Maintaining Capability to Wage a Second War Asking for Trouble

Cross-posted from OtherWords.

Washington’s talking about cutting the military budget. Whoopee.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently revealed plans to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the Pentagon’s budget in the next decade, with possibly more reductions on the way.

We’re going to have fewer soldiers, fewer warplanes and ships, and not so many missiles. We’ll cut back a bit on nuclear weapons. If Congress buys this plan, the Pentagon’s $530 billion-a-year base budget, which excludes extras like the wars we’re actually fighting, would shrink to a mere $472 billion by 2013. Double whoopee.

Not everyone is happy with the plan. Critics say that so piddling a sum as $472 billion would leave us naked to our enemies. We wouldn’t even be able to fight two wars at a time, they say.

To which Panetta replies, maybe not. But we’ll be able to fight one major war and have enough strength left over to “spoil” a second enemy’s malign intentions elsewhere. Half a whoopee.

I’ve always been suspicious of the two-war strategy. To me, it’s like having a two-car garage. You may not really need two cars, but if you have a two-car garage, chances are you’ll own two cars sooner or later. One-and-a-half wars are plenty. If we have more enemies than that, let them take a number and form a line.

Visit OtherWords to read Donald Kaul’s column in its entirety.