Who To Blame for Defense Cuts?

August 1st, 2011 at 4:17 pm | 62 Comments |

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Unlike David Frum, stuff I don’t blame the Tea Party for a budget deal that promises, seek ultimately, ampoule to:

(a)   gut the defense budget;

(b)   seriously limit America’s ability to project military power; and

(c)   undermine our national security.

The Tea Party, after all, isn’t interested in cutting the defense budget; it’s interested in containing our crushing debt burden, which is caused by explosive growth in entitlements, not defense.

True, with Obama as president, a political compromise required that the Republicans “give up” something, either tax hikes or defense cuts; and congressional negotiators chose the latter. But while that says a lot about Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Boehner, and McConnell, it says little about the Tea Party.

In fact, if the Tea Party had been able to craft a budget deal, I think it’s safe to say that the defense budget would not have been targeted.

So I don’t blame the Tea Party. Instead, I blame the GOP establishment — and especially so-called defense hawks such as Senator John McCain — which has given short shrift to actually understanding the defense budget. Their lack of substantive knowledge and inattention to detail have caused them to acquiesce to ill-advised defense cuts.

“Surely, there must be waste and fat in the defense budget,” say these Republicans (and some conservatives). “So why should defense be exempt from the budget scalpel?”

That sounds so appealing, but it’s a sentiment, not a thought: Because if you ask these Republicans to identify the “waste” and “fat” that they would cut, they quickly get tongue tied. They can’t spell out any specifics.

Of course, the defense budget surely can be made more efficient. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), for instance, estimates that the Pentagon could save as much as $32 billion annually if it simply adopted a public-private partnership for performance-based logistics.

But as the Heritage Foundation points out, that’s not happening because current law severely restricts the amount of money that can be allocated to private contractors who perform depot-level maintenance.

Unfortunately, no one in Congress is talking about changing the law to modernize defense logistics work. “Overpaid contractors,” after all, have become the favorite bogeyman of the Left, and the Right is largely uninterested in defense.

Veterans benefits and military pay are also off limits — literally. Thus here, too, commonsense, market-oriented reform seems impossible, thanks to the budget deal. Yet pay and benefits — and especially healthcare — are the fastest growing parts of the defense budget.

“Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service,” writes defense analyst Thomas Donnelly,

has calculated that the costs of military pay and benefits, even after adjusting for inflation, have risen from $55,000 per individual service member in 1998 to $80,000 in 2009. When health care costs are included, the figure rises to more than $100,000 per year. That’s before training or equipping anyone – these are just the costs of being present.

Military healthcare costs, adds Donnelly, have tripled — from about four percent of defense spending at the end of the Cold War to a projected 15 percent in 2015. And so, a greater share of the defense budget is being spent on personnel vice weapons.

Of course, no one is arguing for actual cuts in military pay and benefits. But reform of the system is long overdue.

For example, the Bowles-Simpson commission — whose recommendations Obama completely ignored — recommended delaying costly military retirement pay until age 60, while reducing the vesting period from 20 years to 10 years. The commission also recommended a modest increase in healthcare fees for military retirees.

But now it seems, thanks to the budget deal, such reforms are off the table and not even subject to discussion or negotiation. Instead, we’re going to cut core defense capabilities — i.e., military weapon systems and force structure — to meet arbitrary budget targets.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.

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62 Comments so far ↓

  • armstp

    John your whining is getting old. A simple question for you John: Why do we need this level of military spending?

    The defense budget needs to be cut. We can no longer afford this level of defense and military. Period. It is pretty simple. There really is nothing to argue about.

  • dugfromthearth

    Having read this article I am unclear why it does not have “not the Onion” headline.

    Is this from the Onion? Or is this just Frum Forum’s brilliant satire of the sheer insanity of the right wing which judges itself constantly and finds itself pure and blameless?

    It is truly brilliant. I mean only in jest could someone write “it’s interested in containing our crushing debt burden” about a movement dedicated to increasing the debt by cutting taxes?

    I think Colbert has real competition here in satirizing the right wing point of view.

    • talkradiosucks.com

      It’s John Guardiano. This is 90% of his output. He works in the defense industry and is utterly shameless about making clear which side of his bread is buttered.

      • John Guardiano

        Nice try, but you’re wrong: I do not work in the defense industry — unless you count my my Marine Corps service in Iraq as work for the “defense industry,” and unless you county my current military reserve service as work for the “military-industry complex.”

        It is true that I once worked for a defense company that provided support services to a U.S. military command. I was proud of my work then, and I am proud of my work now. But my public writing had nothing whatsoever to do with that work, and my views did not change because of that assignment.

        Instead of impugning my motives for writing, why not try to address the sum and substance of my argument? I know that requires more thought and brain power than you typically exhibit; but with time and effort, I’m sure you can make at least a few legitimate points.

        • TerryF98

          Our current defense and security spending is somewhere between 750 Billion and 1.2 Trillion depending on what you include in the category. Under Clinton it was 320 Billion.

