It isn’t as though there are other, more important things to cut. If we’re all being honest and objective, the military could make the required amount of cuts without affecting the rank and file.
For example, Congress has mandated the military to accept upgraded Abrams tanks. The thing is, the Pentagon says it doesn’t want new tanks. It does not have use for the ones it has since the landscape of warfare has changed so radically. Right now, tanks are sitting in the various desert theaters and doing nothing.
Then there is the F-36 program. The F-35 plane has been in development for over a decade. All the plane can do is fly but only in good weather. It has cost $1.5 trillion and counting. To put that number in perspective, it would wipe out everyone’s student loan debt.
What about bases across the world? Why do we need bases in every country? They’re typically located in places that don’t want us there or have the ability to defend themselves. We don’t need bases in Europe. They can take responsibility for their own defense. Some of the countries we have bases in actively hate our presence. A large number of Japanese people don’t like our military being in their country and residents of Okinawa have recently voted for a mayor who opposes the construction of a new base there. If these countries don’t want us there, why should we be there? Bringing our troops home would save us a lot of money.
The big elephants in the room are Iraq and Afghanistan. What to do about them? The answer is obvious but many deficit hawks don’t want to hear it. It’s time to leave. Afghanistan is too wrapped up in ancient tribal conflicts. The people would rather fight over the centuries old conflicts that have kept them from entering the modern world. No amount of surges or troops can or will change that mindset. Iraq has the same problem. If they wanted to stop Al Qaeda and the assorted other violent groups, they could. The problem is that they don’t. It’s like every addict counselor’s first rule: To save an addict they have to want to get better otherwise you can’t help them. The Iraqis and Afghanis are by and large are content to fight over the same conflicts and shoot anyone in the middle. There’s nothing we can do for them.
We can save a lot of money but people in our government don’t want to. Certainly the military industrial complex has a lot of blame. However, a very large number of people making the cuts support a policy of “interventionism.” They believe it is our job to save the world. The majority of people calling for cuts to the military fall under the category of “non-interventionist.” They believe that America should look out for America. They believe that we shouldn’t get involved in every civil war and ethnic conflict. However, for a lot of low information voters, the public image of non-interventionism is that of hippies spitting on soldiers returning from Vietnam. To a lot of people, anyone who thinks our military should be scaled back is someone who hates soldiers. What better way to reinforce that than by targeting cuts at soldiers?
The people cutting salaries and retirement benefits are merely using soldiers as political tools to attack those who want to get out of “dicey foreign entanglements” George Washington warned us about,