama insisted that national security be placed on the same level as prison work-release programs, food stamps, and other Democrat “pet rocks” — every dollar cut from a “social” good had to be matched with a dollar cut from national defense. Thus, defense suffered asymmetrically deep cuts. Of course, the NDSC cited lack of funding as a primary culprit to the current crisis — but it wasn’t the only one.

The report also noted that while the U.S. has been focused on fighting smaller, counterinsurgency conflicts and combating terrorism in hot spots abroad, “our enemies have developed new ways of defeating U.S. forces.” As a result, “America is losing its advantage in key war-fighting areas such as power projection, air and missile defense, cyber and space operations, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, long-range ground-based fires, and electronic warfare.” Punctuating the forest-for-the-trees loss of the Big Picture suffered by upper-echelon military strategists and policymakers, the report further observed, “Many of the skills necessary to plan for and conduct military operations against capable adversaries — especially China and Russia — have atrophied.” That’s putting it mildly.

Naturally, the Left totally miscasts both the issue and the solution. Sometimes, leftist rhetoric even seeps into otherwise conservative areas. The Daily Wire’s Joseph Curl, for instance, smugly explains that “so-called ‘entitlements’ … are actually the programs that make America America.” So socialist income-redistribution programs make America America? But, we are told, “Americans are right to be wary of the U.S. war operation” that — using the magical accounting method of “a new study” from that bastion of conservative thought, the Watson Institute at Brown University — cost $6 trillion since 9/11. In other words, throwing trillions at entitlement programs is fine, but spending to defend the nation? That’s another story!

To only slightly exaggerate, it seems the study’s numbers include anything even remotely “war-related,” including Grandma’s new dentures to replace the old ones she spit out in anger after watching TV and seeing all the horrible things our military is doing over there. Seriously, though: Their accounting wasn’t even close.

But why not, then? Shouldn’t we get to tally up the costs of all the addicts, convicts, and life-drop-outs the Left has foisted on America since LBJ’s failed “Great Society”? Wouldn’t we then have an apples-to-apples comparison of the so-called “real” costs between constitutional defense spending and the social programs that have raised our operating debt to $22 trillion and our unfunded liabilities to over $200 trillion? It’s also interesting to note how the Left can so skew its worldview as to lump its social-program costs into costs actually used to maintain national security. Perhaps these defense funds should be allocated to better purposes or used more efficiently, but defense spending is just that: Spending on defense.

The Pentagon recognizes the fiscal problems associated with accounting for global military operations in the context of the modernization and sustainment needs of a strong defense force. Accordingly, using an army of 1,200 auditors, it just completed its first-ever audit. Again, leftists were drawn to attacks on the character of the U.S. military like flies to poo. For example, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) declared, “The unchecked waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon is an insult to the American people.” No, the insult is a Democrat Party that would rather buy votes with redistributed income than defend our nation.

That the Department of Defense was willing to conduct an introspective into getting its house in order is worthy of praise, not condemnation. Such an audit was high on President Donald Trump’s “to-do” list and the fact he was able to convince the Pentagon to do it is also worth noting.

Finally, back to the report on American military readiness. It concludes with this ominous warning: “The costs of failing to meet America’s crisis of national defense and national security will not be measured in abstract concepts like ‘international stability’ and ‘global order.’ They will be measured in American lives, American treasure, and American security and prosperity lost. It will be a tragedy — of unforeseeable but perhaps tremendous magnitude — if the United States allows its national interests and national security to be compromised through an unwillingness or inability to make hard choices and necessary investments. The tragedy will be all the more regrettable because it is in our power to avoid it.”

Translation: We had better get our act together quickly or we may not have an act to get together at all.

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