U.S. Defense Cuts Hobble Allies, Embolden Enemies

President Obama’s new defense strategy is sending the wrong message to America’s foes. The new cut-rate approach to national security provides opportunities for Iran and others to exploit an under-funded and under-equipped military.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama made no secret of his plans to reduce defense spending. And so it was no surprise when, in April 2011, President Obama ordered the Pentagon to slash its budget by $400 billion. This, of course, came in addition to the $400 billion in cuts he had already imposed. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta subsequently unveiled a defense “strategic review” that conveniently explained that America’s shift in domestic and overseas priorities requires a different approach to defense spending -- one that, coincidentally, can accommodate a defense budget that is $400 billion “leaner.”

The prospect of a leaner (i.e., less capable) American military doubtless cheers our foreign adversaries. The leaders of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and others rant and rave against a U.S. they revile as the “Great Satan” and an “Imperial Yankee,” hell-bent on colonizing their homelands. Yet they have been restrained from challenging us with anything much stronger than words due to our military strength, which assures our forces can prevail anywhere on the world stage.

However, the administration’s naive strategy of negotiating with hostile governments and weakening the military has allowed regimes to threaten U.S. interests. As Mr. Obama initially stated in his inaugural address, if countries like Iran “unclench their fist” they will find an “extended hand” from the United States. Yet the administration fails to consider what will happen when dialogue and diplomatic engagement don’t achieve desired results. As Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA) recently stated, “Downgrading our [military] force will only harm our ability to respond to unforeseen crises.”

The administration’s reluctance to stand up to its aggressors is not lost on Iran. Days after Mr. Obama’s inauguration, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly interpreted the new president’s offer of negotiation as a sign of weakness “This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed,” he stated.