Can America Defend Itself?

article top

The Iranian threat yet again finds itself on the front page of America’s newspapers this morning, this time with news that the rogue regime has sentenced a U.S. citizen to death for working for the CIA and that it has started refining uranium deep inside a mountain bunker. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is launching a week-long trip through South America in order to bolster ties with his allies in the region in hopes of strengthening the country’s challenge to the United States.

This news comes just after a series of Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz–a provocative move that would cut off a quarter of the world’s energy supply and wreak havoc on the global economy. Of course, on top of this verbal threat, Iran is continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons despite an uproar from the international community.


Despite this emerging threat, President Barack Obama traveled to the Pentagon last Thursday to announce that the “tide of war is receding” for the United States, thereby justifying massive cuts to the U.S. military. “In short, we’ve succeeded in defending our nation, taking the fight to our enemies, reducing the number of Americans in harm’s way, and we’ve restored America’s global leadership. That makes us safer and it makes us stronger.”

The President, though, did not mention the Iranian threat, North Korea’s new 28-year-old leader whose finger rests on a nuclear trigger, and the growing dominance of China as a regional power. In other words, the President is pursuing a strategy to cut the U.S. military by a half-trillion dollars over ten years based on the argument that the world is a safer place, yet he is totally ignoring the very real threats around the world today. Defense expert Mackenzie Eaglen explains how the military plans to cope with the resulting reduction in funding and forces, one component of which includes a “strategic pivot” from southwest Asia to East Asia in order to counter a rising China:

Pentagon leaders plan to skirt the lack of capabilities through an increased reliance on National Guard and reserve forces–the same men and women who are worn out from a decade of multiple tours overseas. DoD plans to assume more risk in the active component and the capabilities that are available immediately in the event of conflict or crisis. Examples include heavy armor brigades and tactical fighter wings.

Another tenet of the “pivot” to Asia is the transition from a military focused on manpower-intensive counterinsurgency to the light footprint doctrine of counterterrorism. Panetta has mentioned unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft, cyber, and special forces as key areas that must be protected from budget cuts. They may even get more money.

Of course, the Pentagon will do its best to answer the call to duty under the limitations that the White House imposes. But that does not mean that it will be as well-equipped as it could and should be to defend the United States, at home and abroad. As Heritage’s James Carafano writes, “It is completely unreasonable for the White House to argue the world has changed so much that we can just do all this with less.” That is especially true given the threats that are lurking around the corner from the likes of Iran, North Korea, and China.