‘Should the U.S. in­crease mil­i­tary spend­ing to keep pace with Rus­sia and China?

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - By JAMES JAY CARAFANO Tri­bune News Ser­vice (TNS) A 25-year Army vet­eran, James Jay Carafano is Vice Pres­i­dent for Na­tional Se­cu­rity and For­eign Pol­icy at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a think­tank lo­cated on Capi­tol Hill. Read­ers may write him at Her­itage, 214

— Beer, pizza and de­fense. Amer­i­cans spend more on each of these than any­one else. So what? These facts say noth­ing about how happy, healthy or safe we are. They are mean­ing­less with­out con­text.

Per­haps Amer­i­cans could do with fewer jumbo slices and more gym mem­ber­ships. But when it comes to de­fense spend­ing, Amer­ica needs to spend more, not less.

For starters, com­par­ing our de­fense spend­ing to that of other na­tions doesn’t make much sense.

Wal­mart has more than 2 mil­lion em­ploy­ees. The aver­age small busi­ness has fewer than 100. Does that mean Wal­mart’s pay­roll is out of whack? Of course not.

The U.S. is a global power, with global re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and global eco­nomic in­ter­ests to de­fend. We need a de­fense bud­get com­men­su­rate with those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and in­ter­ests, not with other na­tions’ lesser global pos­ture.

Aban­don­ing our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and in­ter­ests is not a vi­able op­tion. Europe can’t de­fend Europe with­out us — that’s why we have NATO. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama tried walk­ing away from the Mid­dle East — only to see ISIS and Iran start to take over. Does any­one think turn­ing Asia over to China is a good idea?

No, the U.S. nei­ther can nor should be the world’s po­lice­man. Nor is it our re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure all these places are the land of milk and honey.

But we do need to worry about big, desta­bi­liz­ing prob­lems — things like wars and nu­clear at­tack, that can spread un­told mis­ery around the world, to us and our friends in­cluded.

Nor should a par­tic­u­lar for­eign pol­icy dic­tate the size of the Pen­tagon’s bud­get.

The wis­dom of stay­ing in Afghanistan or hunt­ing down ter­ror­ists in Africa can be de­bated. Still, in the end, the mis­sions don’t tell you how big a mil­i­tary is re­quired.

And, for sure, de­fense spend­ing ought to be ef­fi­cient and ef­fi­ca­cious. That’s a stan­dard


that should ap­ply across all of our gov­ern­ment.

Adding all that con­text to­gether, where are we on de­fense spend­ing? The an­swer is: We are short of where we need to be.

Five years ago, my col­leagues at The Her­itage Foun­da­tion de­vel­oped the In­dex of US Mil­i­tary Strength. Our an­a­lysts es­tab­lished an ob­jec­tive, non­par­ti­san mea­sure of de­fense suf­fi­ciency that graded how much mil­i­tary power Amer­ica ac­tu­ally has in terms of man­power, readi­ness and weaponry; what the armed forces are re­quired to do; and what the world was like — the ac­tual threats that must be ad­dressed.

Our lat­est anal­y­sis, pub­lished this month, con­cludes that, af­ter years of over-use and un­der-fund­ing, the U.S. mil­i­tary is only marginally pre­pared to fight and win in a two-con­flict sce­nario (the stan­dard bench­mark for a global power).

Scrimp­ing on train­ing has re­sulted in low readi­ness lev­els.

Air Force pi­lots, for ex­am­ple, fly only a frac­tion of the train­ing hours they used to. The force isn’t big enough.

The Navy, for in­stance, was un­able — for the first time in a long time — to send an air­craft car­rier to the Mediter­ranean to cover the Mid­dle East.

And the force isn’t mod­ern­iz­ing fast enough. Marines are still driv­ing com­bat ve­hi­cles built in 1972 — ve­hi­cles older than their driv­ers’ par­ents.

Amer­ica’s com­peti­tors can count. They see that our armed forces are too small and ill-pre­pared to take on two re­gional pow­ers si­mul­ta­ne­ously. They know that if Amer­ica doesn’t re­build soon, they can soon match us in their part of the world.

That’s a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion — with con­se­quences far more costly than pay­ing for an ad­e­quate na­tional de­fense.

— We do not need to in­crease mil­i­tary spend­ing to deal with Rus­sia or China. The 2019 mil­i­tary bud­get, re­cently au­tho­rized by Congress, stands at $716 bil­lion. That’s “bil­lion” with a “b.”

That fig­ure dwarfs ex­pen­di­tures by China and Rus­sia. China spends $175 bil­lion a year. Rus­sia, whose econ­omy is lag­ging badly, has cut mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture in the past two years, and is now un­der $60 bil­lion.

