Video: Gates sees defense cuts as showing a lack of seriousness by US

posted at 3:31 pm on March 9, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

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.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Defense is not suffering. America spends more money on defense than most country put together on earth. But for some it will never be enough. It is immoral for republicans to say debt, debt and request cut in food stamp, senior medial bills and whatnot, but than turn around and say but defense can’t be touch. It is insulting. If you are saying the debt is too high and we can’t feed the hungry, fine, but than don’t tell me we have enough to build more tanks so we can fight a land war in china or Russia, which is as ridiculous as ideas get.

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

The ‘rats are the ones who cut Medicare to fund that budget busting disaster known as obaka-noncare…

ladyingray on March 9, 2014 at 3:46 PM

He should have spoken up when he was part of the latrine.

Schadenfreude on March 9, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Leftist moron on display

Schadenfreude on March 9, 2014 at 3:48 PM

He should have spoken up when he was part of the latrine.
Schadenfreude on March 9, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Exaxtly.

I’m disappointed in Gates. He also still praises Obama.

bluegill on March 9, 2014 at 3:48 PM

The US has no choice. Cuts will come across all of the federal budget, one way or another. It seems likely it will be chaotic.

DarkCurrent on March 9, 2014 at 3:48 PM

It seems likely it will be chaotic.

DarkCurrent on March 9, 2014 at 3:48 PM

Alinsky avidly promotes chaos. See Crimea.

Schadenfreude on March 9, 2014 at 3:50 PM

The wars America is contemplating don’t serve the national interest. If Libyans kill Libyans, Syrians kill Syrians and Ukrainians and Russians kill each other, or not, America’s borders will be just as secure, or not.

If the military started to actually protect America, guarding the border to Mexico, then one could talk about whether it has what it needs to do its job.

David Blue on March 9, 2014 at 3:56 PM

it needs to be done with a scalpel, not a machete.

True enough. The DoD, like any other part of government, is a bloated monstrosity that can take a 20% cut without missing a beat, provided the cuts are made where they should. But as we know, politicians (and ladies and gentlemen our top military brass ARE politicians) always look to cut those areas that will be missed the most. The strategy, of course, is to make those cuts felt and thus reversed.

The Pentagon alone can be abandoned on 3 of its five sides overnight without the slightest degradation of our military readiness or strength. Most of the offices there are used to either lobby Congress or contract out studies to justify their own existence and expansion of authority and funding.

MJBrutus on March 9, 2014 at 3:56 PM

He should have spoken up when he was part of the latrine.

Schadenfreude on March 9, 2014 at 3:46 PM

…it gave him ‘whiplash’…

KOOLAID2 on March 9, 2014 at 3:56 PM

problem I have is DOD is always the first item to cut from, odd since its really the only one somewhat mentioned in COTUS.

dmacleo on March 9, 2014 at 3:59 PM

dmacleo on March 9, 2014 at 3:59 PM

It is far, by many orders of magnitude, the largest discretionary spending category in the budget.

MJBrutus on March 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

… 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…

Yep, since oh, the Battle of Midway.

Barnestormer on March 9, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Cut a penny from all that the gov’t spends.

Schadenfreude on March 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM

the largest discretionary spending category in the budget.

MJBrutus on March 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Non-discretionary spending is the elephant in the room.

sharrukin on March 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Good grief. ANOTHER Workman’s Comp claim?

SickofLibs on March 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

If you are saying the debt is too high and we can’t feed the hungry, fine, but than don’t tell me we have enough to build more tanks so we can fight a land war in china or Russia, which is as ridiculous as ideas get.

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Tell your rich friend George Soros about it. He’s now a part-owner of Halliburton, y’know!

Del Dolemonte on March 9, 2014 at 4:31 PM

sharrukin on March 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Exactly. I was pointing out why the DoD is such a ripe target for Congress to go after.

MJBrutus on March 9, 2014 at 4:32 PM

Exactly. I was pointing out why the DoD is such a ripe target for Congress to go after.

MJBrutus on March 9, 2014 at 4:32 PM

They don’t want to tackle the real problem so they go after military funding as a stopgap solution.

