Why are Republicans hell-bent on undermining the prestige and reputation of the United States armed forces?
The cacophony of defeatist rhetoric directed at our military from those running for president on the GOP side is deafening.
Donald Trump said our “military is a disaster,” that it’s “very weak” and that it’s being “decimated.”
Ted Cruz claims the military has faced “seven years of neglect” and that its “ability to project power and obtain air superiority is tragically anemic.”
Marco Rubio claimed we couldn’t attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because “[we] don’t have planes and bombs to attack them with,” while blaming President Obama for “weakening” and eviscerating” our armed forces.
Jeb Bush claimed the state of our military was “quite scary,” while Ben Carson said, “We have weakened ourselves militarily to such an extent that if affects all of our military policies.”
The Pentagon brass is deeply offended at such talk.
“I will take umbrage with the notion that our military has been gutted,” said Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Paul Selva. “I stand here today a person that’s worn this uniform for 35 years. At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet.”
And why wouldn’t he be confident? The U.S. armed forces today are the single greatest fighting force in the history of the world, able to project power in every corner of the globe (and unfortunately all too prone to do so). The Pentagon budget is bigger than that of the next 14 countries combined, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and that doesn’t include additional national security spending by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. In fact, Pentagon budget levels during the Obama years have run about $100 billion above Cold War levels, accounting for inflation.
Compare budgets against our biggest geopolitical rivals: $610 billion for the United States, $216 billion for China and $84 billion for Russia. It’s not even close. Now take that Pentagon budget and add in spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI’s overseas activities, intelligence agencies and our nuclear stockpile: The cost is about $1 trillion per year, according to the Project On Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information, or about 70 percent of our nation’s discretionary spending. Yet that’s still not enough for Republicans with twisted fantasies about a broken military?
This unhinged version of reality would be harmless if the GOP weren’t so aggressively selling it to the country. A Gallup poll earlier this month found that just 49 percent of Americans “think the United States is number one in the world militarily,” a laughably false notion.
In reality, we need a discussion on how to cut our out-of-control spending on the national security apparatus and boondoggles like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Navy’s littoral combat ship program and the Army’s Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected personnel carrier.
We could make a significant reduction to our nuclear arsenal with zero degradation of our ability to destroy the world dozens of times over if attacked.
We could reduce the number of sitting-duck aircraft carriers and Army divisions and instead focus on today’s anti-insurgency wars, rather than obsolete Cold War-era tank battles. We could continue to transition our Air Force to unmanned aircraft. And we could do all that while building a military that’s meaner, less expensive and better aligned to meet modern threats.
Republicans, instead, are only interested in demeaning the effectiveness of our men and women in uniform, all to score cheap political points.