During the third presidential debate, Barack Obama stated a lot of blatant lies to cover up his sordid foreign policy record. Here’s a rebuttal of some of them:
1) He claims that ship numbers don’t matter because today’s ships are more capable and because the Navy has carriers and submarines today. But during the Reagan years (when the Navy was more than twice as big as it is today), the USN had far more carriers and submarines than today, and the Pacific Fleet alone was larger than the USN is today. Even during the Clinton years the Navy had more ships than today.
Furthermore, and most importantly, ship numbers matter a great deal, because a single ship, no matter how capable, can only be in one place at any given time. Yet, today’s Navy only has 284 ships, not even close to enough to meet even today’s requirements: the Navy today can meet only 59% of Combatant Commanders’s needs for ships and only 61% of their needs for submarines.
And earlier this year, when CENTCOM commander Gen. James Mattis requested a third carrier group to be deployed to the Gulf, he was refused, because all other available carriers were needed in the Pacific.
Moreover, as two independent studies – one by the bipartisan QDR Independent Review Panel and another one by the CNAS – have found – the Navy needs 346 ships to execute all of its missions, not the meagre 284 it has today.
Furthermore, under Obama’s own plans, even if sequestration does not proceed, the USN’s cruiser, destroyer, and submarine fleets will decline precipitously below today’s already-inadequate levels, as documented by Ronald O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service. Moreover, comparing ships to “bayonets and horses” and thus implying that warships are relics of the past is not just wrong, it’s demeaning for the Navy. So Mitt Romney is right: the Navy DOES need a lot more ships than it has today.
2) He claims that when he sits down with the Joint Chiefs, he gives them what is needed to protect America. This is utterly false. Obama has only weakened the military, and significantly so. He has cut the defense budget significantly, killed over 50 crucial weapon programs, and used the defense budget as a piggybank for his domestic pet projects. In 2009, Obama ordered the DOD to kill over 30 crucial weapon programs, including the F-22, the Zumwalt class, the AC-X, the CSAR helicopter, the MKV, the KEI, and many others. In 2010, he signed, and rammed through a lame-duck Senate, the unequal New START treaty, which obligates only the US (not Russia) to cut its nuclear arsenal deeply. In January 2011, his administration announced another $178 bn in defense budget cuts and “efficiencies”.
And on April 13th, 2011, he demanded another $400 bn in defense budget cuts without even telling his own Defense Secretary or the Joint Chiefs.
In the summer of 2011, in the debt ceiling deal negotiations, he demanded massive defense budget cuts and got them – in the form of first tier BCA-mandated defense budget cuts ($487 bn) and a $600 bn sequester (which was HIS idea, not House Republicans’, contrary to his blatant debate lie, as confirmed by Bob Woodward’s newest book).
And now, Obama threatens to veto any attempt to cance sequestration, and to let it proceed, unless Congress agrees to his demands of massive tax hikes. In other words, he’s holding the US military hostage to his tax hikes agenda. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIixemuEe1s)
The fact is that Obama couldn’t care less about the military’s needs. He cares only about gutting America’s defense and finding the money for his unconstitutional domestic pet projects.
3) Obama claims that Romney would take America’s foreign policy back to the 1980s because Romney called Russia “America’s #1 geopolitical foe.” But Romney does not advocate a return to the Cold War. He advocates a more realistic, sober policy towards Russia, instead of the craven appeasement of the Kremlin that Obama has pursued for the last 3.5 years (the utterly failed “reset” policy).
Russia has repayed this craven appeasement with bomber exercises off the coasts of Alaska and California (whereby the Russians said they were “practicing attacking the enemy”, i.e. the US) without prior notification as required by the New START treaty, providing continued diplomatic protection to the regimes of Syria, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Belarus (and providing the first two with modern weapons), threatening to use nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles against America and its allies, increased espionage, and an arms race against the US, driven by Putin’s hostility towards America as well as his desire to restore Russia’s superpower status. And with booming oil revenue, he has more than enough money to do that.