Profiles in courage!

sharrukin on March 9, 2014 at 4:34 PM

If it comes down to battle, no amount of advanced technology is going to replace boots on the ground.

Depends on how you mean that. We already use a lot of technology that vastly reduces the number of boots we need on the ground, but it’s difficult to see what technology would completely eliminate the need for any. Even if you managed to produce sentient robots, it would still be robot boots on the ground.

Count to 10 on March 9, 2014 at 4:36 PM

He worked for King. I can’t take him seriously when he talks about bad ideas coming from the White House.

SouthernGent on March 9, 2014 at 4:57 PM

Hey, but you’re hero President Hillary will undoubtedly restore the cuts to our military that her husband The Clenis and her boss O’Bozo have stripped out.

Right Gatesy?

Jaibones on March 9, 2014 at 5:19 PM

If you are saying the debt is too high and we can’t feed the hungry, fine, but than don’t tell me we have enough to build more tanks so we can fight a land war in china or Russia, which is as ridiculous as ideas get.

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

If we were only feeding the hungry, your little diatribe would make some sense. Not much, but some.

No one is suggesting we go into Russia or China with tanks or anything else, but the probability that we may badly need massive mobile ground forces in multiple places in the world at once is actually quite high given the geopolitical state of affairs around the globe.

History tells us that we are much more likely to find ourselves at war when we let ourselves become weak. It is a historical fact that is borne out throughout not just our past but that of civilization itself.

So, in conclusion, your post is just about “as ridiculous as ideas get.”

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 6:05 PM

There was no rational reason for us to fight decade+ long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That was completely nuts. If we stopped doing insane things, we wouldn’t need half the military budget we have.

Military spending is no different than any other kind of big government spending except in that it is actually authorized in the Constitution. It is subject to the same bureaucratic drift into waste and unneeded expenditures (all always nicely rationalized, but still obviously nuts to an objective outsider) that any bureaucracy has.

Japan is perfectly capable of defending itself. So can the EU, Australia and India. They can defend their regional interests.

We cannot afford to be the world’s policeman forever, certainly not with ‘free trade’ levelling the economic playing field for tyrants.

It should be obvious to anyone with any intellectual integrity that the European Union should be spending substantially more per capita on defense than the USA is. Until the Europeans are carrying a defense burden at least similar to ours, Uncle Sucker is spending way too much.

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Hey, but you’re hero President Hillary will undoubtedly restore the cuts to our military that her husband The Clenis and her boss O’Bozo have stripped out.

Right Gatesy?

Jaibones on March 9, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Yeah, buddy. She would more likely take down another aspirin factory or two and turn a blind eye to the next bin Laden, like Billy Jeff did so well…

Good to see another old-time commenter back in here a-swingin’. Long time, no talkie.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 6:12 PM

@hillbillyjim
I am a student of history. From my reading I gathered that most great empires since the dawn of humans have collapsed not because they were not doing enough, but doing too much. America has a defense budget so large that a country would need to be crazy and suicidal to ever attack it.

But if you want a military budget to flex your muscles abroad than no budget is ever going to be big enough. There is a great difference between defense and offense. No one in their right mind would ever say that America’s defense budget is not big enough. But the budget to go around the world to bomb huts is an open ended questions.

Geopolitical battles are not defense issues. What happens in Ukraine has no effect on the security of America’s border. To say otherwise is to be disingenuous.

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 6:18 PM

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Minding our own business was quite the rage before December 7th, 1941.

Isolationism was a fantasy then, and even more of one now in this impossibly complex world.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Minding our own business was quite the rage before December 7th, 1941.

Isolationism was a fantasy then, and even more of one now in this impossibly complex world.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 6:31 PM

A few things have changed in the world since 1941. Since WWII America has had a totally unprecedented military presence in the world, yet more Americans were mass murdered on 9/11/01 than on 12/7/41, and now the enemy that did it is stronger than ever. Have you thought about why that is?

Could it be our real weakness is a consequence of a cultural malaise from which no amount of military spending can protect us?

Don’t you realize the extraordinarily strong military has contributed to the rise of the cultural malaise?

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Don’t you realize the extraordinarily strong military has contributed to the rise of the cultural malaise?