Our com­pe­ti­tion with China is eco­nomic, not mil­i­tary. The only arena for mil­i­tary con­flict is the South China Sea, but we don’t need a beefed up mil­i­tary for that pur­pose.

In any event, we over­play the im­por­tance of the South China Sea to U.S. trade or other in­ter­ests.

With Rus­sia, our com­pe­ti­tion is po­lit­i­cal, not mil­i­tary. We have put Rus­sia in fear by mov­ing NATO into its back­yard. That has gen­er­ated re­ac­tion from Rus­sia. There is much we could do to ease ten­sions.

Rather than spend more for mil­i­tary, we should ex­am­ine cur­rent ex­pen­di­tures. We waste bil­lions. We are build­ing a new class of air­craft car­rier for the Navy with lit­tle as­sur­ance of qual­ity.

The nu­clear-pow­ered USS Ger­ald R. Ford, the first car­rier in this new class, is cost­ing $13 bil­lion. Now close to be­ing on­line, it is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what the Pen­tagon gin­gerly calls “man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect” is­sues.

It has an un­tried dig­i­tal propul­sion sys­tem that seems not to work. Car­ri­ers of this size, more­over, have been shown in war games to be vul­ner­a­ble to anti-ship weaponry that has grown more so­phis­ti­cated in re­cent years. So even if the Navy can get the USS Ger­ald R. Ford to sail, it may not serve its pur­pose. And the Navy wants three more.

If our se­cu­rity in the world is in jeop­ardy, it is not for lack of mil­i­tary hard­ware. It is be­cause of our poli­cies.

Our al­lies don’t know what to ex­pect from us. They are aghast at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­fusal to par­tic­i­pate in ini­tia­tives they find im­por­tant to pre­serv­ing world


se­cu­rity. We per­plex our friends by ac­tions like re­lo­cat­ing our em­bassy to Jerusalem, or re­pu­di­at­ing the cli­mate treaty and the nu­clear ar­range­ment with Iran.

We are sep­a­rat­ing our­selves from the world com­mu­nity. We are pulling out of treaties that call for re­solv­ing dis­putes peace­fully, in the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice.

When Pales­tine sued us, as it did re­cently, over the re­lo­ca­tion of our em­bassy to Jerusalem, we over­re­acted.

Pales­tine was able to get the case into the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice be­cause both Pales­tine and the United States are party to a mul­ti­lat­eral diplo­matic re­la­tions treaty that lets states sue for vi­o­la­tions of the law on diplo­matic re­la­tions.

Seventy-one states of the world are par­ties. In­stead of just deal­ing with the law­suit, the White House an­nounced that we will pull out of the treaty al­to­gether. That is the same treaty that let us sue Iran when our peo­ple were taken hostage at the U.S. Em­bassy in Iran in 1979.

We should be pro­tect­ing peace­ful av­enues to re­solve dis­putes, not cut­ting them off. We should not fear ap­pli­ca­tion of uni­ver­sally agreed le­gal prin­ci­ples.

Mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with ei­ther Rus­sia or China is un­likely. If a se­ri­ous con­fronta­tion were to come to pass, how­ever, a U.S. pres­i­dent needs to have suf­fi­cient cred­i­bil­ity to be able to con­vince al­lies to as­sist, even if some of their peo­ple would die in the ef­fort.

Now we have lit­tle as­sur­ance of a re­sponse we might get. Our al­lies deal with Trump by ap­peal­ing to his ego. They do not re­gard him as a re­li­able part­ner. They doubt his judg­ment, and even his truth­ful­ness.

Se­cu­rity lies in be­ing able to mo­bi­lize sup­port from other coun­tries in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion. We have enough weaponry. Spend­ing more on weapons is a short­sighted av­enue to na­tional se­cu­rity. teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors who worked un­der Bar­bara’s lead­er­ship, they will share that a sense of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and pride pre­vailed.

Bar­bara Wheeler, in ad­di­tion to her com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion as an ed­u­ca­tion leader, was an amaz­ing hu­man be­ing and a good friend to all. She was never too busy to lis­ten and to share her thoughts. Over the many years of our pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship, we were able to suc­cess­fully ad­dress many chal­lenges all for the bet­ter­ment of those we were charged to “ed­u­cate.”

I like many oth­ers re­ceived her tu­tor­age and ad­vice as we worked side-by-side. For­tu­nately I was smart enough to pay heed and fol­low her sound coun­sel.

Bar­bara Wheeler was a great hu­man be­ing and a good friend who I will for­ever miss. We in Ce­cil County are bet­ter as a re­sult of her con­tin­u­ous, com­mit­ted and de­ter­mined ef­forts.

Rest in peace Bar­bara. You earned it.

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