          Bush more than doubled and possibly trebled the defense budget in 8 years.

          The question for John once again.

          What in your opinion is the correct amount of dollars the USA should spend on defense and how do you intend to raise that money.

          I have asked you this on every one of your threads bleating about possible reductions in spending and you have refused to answer.

          So I ask you once again.

        • dugfromthearth

          I will take your challenge.
          You wrote the budget deal will: “gut the defense budget”
          Your support for this analysis was: ” ”
          My rebuttal is ” ”

          You wrote the budget deal will: “seriously limit America’s ability to project military power”
          Your support for this analysis was: ” ”
          My rebuttal is ” ”

          You wrote the budget deal will: “undermine our national security”
          Your support for this analysis was: ” ”
          My rebuttal is ” ”

          It is not difficult to the address the substance of your argument when you have zero substance to your argument. Do you really think that making three unsubstantiated claims qualifies as an argument?

        • Nanotek

          “I know that requires more thought and brain power than you typically exhibit; but with time and effort, I’m sure you can make at least a few legitimate points.”

          An enterprise you may want to familiarize yourself with, as well. As a strong proponent of a powerful and effective US military, I find little-to-no use in your constant recitation of talking points: (1) any diminution in the money allocated to the DOD is always bad (2) Obama is always to blame and (3) (now) the Tea Party (conservative Republicans) is good. If you can point to contrary history, I’m eager to see it.

          Every needless cent spent ineffectively on defense comes out of someone’s hide.

          “Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” Pres. Dwight Eisenhower (April 1953, Washington, D.C.)

          dugfromthearth + 1

        • advocatusdiaboli

          Well you ought to work for them with all the water carrying in you do for the industry. One rarely, if ever, sees such zealousness from someone uncompensated for a point of view unless they are irrational.

        • andydp

          John I’ll say it again: I have nothing but praise for your wartime/combat service but…your writing and “strategic” thinking tells me you’ve never gotten past the Battalion TOC stage. I’ve worked at higher leves and have 28 years of Service. Your analyses are very reminiscent of those from Junior Officers and NCOs.
          In this instance, you have failed to show why cuts to the Defence budget stretched out over ten years are going to undermine our security.
          You anwer you don’t work in the “Defence Industry”. I believe that. I think you work for a “think tank” that does work for a Defence entity therefore you can state you don’t work for a contractor.(“plausible denial”)

  • Gus

    Thank you for making the case better than I could have that the Tea Party has no interest in reducing spending.

  • rbottoms

    Because we need more aircraft carriers and F16′s to fight the Al Queda Navy & Air Force.

    Now that they have those cool phasers they are almost unstoppable.

  • balconesfault

    Last I checked, literally hundreds of millions of Americans accepted payroll deductions from their paychecks dedicated to creating funds for Social Security and Medicare coverage. A lesser but significant number of military personnel accepted lower than market pay with the promise of benefits packages at the end of their service.

    I don’t remember anyone accepting deferral of some portion of each paycheck they’ve ever received in order to pay for a larger military.

    THAT’s why military spending has to be on the table, while some other things are not. The Government never took money from the public with the committment that it would be used to ensure we’d never miss spending on a weapons program that John Guardiano liked. Perhaps you should push for a bill that says that, and it would be worthy of the same protections as the programs you despise.

  • mlindroo

    “The Tea Party, after all, isn’t interested in cutting the defense budget; it’s interested in containing our crushing debt burden,”

    Nonsense. The Tea Party cares about the “explosive growth of government” more than anything else — not the national debt. These folks typically prefer large tax cuts and smaller gov’t spending cuts even if it increases the deficit.


  • Oldskool

    This just in: those projecting military power days are over. And you can largely thank your party’s insistance on invading Iraq which has cost what, $2 trillion? And all it did was blow the budget and cost us our credibility along with hundreds-of-thousands of unecessary deaths. A conservative person would say it was a very bad investment.

    • Raskolnik

      Haha $2 trillion for Iraq? Yeah, in the first 5 years we were there. Stiglitz says it’s $3 trillion and counting.

  • valkayec

    JG, you might want to rethink your thesis on the Tea Party. In fact, dozens of leading Republican lawmakers, conservative leaders, and Tea Party activists have publicly called for defense cuts in recent months:

    – Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA) told a local news station that reducing the deficit “begins with the Department of Defense.”

    – Sen. Pat Toomey (PA) criticized Congress for voting for “programs the Pentagon doesn’t even want.” “We want to make sure men and women put in harm’s way have the resources they need. That doesn’t mean the entire defense budget has to be taken off the table.”

    – Sen. Rand Paul (KY) told PBS that cutting defense spending “has to be on the table.” He also tweaked Republicans for “never” saying “they’ll cut anything out of military. … There’s still waste in the military budget. You have to make it smaller.”

    – Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) wrote in the Washington Times: “Republicans should resist pressure to take all defense spending off the table. … Taking defense spending off the table is indefensible. We need to protect our nation, not the Pentagon’s sacred cows.”

    – Sen. Mark Kirk (IL) said that we need “across-the-board” spending cuts, including defense.

    – Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) said on Fox News Sunday that he didn’t think “anything ought to be off-limits for the effort to reduce spending.” “I don’t think we ought to start out with the notion that a whole lot of areas in the budget are exempt from reducing spending, which is what we really need to do and do it quickly.”

    – Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said everything, including defense cuts, “should be on the table.”

    – Sen. Bob Corker (TN) said on CNBC that defense cuts have to be “on the table” because there’s “a lot of waste there.”

    – Rep. John Campbell (CA) said the “military [must] keep ourselves safe, but know we don’t have unlimited resources. … The Defense Department should not be a jobs program.”

    – Tea Party Rep. Chris Gibson (NY), a former Army Colonol: “This deficit that we have threatens our very way of life, and everything needs to be on the table.”

    – 23 Conservative Leaders, including Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips, and FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe, wrote in a letter to Congress that “Department of Defense spending, in particular, has been provided protected status that has isolated it from serious scrutiny and allowed the Pentagon to waste billions in taxpayer money.”

    – Former GOP House Leader Dick Armey: “A lot of people say if you cut defense, you’re demonstrating less than a full commitment to our nation’s security, and that’s baloney.”

    – Tea Party Patriots’ Mark Meckler: “I have yet to hear anyone say, ‘We can’t touch defense spending, or any other issue.’ … Any tea partier who says something else lacks integrity.”

    • DeathByIrony

      Valkayec details the chief sticking point here: Tea Party and Republican figures support cutting of defense spending, because they are as distinctly unable to point “Waste, Fraud and Abuse” as Democrats.
      Why? Because such a debate is generous to arguments borne of sentiment, and hostile to arguments derived from anything resembling empiricism

      Mr. Guardiano, I won’t go so far as to say your articles are without any facts whatsoever, but you largely only provide support for trivial assertions, while leaving your more salient points fluttering in the wind. What good is conjecture by itself?

      • valkayec

        Regardless, JG said the Tea Party did not support defense cuts. This list obviously denies the credibility of his statement. In addition, after Jennifer Rubin published to her blog that fortunately defense spending would be safe guarded, her commenters, all GOP & Tea Party
        supporters, bellowed. They demanded cuts to defense as well. JG may not like it, but a great many Tea Party people do support big defense cuts, getting out of Afghanistan & Iraq, ended the military actions in Libya, and closing down many bases around the world. A large segment of the Tea Party are isolationists. That JG doesn’t want to believe that is problematic for him. But I find it a bit humorous.

  • _will_

    christ almighty you are a moron

  • sublime33

    The Tea Party could give two hoots about the deficit. They are solely concerned with the lowest possible tax bill for themselves. They never cared about deficits until Obama was elected. If they did, there would have been dozens of active Tea Party chapters opened by 2005 when the deficit really started to explode. It really isn’t that complicated.

    • LauraNo

      I don’t actually think they care about taxes either. They have been trained to think the enemy is government and taxes fund said government, ergo…I can’t help thinking that as the size of minority groups grow, this frustrated anger we see in some people just keeps growing, since Reagan granted amnesty you could probably chart it (it you knew how as I don’t). Too bad some leader doesn’t step up and try to calm them down. I always gave George Bush credit for calming the same people down about Muslims back then. Are no grown-ups out there?

  • medinnus

    it is impossible to believe in Small Government and yet pursue aggressive NeoCon Pro-Perpetual War policies.

    JG, you make the same contention over and over, that “Cutting defense spending imperils our nation”; given that we spend over twice what the rest of the world combined spends, how would cutting the Defense budget by 15% for ten years hurt our ability to protect ourselves?

    PS — “Invading other countries at our whim” is not a valid answer.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “Nice try, but you’re wrong: I do not work in the defense industry — unless you count my my Marine Corps service in Iraq as work for the “defense industry,” and unless you county my current military reserve service as work for the “military-industry complex.””

    Well, if you are not *currently* working in the defense industry, then I apologize. But you have in the past. And it seems remarkably hard to find any information about exactly whom you do work for now, beyond your claim of being an “analyst”. I highly doubt you’re paying the bills with an article a month at FrumForum and the American Spectator, but maybe these gigs pay more than I thought.

    “It is true that I once worked for a defense company that provided support services to a U.S. military command. I was proud of my work then, and I am proud of my work now. But my public writing had nothing whatsoever to do with that work, and my views did not change because of that assignment.”

    Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that you don’t seem to believe in the concept of “conflict of interest”. Thus there was that incident where you wrote a piece in the Washington Times about a defence contract involving a company you used to work for, and didn’t disclose it. Media Matters caught you on that, and you responded oh-so-cleverly by implying that your former work for the company you were writing about was as relevant as the fact that your “favorite food is pizza”: http://mediamatters.org/research/200905220023

    It’s funny, because where I come from, most people *do* think it is important for things like this to be disclosed. They don’t think it’s a joke.