Russia has also harassed America’s ambassador to that country, expelled USAID from its soil, and withdrawn from the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, thus showing further its hostility towards the US.
Russia is no friend of the US. It’s a foe.
Romney’s plan is to treat Russia according to its ACTIONS, not according to Obama’s naive, childish dreams about “reset” and friendship with a KGB-thug-led Russia which sees itself as America’s enemy and practices attacks on the US. He will not start a new Cold War with Russia, but he will not cave in (or pledge any “flexibility”) to Russia either. For the first time ever, Putin will have to deal with a tough US president, not three successive appeasers (Clinton, Bush, and Obama).
4) Obama claims that Romney wants to add $2 trillion to the defense budget over the next 10 years. This is also patently false, as I have already documented here. To wit:
First, some simple math. Adding $2 trillion to defense over the next decade means adding $200 bn every year on average. If, in one year, the increase is smaller than the $200 bn average, increases in later years would have to be higher.
Spending $8.3 trillion on defense over the next decade would mean spending $830 bn every year, on average, on defense.
Mitt Romney does not propose anything even close to that. His proposals are far more modest, and very modest by historical standards.
Let’s start with the size of today’s (FY2012) base defense budget. It amounts to $531 bn, i.e. 3.47% of America’s GDP (which is $15.29 trillion) and less than 15% of the total federal budget. Obama’s proposed FY2013 base defense budget amounts to $525 bn, i.e. 3.43% of GDP.
(The Overseas Contingency Operations budget, i.e. the war costs, are planned to be $88.5 bn in FY2013, FY2014, and FY2015 before the US withdraws from Afghanistan, but they’re separate from the base defense budget; in any case, Mitt Romney’s pledge, and his detractors’ false claims, pertain to the base defense budget, so we’ll look only at that one for the purposes of this analysis.)
A 3.47% of GDP base defense budget means that, excluding the late 1990s, America is now devoting less (as a percentage of GDP) of its own wealth to its national defense than at any time since FY1941.
Mitt Romney’s plans
As stated above, Gov. Romney proposes to raise the base defense budget to 4% of GDP.* As stated above, America’s GDP is currently $15.29 trillion, so 4% of it would amount to $611.6 bn, or just $86.6 above what Obama plans for FY2013.
How the base defense budget would grow thereafter would be determined by how fast the US economy would grow, since Gov. Romney pledges to peg the defense budget to the economy’s size. If the economy doesn’t grow, neither will the defense budget; if it grows slowly, so will the defense budget.
Even if it grows at a fast pace like 4% per year, the defense budget would, as a simple mathematical consequence, also grow only by 4% per year under Romney’s plan.
Let’s assume, for example, that next year, the economy grows by 4%, from $15.29 trillion to $15.9016 trillion. Assuming even such luck with economic growth (i.e. a rapid recovery), the base defense budget, as a 4% fraction of GDP, would still amount only to $636.064 bn in FY2014. But that’s totally dependent on the economy growing rapidly. Even then, under such optimistic economic growth assumptions, the FY2014 base defense budget would still be only $103 bn per year higher than Obama’s plan for FY2014 (which is 533.6 bn, see Figure 1-3 on page 1-3 of this DOD document).
And remember, they claimed Romney wants to increase base defense spending by $200 bn on average! Which only shows how badly wrong they are.
But let’s assume optimistically that within the next five years, by 2017, the economy grows to $17 trillion (a highly unlikely scenario). Even if that happens, that would still leave defense spending, as a 4% of GDP item, at $680 bn in FY2017 or FY2018. By comparison, Obama plans to spend $567.3 bn in FY2017 on defense. (See this DOD document, page 1-3, Figure 1-3.) The difference is $113 bn, far short of the $200 bn difference the Obama camp and its liberal allies claim.