National review picked up the video of former Defense Secretary Bob Gates as he answered a few questions about our military readiness on Fox News Sunday this morning. The subject he’s tackling is an important one, since it ties two issues important to conservatives – national defense and the budget – together at a time when they may seem to be pulling in two different directions. We need to cut spending, and the military budget has to be on the table along with everything else. But how do we balance that need with the shifting demands of global insecurity?

“Past cuts to the budget came when the world was a “safer place,” Robert Gates told Fox News Sunday.

“No one can make that case now,” he added, pointing to escalating situations in Russia, Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

“I think cutting the defense budget in significant ways right now is a serious mistake,” “Frankly, the pace at which at both the Europeans and the United States are cutting their defenses. . . certainly sends a signal that we are not interested in protecting our global interests.”

At the risk of stealing lines from some previous political candidates, if we’re going to be making cuts to the military while still needing to flex our muscles around the world, it needs to be done with a scalpel, not a machete. Also, there’s a big difference between wanting to go to war and being able to demonstrate to the rest of the world that you have the capacity and the spine to do so when the chips are down. Instead of looking at broad, overall troop headcount cuts, perhaps we should be examining some other areas. If it comes down to battle, no amount of advanced technology is going to replace boots on the ground. (At least not yet.) But we might take a fresh look at our naval forces. We’ve already cut back a fair bit to be sure, but the days of wide ranging naval battles with war ships blasting away at each other seem to be gone. Naval deployment is much more heavily focused as a waterborne platform for aircraft and missile attacks, along with a limited amount of troop transport.

Those are just a few thoughts, anyway. Gates seems to have a pretty solid grasp of the situation, so the interview is worth a look.