    They understand that the issue is not impugning motives, but understanding what interests a writer has in the position he is putting forth. Even the fact that you are in the reserves is relevant given that pretty much all you ever argue for is expanding the military.

    “Instead of impugning my motives for writing, why not try to address the sum and substance of my argument? I know that requires more thought and brain power than you typically exhibit; but with time and effort, I’m sure you can make at least a few legitimate points.”

    Maybe it’s because it would be a waste of time. Your articles are all based on an underlying, never-supported belief that the US military should endlessly expand until we have a presence in every place on the globe. This viewpoint is pretty much a religious doctrine with you, and it undermines any ability that I or any other rational person might have to discuss these issues rationally. It would be like seeing an article from someone that starts with “The earth is flat, therefore…” and then spending time arguing about what happens after that. What would be the point?

    You refuse to ever question the underlying assumption: that it is in America’s interests to keep pumping up the military endlessly, when we already spend more than everyone else combined.

    Maybe it’s because you write about things you clearly know nothing about — I detest the “tea party” but even I know that a very large percentage of them *do* favor cutting the military budget.

    Maybe it’s because you tend to ignore serious rebuttals to your articles.

    Maybe it’s because you’ve shown yourself to be an unserious person not worthy of spending a great deal of time on in the past, such as with your silly tweets going on about how reneging on our debt would provide a good buying opportunity in the stock market.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    if there had been a clean debt hike none of this would have happened. This is a simple fact. Boehner and Republicans can have simply caved into tax hikes but made the demand that all that money go to defense alone. Democrats would have rushed to sign off on this (after all, money is fungible, regular taxes would have paid for everything else)

    Teabaggers are idiots, you supported the teabaggers, your support of the teabaggers has come back to bite you in the ass, and now you come crying to your readers. Too funny.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    I have also noticed that Guardiano never talks about the wars in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. any more. Very bizarre. I think he is afraid to realize that future wars will be more along the line of Libya which are likely to be far more successful and require far, far less resources. As to Libya, the rebels are in Brega, on the doorstep of Zliten and Gharyan, all of this with no Nato casualties.

  • Rob_654

    Of course we should cut defense spending.

    And yes, the Tea Party as a whole does believe Defense Spending should certainly be cut.

  • think4yourself

    JG, nice to hear from you. And consistent as always.

    “…I blame the GOP establishment — and especially so-called defense hawks such as Senator John McCain — which has given short shrift to actually understanding the defense budget.”

    Now sometimes I agree with McCain and many times I don’t. But, I’m guessing his understanding of the defense budget far surpasses yours and mine. He is a 22 year Navy veteran and has spent 24 years on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and is the ranking member. John, you just don’t like his conclusions.

    As others and I have asked here and before, what is the basis for your conclusions? We spend more than the next 14 nations combined (not including things like Homeland Security and Veterans Benefits) and most of those are our historic allies. What specifically are the reasons and on what needs should we spend more on our military then we currently do?

    I will agree about military pay, it has shot up dramatically. The reasons are many, first people who would have inlisted or re-inlisted decided that they liked a miltary career, but didn’t like getting killed, which is what happens when you have decade long wars – so the cost or recruitment and retainment sky-rocketed. We also learned that our all volunteer force was light on people with specific skills (such as linquists) and it required more money to recruit people with certain skills. Frankly, these costs will go down as we wind down these two conflicts. You are also right about military health and retirement benefits. As with trade unions, there has been a huge push in what are now unfunded liabilities. You are correct that these ought to be addresses, but it is important not to change the deal after the fact “Fred I’m sorry you’re a paraplegic from that IED, however you now have to pay a 20% copay for every medical treatment.” But, some modification in future benefits should be considered.

    • advocatusdiaboli

      “But, some modification in future benefits should be considered.”

      If we only fought clearly defensive wars (the last one was WW2) then people would serve with honor and not as a profession demanding high pay for risk. So the answer is simple—stop prosecuting pointless wars like the two we are in and the third Obama might drag us into. People will rally to defend, but that’s not described any war since WW2 at all. Ever.

  • Redrabbit

    The situation is quite simple, John.

    It has been clear for a very long time that a massive security state/apparatus, at home and abroad, could not exist alongside massive tax cuts and their resulting deficits. The GOP had to make a decision as to which one they wanted, and last night, they made such a decision. They threw your prize issue under the bus to keep their tax cuts (which will probably not work anyway, since eventual gridlock will lead to the Bush tax cuts expiring).

    You don’t like it? Then convince them to allow revenue increases to pay for the security state.

  • seeker656

    This is just the beginning. Wait until we go further down this path and spending cuts are no longer an abstract idea but a clearly defined reality. The Tea Party folks will be screaming loudly as their favorite government benefits are reduced.

