U.S. can't project power with diplomacy alone

Opinion,Op-Eds,The Pentagon,Barack Obama,Russia,National Security,Military Budget,Vladimir Putin,Buck McKeon,Ukraine,Magazine

A certain worldview in the White House overlooks reality: The nation doesn’t need a strong military because there are no significant threats to it, and the president can handle any crisis through diplomacy.

How has that been working? The president resets the United States' relationship with Russia, and Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine. White House proposals to resolve the crisis have been flatly rejected by Moscow. Instead, Moscow is amassing troops on the border of eastern Ukraine. The president scraps U.S. missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic and cuts U.S nuclear forces, while Moscow proceeds to violate a nuclear arms treaty.

America's European allies are worried, and its Asian allies are nervous. China recently declared an air defense zone over Japanese territory and may very well seek to expand its claims to other maritime territory. It harasses U.S. allies in the Philippines, Vietnam, and others in the South China Sea. North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons and deploy long-range missiles, including a new ICBM aimed at American cities.

The president strikes a deal with Iran that doesn't require it to stop enriching uranium. This neither cuts Iran's ballistic missiles nor curbs its supply of arms to terrorists. Meanwhile, three years after the president's cut-and-run from Iraq, al Qaeda has retaken Fallujah and Ramadi and has spread to new corners of the globe -- no less determined to kill Americans.

While the president's diplomatic strategy and rosy threat picture haven't panned out, his drastic cuts to the military have. Since President Obama took office, more than $1 trillion has been cut from defense. Defense is not a priority in this White House.

The president's budget cuts the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels. The Marines are cut so low that it has to throw its entire force “all in” for one conflict, leaving other parts of the world vulnerable. The president's budget also cuts force structure. It cuts an aircraft carrier. It sends hundreds of perfectly good aircraft to the boneyard in Arizona. It cuts U.S. missile defense, submarine forces, amphibs, cruisers and ground combat vehicles.

The president's budget breaks promises with America's men and women in uniform -- an all-volunteer force, many of whom are still in combat in Afghanistan -- who have made great sacrifices for this nation. It reduces their pay raise for a second year in a row and cuts their health care services and housing allowance.

This is not the military service men and women deserve, and this is not the military that U.S. citizens want.

So where does that leave the United States? The nation’s resolve is being tested, and it’s folding. America is losing the very strength that keeps the peace and reassures its allies when they stand up to bullies.

The military is like insurance. No one likes paying for it until they need it. But given the troubling turn in world events, national security is one of those areas where the U.S. doesn’t want any regrets. Many thought leaders in this country share the opinion of numerous national security experts: Ukraine is just a tremor. Republican and Democrat alike have said it until they’re blue in the face. The president must stop treating the military as if they’re just a bet on the table and get serious about threats that are springing up like mushrooms.

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
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