The Obama administration’s defense budget portends strategic decline.
The Big Squeeze
BY Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly
June 7, 2010
On the 65th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe in early May, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. His speech was not about America’s unprecedented, massive marshalling of resources, men, and materiel to defeat the forces of fascism that threatened to overwhelm the West. Instead, its underlying message was ultimately one of strategic retreat—signaling his and the Obama administration’s view that the richest country in the world can no longer afford to sustain the military’s current force structure and capabilities.
Channeling his inner President Eisenhower, Gates sought to make this message sound not only reasonable but morally justified by belittling Washington, the town where he has spent most of his career. Pandering to those on the left who always see defense spending as dangerous, he raised anew Eisenhower’s overwrought concern about the creation of a “garrison state” and a “military-industrial complex.” Pandering to those on the right who see the Pentagon as a gigantic sink hole for tax dollars, he dredged up the old saw about the Pentagon being a “Puzzle Palace” and stated that “the attacks of September 11, 2001, opened a gusher of defense spending.”
The secretary—along with the Obama administration—wants Americans to believe there is no choice but to cut the defense budget given economic and fiscal realities. Just as there is no crying in baseball, however, there are no inevitabilities in politics. The administration is indeed squeezing defense spending more and more tightly, but that is a product of decisions made and policies chosen. They can and should be revisited. the rest