    • Redrabbit

      The funny thing is…many teabaggers support defense cuts. Well, maybe not ‘many’, but there are clearly a noteworthy number of them who do.

      But cutting defense spending could eventually have impacts on local economies where military contractors, bases, etc. play a role. That impact will be felt most of all in the red states.

      • dansmith17

        They are screaming loudly for a Balanced Budget ammendment, one of the reasons that is a bad idea is it would be very difficult to run a suurplus on a regular basis as every 2 years politicans will be campaigning for Tax cuts to give the money back to the people so at most you will run a very small surplus. Then comes along a recession and very quickly income from Tax falls off a cliff and demand from safety net programmes such as Unemployment climbs and as most states and cities also have to balance their budgets so have to lay off cops and teachers without Federal help which will not be available.

        So we will be in a position of in a single year income falls by as much as 1-2% of GDP and and that would have to be taken out of expenditure immediatly, that would see sudden slash and burn defense cuts made based on the next recession that comes along as “thou slat not borrow”

  • drdredel

    I would very much like to see the analysis of which defense programs, itemized and detailed, “protect us” in some even marginally relevant way.

    I am willing to concede (as I did on a previous thread) that when weekend amateur sailors get stranded in San Francisco Bay, it’s nice that the coast guard is there to issue radio messages to other boaters to look out for them and give them a lift, if they can.

    Beyond this our military appears to be just about a total waste of “defense” dollars.

    Now, if John was willing to say honestly that the reason we need to spend this money is that hundreds of thousands of uneducated and unskilled workers like himself need a government assistance program (as well as the vast troops of employees of the companies that build all our useless doohickies), I would applaud him for his honesty (if not for his unbridled selfishness, for allowing the nation to struggle on its knees to support the most obscene welfare state in the history of Socialist experiments).

    Only someone bent on wholesale wealth redistribution could be in favor of what we currently call our “defense” budget. And only someone completely brainwashed could claim with any seriousness that our military is in any way useful to us for the purpose of defending anything. Again I ask someone to provide a single example where they have come in handy since the fall of the USSR and how we should expect them to come in handy again in the future… against which particular state actors and in which exact circumstances.

    • Redrabbit

      The coast guard obviously has a major role to play. In fact, considering the reality that most terror attacks are small scale, then a more ‘patrol’ based model of that nature is certainly more useful in stopping them than, say, much of what the air force offers. Hell, the Coast Guard are almost like traffic cops for American waters. (I don’t mean that as an insult to the coast guard at all. I actually think they provide a more useful role than much of the rest of the military, what with dealing with drug boats, smuggling, etc.)

      Still, at least we freed the Iraqi people. (I still can’t believe so many people argued that this was the reason we went to war in Iraq.)

      • drdredel

        I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the Iraqi people. On masse we freed a shit-load of them from unwanted limbs and family members and left them in a massive mess. But whatever… let’s imagine that Iraq today is identical to Austria. We took a despotic regime and we turned it into Austria. Great. That sounds really swell! However, it totally broke us. Now we can’t afford to educate our own kids. So… in hind sight, we couldn’t afford to do this. Therefore it was a mistake. A really well intentioned and massively useful mistake. Remember this is with Iraq now being Austria. (please don’t make me explain how Iraq isn’t Austria… or even Bulgaria).

        This is how it is for the vast majority of our “defense” spending. It actually produces a wealth of really positive results. Hundreds of thousands of people are fed, clothed, provided medical care, given some basic life training, etc. That’s great! And then there are the supporting corporations! Millions of people building stuff. They too are buying homes, cars, eating at Roy Rogers (maybe even TGIF)… lovely!
        But then we look at the cost and lo and behold, we can’t afford to keep redistributing money in this way. I’m saying this as someone that thinks Social programs are AWESOME! I think we should have higher taxes and free education, and socialized medicine and yadda yadda… but THIS level of wealth redistribution is one we simply can’t afford.
        We can’t afford 1/2 of it! We can’t afford 1/10th! And if we could, then there are much better ways to offer that money to those that need it. Much more direct ways. Much more productive ways. And we don’t need to fly around the globe separating people from their limbs to do it, either!

        Mind you, I’m not in any way a pacifist. But the prevailing mantra that we are going to put ourselves in grave danger if we don’t have our massive military is unsupported by any, even marginally, reasonable evidence. No one has threatened (or planned) to invade us since WWII. No current State has any desire or means to do so in any near term. Are we worried that China is coming here to take over? Pakistan? Mexico? Seriously… I feel like I’m in an insane asylum arguing that we don’t need to worry about Napoleon. WHICH threat are we paying hundreds of billions of dollars to protect against? Are we worried about an alien invasion? Night of the living Dead? Someone, help me out here!

        • Redrabbit

          I concur with pretty much everything you said. The whole ‘free the Iraqi people’ thing really annoyed me during 03-04 due to several reasons.