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 6:48 PM

No. in fact I don’t realize any such thing. The cultural malaise may have been abetted by policy, but not by the fact of a strong military.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 6:54 PM

I am a student of history.

Alas, apparently not a good one.

But if you want a military budget to flex your muscles abroad…

“Flexing muscles” is not the purpose of power projection, it is to protect American personnel and interests, at least when there is an administration actually inclined to do so.

Geopolitical battles are not defense issues.

I’ve been to a World’s Fair, a rodeo, and a picnic, and that is one of the stupidest comments ever typed in a comments section. As national security is now dependent upon global alliances and resources that come from all over the world, any “geopolitical battle” that can potentially upset the these alliances and free flow of resources can have a deleterious effect on national security.

As an exercise for you, describe the amount of shipping that goes through the Singapore Straits, and given that the region in general houses 62% of the Moslem population of the world, to include the country with the largest Moslem population forming the southern border of the Strait, also describe why this area might be of interest to the U.S. Include in your dissertation what U.S. military assets might be required to help ensure stability of this region.

F X Muldoon on March 9, 2014 at 7:07 PM

Could it be our real weakness is a consequence of a cultural malaise from which no amount of military spending can protect us?

Could it be that our real weakness is a result of a vastly overgrown government that has wasted our resources on things that it was never meant to address?

Could it be that our real weakness is an economic one created by said government?

Yes, Virginia, it could be.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Could it be that our real weakness is a result of a vastly overgrown government that has wasted our resources on things that it was never meant to address?

Could it be that our real weakness is an economic one created by said government?

Yes, Virginia, it could be.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Big Military is part of that Big Government. An expanding Government class is a natural consequence of the rise of the extremely large, powerful and permanent Praetorian class. Both have been expanding over the last century, gradually eating into the Economic class, thereby weakening our society and accelerating its slide from Republic to Empire.

That’s just the way the cycle works. It would be nice if we could somehow stop it this time.

Did you notice how on the sequester we got sold out to the government expanders in the name of protecting the military budget? The Big Military ‘conservatives’ will always sell us out that way.

Because It Is Important. It always will be, no matter how much we spend.

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Empire? Really?

I guess somebody forgot to tell Putin, Assad, etc., that we’re a by-God Empire with a capital “E”.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Empire? Really?

Absolutely, do you deny such far-flung holdings as American Samoa, Palmyra Atoll, and US Virgin Islands are not a Mighty Empire ruled by the Iron Fist of America ?

You also fail to consider all the territory we captured in WWII.

F X Muldoon on March 9, 2014 at 7:54 PM

The 1980s called. No particular reason other than to tell the filthy lazy stupid rat-eared bastard “told you so.” How’s that enlightened foreign policy stuff working out for ya?- you ignorant worthless chump?

The 1980s can be quite vindictive. Alex Forrest with a bunny kind of vindictive.

Happy Nomad on March 9, 2014 at 7:58 PM

Empire? Really?

I guess somebody forgot to tell Putin, Assad, etc., that we’re a by-God Empire with a capital “E”.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Perhaps I was not clear. Of course we are not an empire now. That is leftwing nutsoid jargon. However, if we continue down this current unsustainable path, then an empire is what we will inevitably become in the not too distant future. We’ll go through an extended period of crisis, and it will end with a strongman ‘saving’ us. If you are young now, you will probably live to see it.

It is surprising to me that people like you can see the disaster heading toward us but cannot see the completely natural consequence of the disaster. Human nature doesn’t change.

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 8:03 PM

However, if we continue down this current unsustainable path, then an empire is what we will inevitably become…

How, pray tell, seeing as how establishment of an empire generally requires military conquest of foreign lands, how this is going to happen ? Include in your answer why this didn’t happen after WWII when the military was at its largest, and there were no competitors who could have stopped us from keeping any territory we wanted ?

F X Muldoon on March 9, 2014 at 8:15 PM

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Wow, that’s enough straw men to protect every cornfield in Iowa.

Hayabusa on March 9, 2014 at 8:15 PM

How, pray tell, seeing as how establishment of an empire generally requires military conquest of foreign lands, how this is going to happen ? Include in your answer why this didn’t happen after WWII when the military was at its largest, and there were no competitors who could have stopped us from keeping any territory we wanted ?

