If the Senate confirms Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, he will confront a set of challenges similar to those faced by Charles E. Wilson in 1953, James Schlesinger in 1973 and Dick Cheney in 1991. In each of those cases, recent long and costly wars were drawing to a close, and traditional enemies were disappearing or being replaced.
A common trope of hawkish foreign policy writers is that America took a “holiday from history” by starting too few wars and trimming military spending in the 1990s. The unsubtle suggestion is that this holiday caused 9/11. But a better analogy would be that America, for decades, has taken a holiday from arithmetic, spending money like Jill Kelley at a JSOC mixer.
The fiscal cliff is looming and Washington is scrambling to reach a deal to avoid a Thelma and Louise ending in January. To start, policymakers need to identify spending cuts, and they could begin with Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) just-released report on wasteful and duplicative spending in the Pentagon. The report identifies savings totaling at least $67.9 billion over the next decade in the Department of Defense.
Today is a federal holiday in observance of Veterans Day and we should all pause a moment to reflect on the sacrifices our veterans have made. But today is also an opportunity to reflect on the current state of civil-military relations. In today’s New York Times, Tom Ricks addresses this and notes:
A fixture of the presidential race has been Mitt Romney’s 47% problem: Those Americans who don’t pay federal income tax that Romney has described as freeloaders. Of course, Romney has retracted his remark. But if he still wants to attack those who freeload off of U.S. taxpayers, there is a better target: Our wealthy overseas allies.
After last night’s debate, I watched the postgame on the Fox News Channel. They had some problems with their fact checking.
It is no surprise that the defense contractors want to protect their profits by getting taxpayers to pony up more money.
Two months ago, Cato published a study by economist Benjamin Zycher, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, that showed that military spending contributes very little to GDP growth, and concludes that cuts would have very little long-term impact on GDP. On the contrary, Zycher estimates that cuts on the order of $100 billion a year would reduce costs in the wider economy by $135 billion per year. I wrote about that study when it was published here.
It’s telling that the most quotable line from Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech Monday is a reheated zinger from Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 Republican National Convention speech: “Hope is not a strategy.”