          First, it was obvious that MANY people making that argument, from the base to the beltway, never gave a damn about anyone living in Iraq. It was a useful argument.

          Second, I never, ever, once got an answer, not even a bad one, as to why we had to prioritize Iraq over some other nation where the people suffered under a dictator. There were many to choose from, but those committed to the supposedly humanitarian angle of the invasion never once had an answer as to why Iraq took priority over anywhere else.

          Third, I became pretty cynical and annoyed very quickly at the shifting explanations for why we invaded and the fact that so few supporters could settle on a reason. At this point, I’m convinced that freedom, oil, terrorism, etc. were all incidental and that, after a certain point, no one in any position of power had any idea why they were waging that war anymore. Eventually, it seemed like the war kept going, and the justifications kept being repeated, because no one supporting or prosecuting it wanted to admit they were wrong.

          As for who is going to invade us…man. No one doesn’t even begin to cover it. Think of it like this; list all the developing nations who we see as competitors, or even the nations we see as our allies. When was the last time any of them fought a war? When was the last time any of them dealt with anything other than a natural disaster, some protestors, or, at worst, a moderately large crime syndicate/conspiracy of some kind? As you said, none of them have anything approaching the capacity to invade us, and none of them want to do it. China is usually the scary monster people cite, but even if they could invade use, which they cannot at present, why would they? China STILL needs us as consumers, and that will likely continue for at least another decade.

          The last-resort explanation is usually that we need to be the ‘police force’ of the world. This post-cold-war canard is something we can sort of thank the elder Bush for, both because of Desert Storm and Somalia. (Bush, not Clinton, committed us to that nation.) America has to put out all the fires, etc. I’ve often said we should let everyone else deal with their own problems, and only get involved in the case of a truly massive catastrophe.

        • Frumplestiltskin

          “First, it was obvious that MANY people making that argument, from the base to the beltway, never gave a damn about anyone living in Iraq. It was a useful argument.” Sorry, I do not buy this. If it had not been for my wife and baby I would have tried to work in Iraq, had the war happened 5 years earlier I would likely have gone there. It might be true of some chickenhawks, but do you really think the soldiers posted there were not dedicated to the mission?

          “Second, I never, ever, once got an answer, not even a bad one, as to why we had to prioritize Iraq over some other nation where the people suffered under a dictator.”
          Well, you did not talk to anyone apparently. Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and Kuwait in succession. As a consequence of his actions we had to station troops in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Tell me what other countries invaded other countries, much less in the critical Middle east where our reliance on oil is so great? Hussein never showed any capacity to learn, he and his family was likely to remain a cancer in the Middle east for another generation. Hussein also tried to kill former President George H. W. Bush. The continuing expense of the no fly zone over Kurdistan was also expensive. The only other leader who was removed in such a manner was Milosevic who also caused regional instability.

          Now I am not saying we had to invade Iraq, but we certainly had plenty of reasons to want to see an end to the Hussein regime. Had Bush not been such a disaster in execution the war could have been a success, or at the very least not a huge drain on our resources. As I mentioned above the Gaddhafi regime is not long for the world and it looks as though the replacement regime will be a vast improvement, all at a very small cost to us with long term benefits (or have you forgotten Lockerbie?)

          And the US is not the only police of the world, France recently basically resolved the crisis in the Ivory Coast. In Europe Nato handled Milosevic very well and is handling Libya. The UN peacekeepers (though flawed in many ways) has also done a great deal of work. However the US is the only power that can keep vital shipping lanes open worldwide. Do you really want Somali pirates to drive up the cost of oil even more?

        • drdredel


          “Do you really want Somali pirates to drive up the cost of oil even more?”

          I realize you weren’t addressing my point, but the answer to your question is that this is not the right question. Do I really want a $140,000 Porsche 911 S4 convertible? YES! Would it be really nice to have? YES! Would it make me really happy to drive around in? YES! Will I have to settle for a BMW 325i while the Porsche is not a vehicle I can afford at the moment? Sadly yes.

          The argument is never framed in terms of what can we afford and is what we get worth what we pay. If you’re asking if it’s worth it to break the back of our nation, economically to reduce Somali piracy, the answer is a pretty obvious “absolutely not!”.

  • tommybones

    I’ll let Ike explain:

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • tommybones

    Or MLK Jr.:

    “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    ….And yet another Guardiano thread approaches the end of its shelf life. Same outcome as always: shoddy writing filled with glaring errors and unsubtantiated claims, ripped to shreds by superior thinkers whose arguments Guardiano ignores while simultaneously whining about how he wants people to “address the substance”.

    He always has time for banal tweeting, though.