F X Muldoon on March 9, 2014 at 8:15 PM

We seem to be talking about two very different things. How is the America of post-WWII comparable to the culturally and spiritually decayed bankrupt America (again, assuming we do nothing about this trend) of the mid 21st Century?

There is no way now to be sure just how the empire aspect of the tyranny unfolds, but we do have the guns, and we’ve been giving away our factories and other useful things, so why wouldn’t ‘we’ (the tyrant-savior) seize whatever we needed?

Just read up on history and get back to me.

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 8:25 PM

But….but….but we were told that when King Barack became president, the world would LOVE us!

GarandFan on March 9, 2014 at 8:46 PM

It is surprising to me that people like you can see the disaster heading toward us but cannot see the completely natural consequence of the disaster. Human nature doesn’t change.

fadetogray on March 9, 2014 at 8:03 PM

You assume much.

Much too much.

hillbillyjim on March 9, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Just read up on history and get back to me.

Ah, another so called student of history.

At the end of WWII, when the US had troops sitting on damn near half the world, out of a population of about 150 million, there were 16 million in the military. The Army had about 100 divisions, not counting the Air Force which it then owned. The Navy had over 6000 ships of various types. Given we were in sole possession of the bomb, we could have kept any territory upon which we were sitting.

Now, out of population over 300 million, there are just over 2 million in the military (AC & RC). The Army has a whopping 10 divisions (not counting separate units) and the Navy a whole 285 ships of various types.

One of the fundamental necessities of building an empire is to take land and hold it with boots on the ground, either through tyrannical oppression (the liberal model), or by converting the natives to citizens of the empire (the Roman and British model). Neither works in the long run, regardless, given our global interests and the lack of people and stuff to take and hold them, this is why we have strategic alliances, and not an empire.

Regarding your “observation” that, “…we do have the guns, and we’ve been giving away our factories and other useful things…”, that is yet another reason why trying to achieve empire isn’t going to happen, given that many of our strategic resources come from our global competitors, e.g., rare earths from China. Let me know how you think that land war in China is going to come out. Our technological advantage over such competitors is always tenuous at best.

Now some questions – given their track record of throwing away military victory, not to mention their recent reluctance to use military resources appropriately, do you honestly think any Democrat administration is going to attempt empire ? Given that we are no more culturally or spiritually degraded (Miley Cyrus notwithstanding) now as when GWB was in office how come Iraq isn’t Obama’s 58th state ? Do you think that without fracturing the country a Stalinesque figure will arise to create another 16 million man (32 million to account for population inflation) of cannon fodder (the Soviet model) out of a culturally and spiritually degraded population ?

If you do, let us know how it is out there in Wolkenkuckucksheim.

F X Muldoon on March 9, 2014 at 9:23 PM

Really?!! DUH – Democrat O is naive enough to believe that by trashing America he will come out on top. Message to Democrat president: that won’t happen. Please, use your brain to get us back on top.

Thank you.

MN J on March 9, 2014 at 10:51 PM

@ FX Muldoon:

National Interest is a subjective term that can be defined as narrow or as broad by a person without either being wrong. Both you and the person you are quoting from further up the thread have a fair point.

However, how we define national interest is something that should be put to the American people and not just to elites.

Should defense encompass all tangential threats to status quo, whereby we will need a massive .mil/.ic apparatus, or should defense be reduced to combating existential threats (which .

Furthermore, how do you solve the free-rider problem our ‘allies’ pose to us if you support a more expansive national interest definition? Should there be mandated spending-levels (on a percentage basis) as a condition of alliances?

uatu1878 on March 9, 2014 at 11:36 PM

Defense is not suffering. America spends more money on defense than most country put together on earth. But for some it will never be enough. It is immoral for republicans to say debt, debt and request cut in food stamp, senior medial bills and whatnot, but than turn around and say but defense can’t be touch. It is insulting. If you are saying the debt is too high and we can’t feed the hungry, fine, but than don’t tell me we have enough to build more tanks so we can fight a land war in china or Russia, which is as ridiculous as ideas get.

coolrepublica on March 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

We’re not in debt because of the things the government should be doing, like national defense.

