This is the whole reason he was brought on as SecDef in the first place, Legal Insurrection reminds us. Obama knew that he’d take heat from Republicans for downsizing the military, but maybe not quite as much heat if he had a nominal Republican in charge of the process.
For the United States, the age of occupation is over. Whether that means an age of occupation is beginning for someone else, stay tuned.
Officials who saw an early draft of the announcement acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries.
“You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war,” a senior Pentagon official said…
The Army, which took on the brunt of the fighting and the casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, already was scheduled to drop to 490,000 troops from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000. Under Mr. Hagel’s proposals, the Army would drop over the coming years to between 440,000 and 450,000.
That would be the smallest United States Army since 1940. For years, and especially during the Cold War, the Pentagon argued that it needed a military large enough to fight two wars simultaneously — say, in Europe and Asia. In more recent budget and strategy documents, the military has been ordered to be prepared to decisively win one conflict while holding off an adversary’s aspirations in a second until sufficient forces could be mobilized and redeployed to win there.
Among the specifics: The army will swap its Black Hawks for the National Guard’s Apaches, which have more firepower; funding for cyberwarfare and Special Ops, two of Obama’s priorities, will continue at current levels; and the A-10 Warthog, which was designed to target Russian tanks in case they invaded Europe, will be retired. (Anyone in Kiev want to buy a jet?) I’m not qualified to say which cuts are smart and feasible and which are dangerously short-sighted but I know we have plenty of readers who are, so here’s your thread to sound off. I am qualified to say that a few years ago this type of move from a liberal president who’s already seen as provocatively weak would have raised holy hell on the right. Today, after a few more years of war-weariness, urgency among tea partiers for meaningful spending cuts, and the mainstreaming of “non-interventionism” by Rand Paul and other libertarians, it’s a closer call. Try gaming out the responses onstage at the first GOP 2016 debate when this subject is raised and you’ll find it’s not so easy. Some of it is — Rubio, a hawk in the McCain mold, will rip Obama for retreating — but candidates like Walker and Christie will try to walk a line between hawks and doves. So will Paul, actually: His big liability potentially is being seen as Ron Jr. on foreign policy so he may feel obliged to balance his praise for the “smaller, leaner military” approach with criticism of Obama for not beefing up certain areas. And what about Cruz? In a sense he has the opposite problem of Paul, wanting to attack Obama for weakening America but needing to find some merit in cuts to the budget.
Needless to say, this is the tip of the iceberg in decades to come as entitlements cannibalize more of America’s discretionary spending.