    I really hope Guardiano has some pictures of Frum in a compromising position. The alternative is too painful to contemplate.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    TRS, I think the problem with JG is he is wedded to old line military strategy, as though it was still the 1980s and we had to worry about the Soviets taking West Berlin. The sad thing is he never even learned from the commies about how to get a far greater bang for the buck, despite a very inferior ideology Communism had a great run because they understood how to tailor their efforts to the region they were in. JG is of the mind send in a massive army and turn natives all into Texans, why else spend so much unless you feel the need to have an army capable of occupation?

    (a) gut the defense budget; (yeah, just use the word gut because it is inflammatory, no need to justify this language)

    (b) seriously limit America’s ability to project military power; and (sorry, but bullshit. show me where on this world a US carrier fleet can not be projected to, unless you are worried about a penguin invasion I can not think of any place)

    (c) undermine our national security. (again, mere assertion. Is intelligence being gutted? No. Are the Taliban going to invade the US? No. So much assertion, no backing up of statements)

    The worst thing about JG is I am a hawk but he just makes a mess of it all.

    • Raskolnik

      “The worst thing about JG is I am a hawk but he just makes a mess of it all.”

      Exactly. What JG et al. fail to understand is that perpetual war and an unlimited military budget (to say nothing of a belligerent stance vis-a-vis the rest of the world) makes us less safe, by creating exactly those conditions that will ultimately lead to American deaths.

  • Bunker555

    Mr. Guardiano,

    Can’t tell whether your opinion is bullshit or horseshit? You can’t have it on the same platter, and eat it too. The defense budget needs to be chickenshit compared to investment in the future–> infrastructure, education, and taking care of needy people.

  • Raskolnik


    You claim:

    If you ask these Republicans to identify the “waste” and “fat” that they would cut, they quickly get tongue tied. They can’t spell out any specifics.

    But that is patently false. Cut the JSF, as many in both parties (and even in the Pentagon) have urged. The Chinese are decades behind us in aviation and avionics technology, and the way for us to stay ahead is with advances in radar and composite materials science–where they are even further behind, despite their claims to the contrary. We do not need fancy new jet fighters to outmaneuver the latest MiGs. In fact the MiG-35 was designed with the F-16 and F-18 in mind, we already have F-22 Raptors that are more than a match for “the latest MiGs.” And even in the context of air superiority against an evenly-matched opponent, the value of the JSF as anything other than a very expensive high-tech jobs program is dubious. Development of the JSF has given us a lot of experience and new technology, but it is well past time to call it a day.

    Likewise, what purpose does it serve to have military bases all over Europe? We can easily shut down 50% or more of our European bases, and let European NATO members take care of their own borders, without any loss of national security–while saving a lot of money at the same time. In the longer term, I don’t understand why there needs to be separate NATO and US bases in Europe, if the whole point of NATO is common defense. What we need to do is garrison the Southwest, stick our troops in Arizona and New Mexico, and let NATO do its job in Europe. If a sudden conflict breaks out, we can use the existing infrastructure, but there is no reason why we should be the ones to maintain it in the meanwhile. Let German boys and girls maintain the NATO bases in Germany, let French boys and girls maintain the NATO bases in France.

    Similarly, bemoaning cuts to “military weapons systems” is extremely vague. For someone who criticizes his opponents for their lack of specifics, this is unconscionable. In any case, the bottom line is that most of those “weapons systems” are useless in the kinds of conflicts we are most likely to see in the 21st century, viz. 1) small-scale urban counterterrorist operations, similar to the one that Obama authorized to take out OBL and 2) naval engagements in the Strait of Taiwan and/or the South China Sea. Those “weapons systems” you fetishize are relics of the Cold War, perfectly suited to fighting a ground war in the Caucasus or Ukraine but useless against the Chinese navy.

    It is a general truth that changes to existing hardware are much easier and cheaper to effect than R&D from scratch. AEGIS (for example) is a great system, there is no need to re-invent the wheel here. I could go on, but I should have thought all this to be self-evident to a self-described conservative; but then again, I would have thought the principle that when it comes to spending, quality is more important than quantity, self-evidently true to a conservative. Why is the amount we spend on the military, in your opinion, more important than what we spend it on? Isn’t that the exact opposite of a conservative point of view? Doesn’t that make you sound like one of those spend-as-much-as-you-want liberals?

    He who tries to be strong everywhere, will be strong nowhere.

    –Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    • Nanotek

      Raskolnik + 1

      “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu

    • dansmith17

      One of the problems is people like this would want us to get involved in a ground war in Ukraine and re fight the Tank battle of Kursk in the 21st century. There is a possible risk in the foreseeable future of new government in Russia or Ukraine or both which leads to fight over Crimea or civil war in Ukraine it is very unlikely but not unimaginable, however even if it happened it is not Americas problem Ukraine was part of Russia from before 1776 till 1991 and no one in the US cared, if Russian tanks started to roll in to Kiev it would be bad we should object but we should not be planning to send tanks in the opposite direction.