We’re in debt because of the things the government shouldn’t be doing, like entitlements and wealth redistribution.

To then turn around and say the actual functions of government have to take their fair share of cuts so the entitlements can keep going is the height of foolishness.

And the surest way to keep the idea of fighting a land war in China or Russia a ‘ridiculous’ idea is to be strong enough to win one.

Having a strong defense may be expensive, but not having a strong defense will really cost us.

The world is not a safe place. It’s not getting safer.

There Goes the Neighborhood on March 10, 2014 at 12:45 AM

Should defense encompass all tangential threats to status quo, whereby we will need a massive .mil/.ic apparatus, or should defense be reduced to combating existential threats (which .

uatu1878 on March 9, 2014 at 11:36 PM

If you only keep enough military for existential threats, then you have decided to lurch from crisis to crisis. The purpose of the military is to keep us safe. That’s much harder to do with a small military.

As for free riders, that may be a problem, but nations will do whatever they perceive to be in their best interests. For a lot of nations, their ‘best interest’ is to have a friendly nation be the powerful one.

What friendly nation should we be relying on? If you can’t come up with one, then we should probably rely on ourselves.

There Goes the Neighborhood on March 10, 2014 at 12:56 AM

National Interest is a subjective term that can be defined as narrow or as broad by a person without either being wrong.

Not really, there are broad interests and narrow interests that collectively make up the “national interests”. A broad interest, for example, is maintaining open sea lanes worldwide, a narrow interest, military and law enforcement support to Columbia to reduce drug trafficking. Narrow interests may be nested in broad interests, and they may be mutually supporting, or independent.

However, how we define national interest is something that should be put to the American people and not just to elites.

The whole point of a representative democracy is that the representatives speak for the people. The notion of subjecting national interests to a popular vote would be nigh suicidal given the apathy and disengagement of the vast number of eligible voters. This is not to deny, however, the obvious intellectual shortcomings frequently demonstrated by a number of the elected representatives (not to forget some of the appointed ones as well). Either way, subjecting interests strictly to the vagaries of whatever political powers hold sway is bad policy. The present system of development of security strategy works fairly well, and if you read back through several of the National Defense Strategies, and National Military Strategies (all available on line) they are generally consistent with a few unfortunate political (e.g., global warming, not to open that debate) odds and sods thrown in.

Should defense encompass all tangential threats to status quo…or should defense be reduced to combating existential threats…

I am not sure what you mean by the former, no one is proposing to maintain a status quo as there is no status quo as the world and intergovernmental relations constantly evolve. Regarding existential threats, they come in all varieties, not just things like ICBMs. As examples, the aforementioned loss of access to strategic resources (like the equally aforementioned rare earths) or free access to all sea lanes are very much existential given our dependence on fancy electronics and imported materials and goods. As such, defense needs to encompass a plethora of responses from a tank barrel in the face, to training allies to improve their capabilities and interoperability with our, and other allied, forces.

Furthermore, how do you solve the free-rider problem our ‘allies’ pose to us if you support a more expansive national interest definition ?

“Free riders” is a bit of a misnomer. After WWII, among the great powers, the only one that wasn’t in a shambles was the US. Given the overt expansionism of the Soviet Union, the choice was to abandon Europe, or provide for its defense while they rebuilt. The fact that in the past no one in any American administration stood up to put some pressure on our NATO allies to step up to the plate more may be unfortunate, but not anything that can be changed, short of abandoning them (a poor choice), at this point. Regarding Japan, their self-defense capability is a result of conditions imposed upon them. With other allies or partners, there is (or was) frequently a quid pro quo beyond mutual defense. As an example, we may maintain basing rights in a country – the ultimate goal of dealing with purely military existential threats being either to prevent them, or defeat them at a distance before they are irreversibly existential.

The fundamental mistake “progressives” make, is that they cannot perceive that the military has a value other than killing people and breaking things, and that there are security threats other than a gun in the face. The fact remains, however, that as long as we are dependent upon stuff from other places, the economy of the US has been, and is, dependent on peace (relatively speaking) through superior firepower; strength begets strength.

F X Muldoon on March 10, 2014 at 1:27 AM