The ultraliberal, irredeemably biased MSNBC has joined the anti-defense-spending chorus. On May 3rd, it published a ludicrous article on its website, titled “Will there be an Osama ‘peace dividend’?”.
The article begins by saying: “With Osama bin Laden dead, can America go back to the days before terrorism and the big defense costs that came with it?”
This article thus foolishly presumes that: 1) a ‘peace dividend’ like that of the 1990s is desirable; 2) defense spending is a big annual cost for the country; 3) the defense budget increases that the Bush Admin orchestrated were caused by 9/11/2001, Osama Bin Laden, and the wave of Islamic terrorism that began on 9/11/2001.
All three presumptions are flat wrong. But regardless of that, in any event, the answer to the question posed by the article is a decisive “NO”. Not just because it’s impossible to go back in time, but also because pre-2001 defense spending was vastly inadequate and because the seemingly peaceful era of the 1990s (which wasn’t really that peaceful) ended in 2001 and will never return. That era ended irrevocably. It is now necessary for America and Americans to adapt to it.
As for the MSNBC’s foolish presumptions:
1) The so-called “peace dividend” of the 1990s was a grave error which should have NEVER happened. A repetition of that “peace dividend” is NOT desirable; quite the contrary, it would be a foolish error. Such a dividend would be small in any event (because America’s defense spending is much lower than it was during the 1990s) and would not help balance the budget deficit. It would, however, severely weaken the US military (on top of all the defense cuts implemented from 2001 to today). It would therefore be treasonous and wrong.
2) Defense spending is not a big cost for the country. It’s low. America’s FY2011 defense budget is $513.1 billion, which constitutes just 3.50% of GDP and less than 15% of the total federal budget. Even total military spending, including OCO (GWOT) spending, which has nothing to do with the task of defending the country and only pays for Iraq and Afghanistan, constitutes less than 19% of the total military budget. The FY2010 defense budget was not much larger: $550 bn, or 3.7% of GDP. For FY2012, the DOD has requested an inadequate defense budget of $553.1 bn, i.e. 3.782% of GDP.
3) The defense budget increases which the Bush Administration orchestrated were NOT caused by 9/11, OBL, or “terrorism”. Assuming for the sake of argument that terrorism became a problem on 9/11 (which it didn’t – it’s just that previous Administrations simply chose to ignore it), the defense spending increased orchestrated by President Bush were his campaign promises, were widely understood (even by the CSIS) as necessary, and began as soon as the Bush Administration took office. When it did, it (Bush, the OMB, the DOD, etc.) discovered that the US military was totally decrepit and that it was in an even worse condition that was previously believed. Thus, during his confirmation hearing, Secretary Rumsfeld warned that defense spending was inadequate and that the Bush Administration would increase it, and the Bush Administration immediately began to plan for, budget for, and ask the Congress for, defense budget hikes. Secretary Rumsfeld and DOD Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim managed to negotiate a budget deal with then OMB Director Mitch Daniels as early as the spring/summer of 2001 (as Rumsfeld’s recently-released DOD memos prove), with specific numbers and specific purposes of defense spending. The terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 did ADD to the impetus for defense spending growth, but they DID NOT CAUSE IT. The inadequacy of the Clinton Administration’s defense budgets was recognized throughout the 1990s: by the media, by the GOP, by independent think tanks, and by the military’s generals, including Gen. Ronald Fogleman (who resigned in 1997, partly due to the Clinton Defense cuts) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of 2000, who, in that year, presented a unified front when testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the inadequacy of America’s defense budgets of that era, and estimated their needs to be much higher than the resources the Clinton Administration gave them. Sen. John Warner, who was the SASC’s chairman at the time, admitted that the Clinton Administration “went too far” in reducing the defense budget.
So the defense budget growth orchestrated by the Bush Administration pre-dated 9/11, the consensus on the need for it pre-dated 9/11 by a long shot, and the growth was perfectly justified.
In short, MSNBC is lying, as usual. It’s railing against defense spending for political, not pragmatic, reasons. There is no reason to cut the defense budget. There are numerous reasons not to do so.
With Osama bin Laden dead, it might be tempting (although it isn’t to me) to think that the terrorist threat is gone and that there are no other threats to America. But that’s wrong. And even if it wasn’t, defense budget cuts would’ve still been unjustified. America cannot afford to ever let its guard down. As one wise man said, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”.
So no, America cannot “go back to the pre-9/11 days” and cannot afford to cut its defense spending.