Mitt Romney, at least, has not been swayed by the spin that Barack Obama has enjoyed a few foreign policy successes. Yes, the GOP frontrunner is happy Moammar Qaddafi is dead — but he doesn’t think that Qaddafi’s death erases the weak leadership Obama has demonstrated before the world. In an interview with “America’s Morning News” radio program, Romney reminded listeners of all that the president has not done right in the Middle East:
He said the “Arab Spring” of political revolutions across the Middle East could have unforeseen consequences for the United States, adding that the White House should have been more aggressive in getting ahead of events there. He noted that Iran’s influence has expanded even as Mr. Obama could not secure a deal with neighboring Iraq for long-term presence of American troops, who will now leave the country by year’s end.
“We’re facing an Arab Spring which is out of control in some respects because the president was not as strong as he needed to be in encouraging our friends to move toward representative forms of government,” he said.
“Iran is that much closer to having a nuclear weapon. Now we have Iraq, which is going to be more susceptible to the influence of Iran by virtue of his miscalculation, in my view. This is not the kind of leadership which I think America expected. I think we hoped to have a leader who would assure that our military remained the strongest in the world and he’s continuing to suggest that we’re going to see cuts in our military.”
Romney is right — especially about the cuts to the military. Obama’s most recent decision to bring the troops home from Iraq severely jeopardizes our position in the Middle East — and it doesn’t even appear that the withdrawal will do anything to prevent the impending military readiness crisis.
Meanwhile, the Super Committee still stares down the trigger of defense cuts.
If the supercommittee fails to reach agreement on deficit reduction, the law triggers automatic spending “sequestration” cuts of $1.2 trillion—of which roughly half a trillion or more would come from the Department of Defense’s budget. Such cuts would kill upwards of 800,000 active-duty, civilian, and industrial American jobs and inflate the unemployment rate by a full percentage point.
The cuts would deeply undermine the Marine Corps’s role as the expeditionary force in ready, leading to the smallest force in 50 years. They would take the Army below pre-9/11 troop levels, and the Air Force would have two-thirds fewer fighters and strategic bombers than in 1990. And last but not least, the Navy would have to mothball over 60 ships, including two carrier battle groups.
The trigger should never have been put in place. It’s simply a fallacy that defense cuts haven’t yet contributed to deficit reduction — but it’s a truth that the Defense Department ought to be one of the last places we look (other than to cut waste).
The Defense Department, while making up less than 20 percent of the federal budget, has contributed to half of America’s deficit-reduction since 2009. Contrary to popular belief, defense spending has already been “on the table.” In the words of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, more cuts would “be shooting ourselves in the head.”
The Super Committee hasn’t received much attention lately — but its members need to remain as ready as ever to cut spending, avoid tax hikes and, by all means, meet the deadline to avoid the triggers. Romney didn’t admonish the Super Committee explicitly, but he was very wise to mention defense cuts in connection with Obama’s poor decision-making on foreign policy. It’s an overlooked area of weakness on Obama’s part — and one we’ll pay for in the end.