      In terms of China and Taiwan, there comes a point were it is not worth threatening war with 1/4 of humanity and a nation with an economy of at least equal size to protect Taiwan. While that can be done with the existing fleet from the Reagan build up that is fine, but when the US is refusing to get its debt under control, is the priority to pay more in Defense costs than the population of Taiwan are to protect them from China!

      • Raskolnik

        The problem with China is that it’s not just Taiwan. It’s also India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Burma, and pretty much every other nation in Asia (particularly those bordering the South China Sea but also Pakistan and Nepal). And that is before you consider Tibet and East Turkestan.

        India and China still don’t agree on their border. China has militarized the contested area over Indian objections, but the Indian border territories are just as militarized. Pakistan is happy to receive Chinese military aid as long as they mistakenly think the biggest threat to their continued existence is India, however one wonders how long the situation will persist, and how genuine China’s claims of respect for Pakistan’s territorial integrity will prove.

  • DeathByIrony

    You know, if Frum doesn’t have an opening for a genuine hawk on this site, he really ought to.
    Well done, man. Well done.

  • LFC

    JG babbled… “The Tea Party, after all, isn’t interested in cutting the defense budget; it’s interested in containing our crushing debt burden, which is caused by explosive growth in entitlements, not defense.”

    Here’s a quiz for you, John. How much did the combination of Social Security and Medicare entitlements add to 2010′s deficit? (Cue Jeopardy music.) What is NEGATIVE $30B? That’s right. Their dedicated funding vs. their expenditures actually provided a small surplus.

    I’ll explain what that means, though I don’t expect you do be able or willing to grasp it. It means that we have a $1T+ annual deficit to which entitlements are contributing … NOTHING! That means we currently have too little revenue for too much expenditure outside of entitlements. Since we all know we must service our debt, that means we have to raise general revenue and/or cut other expenses, defense being the single biggest.

    Of course you may be advocating that we cut costs of entitlements to get them into big surplus situations, and then we “borrow” that money to pay for defense a la George W. If that’s what you’re saying, at least grow a tiny pair and say it. All you ever do is your Chicken Little dance about how we can’t cut defense spending. Time to man up and tell us how we’re going to pay for it.

    • dansmith17

      the problem with a lot of these guys is they seem to have a view which is that as Medicare and Social Security were not in the original constitutional settelment they should not exist, they are of themselves bad because the idea of Government doing things is bad, but as you say if you magically make them go away you also make go away the allegedly ringfenced income streams from payroll Tax etc that fund them So it has a negligible impact on the deficit and if you did it right now it makes the deficit worse.

      So he wants his extra Carrier Battle Groups to fight the Martians or wherever the latest scary bogy man from Hollywood comes from and he wants someone else to pay for it.

      Long term entitlements of Social Security and Medicare will become a problem as the % of the population retired and drawing them increases and the % of the working population paying for them shrinks but that is an issue decades away though it is good to plan for it. The deficit TODAY is to do with a doubling or tripling of Defense expenditure and the supposedly temporary Bush Tax cuts coming in just at the point the costs of the war happened.

  • midwest guy

    By focusing on the cost of military personnel rather than the total cost of undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which independent sources have estimated exceed $3 trillion), the article above is skirting the entire issue of so-called defense spending (which I would describe more accurately as offense spending). No doubt entitlements are part of the equation, but until somebody in Washington (other than Ron Paul) begins to address the egregious expenses which went to military contractors and billions of unaccounted “walking around money” on the street, there will be no honest budget.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    Guardiano has tweeted a half dozen or so times already today.

    Anyone see any responses to the arguments that address the “sum and substance of his argument” as he said he wanted?

    Yeah, don’t hold your breath. But he’ll be back next month with another hack piece about how we need to quintuple our military spending with no justification whatsoever.

  • Traveler51

    John, Do you ever write or even think about anything that isn’t about guns and war? Is there a moat and armed sentry posts at your home? You live in your own private prison with such a bellicose and paranoid nature. It sure sounds lonely.

  • think4yourself

    Over the last 60 years, America’s soft power has trumped it’s military power (even though you can certainly argue the case that having the biggest military in the world helped it’s soft power).

    I’d much rather have us invest the amounts we have been putting into Iraq & Afghanistan into developing the next manufacturing technologies that provide good, high paying jobs in America and exportable goods abroad. What if we developed low cost, simple to use, clean energy systems that were manufactured in the US and exported around the world. Just like the development of petroleum was a game changer and really ushered in the industrial age, so too, the next version of clean, cheap energy would do the same thing – and China, India, and all the other countries would be happy to buy them from us.

    Instead of spending all of our resources threatening the rest of the world, let’s invest in making sure we can provide things that the world wants and needs.

    Finally, it’s a shame that politically we have set such a bad example of Democracy in action. America used to be the example that all other countries wanted to emulate. It would be great if in our Democracy we could be that again.

  • Top 10 Reads: August 2, 2011

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  • Nanotek

    “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, themost to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. * * * No nation could preserve its freedom inthe midst of continual warfare.” – James Madison, April 20, 1795