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Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Decline

For once, I agree with every word in a column by David Brooks:

In a democracy, voters get what they want, so the line tracing federal health care spending looks like the slope of a jet taking off from LaGuardia. Medicare spending is set to nearly double over the next decade. This is the crucial element driving all federal spending over the next few decades and pushing federal debt to about 250 percent of G.D.P. in 30 years….

Oswald Spengler didn’t get much right, but he was certainly correct when he told European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.

Europeans, who are ahead of us in confronting that decision, have chosen welfare over global power. European nations can no longer perform many elemental tasks of moving troops and fighting. As late as the 1990s, Europeans were still spending 2.5 percent of G.D.P. on defense. Now that spending is closer to 1.5 percent, and, amid European malaise, it is bound to sink further.

The United States will undergo a similar process. The current budget calls for a steep but possibly appropriate decline in defense spending, from 4.3 percent of G.D.P. to 3 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office….

Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot….

How, in short, will Hagel supervise the beginning of America’s military decline?

The Europeans, of course, had us to defend them.

Whom do we have?

  1. Chris Campion

    Several of the hard-to-quantify effects of a DoD drawdown for DoD contractors are:

    a.  Unused tooling becomes scrapped or worthless (the older is gets, the more likely it is in need of replacement).  Tooling is what’s used to construct the metal parts that go into, well, everything.

    b.  Machinists and other skilled labor move to other jobs, so the knowledge about the products they used to build, and the tools they used to build them, is lost.

    c.  If there is a sudden need to build X part, the start-up costs are exponentially larger than they would have been had the drawdown not occurred.  Meaning you are starting a build of what amounts to a brand new product, from the ground up.  If you suddenly need 10,000 M2 .50 Cal guns, and you haven’t built them for 3 years, the per-unit cost skyrockets. Lead times will do the same thing.

    This is just surface-scratching, but there are hidden costs to a DoD drawdown that knuckleheads in political offices will never understand, nor care about.  They’re only interested in putting themselves back into those comfy offices when re-election time rolls around.

  2. Spin

    I still don’t know why we aren’t calling for real lean initiatives in every area of government, especially the military. I guarantee you’d eliminate 20% of the spending without effecting government’s ability to provide its services (whether justified or not).

  3. The King Prawn
    Ken Owsley: I still don’t know why we aren’t calling for real lean initiatives in every area of government, especially the military. I guarantee you’d eliminate 20% of the spending without effecting government’s ability to provide its services (whether justified or not). · 23 minutes ago

    Now you’re just being silly. You know that government always trims the worst place first to make it as painful as possible on the citizenry in order to extract more property from us with which to bribe us for support.

  4. The King Prawn

    What scares me most is that we are still the premier nuclear power in the world. Yes, we spend more on defense than the next 15 countries, but our spending is the only reason others don’t spend so much. As we draw down our defense spending either the world becomes even more unstable, or some other nation expands their spending to fill the void. Either scenario increases the possibility that we will one day achieve the desparation required to use our nukes.

  5. Yeah...ok.

    Make Chuck the Cut Czar.

  6. Valiuth
    Peter Robinson

    The Europeans, of course, had us to defend them.

    Whom do we have? · · 1 minute ago

    Texas!

  7. Peter Robinson
    C
    Valiuth

    Peter Robinson

    The Europeans, of course, had us to defend them.

    Whom do we have? · · 1 minute ago

    Texas! · 0 minutes ago

    Just packed my briefcase, preparing to head home feeling low.  You put a smile on my face instead.  Of course!  As long as Texas remains Texas, all is not lost.

  8. Pilli

    The Chinese will come to our defense!

  9. Nick Stuart

    Who will defend us? The Presidents Own Unicorn-Mounted Leprechaun regiment of course.

    Either that or the sheer radiance of President Obama’s countenance and eloquence of his speeches will do it.

  10. Black Prince

    It’s over for America.

  11. doc molloy

    Gort! Chuck barada nickto.. I fear the end is near..

  12. 3rd angle projection

    Now that the NHL lockout is over, Canada?

  13. Mike H

    Hey, at least whatever is going to happen to us, it will happen somewhere else first. America at least has the benefit of going last (of 1st world countries). Last to be defenceless. Last to have our helthcare disapear. Last for demographic decline.

    We’re the only ones who get to watch the consequences of our actions before they hit us.

  14. Chris Campion
    Whom do we have? · · 27 minutes ago

    Union thugs?

  15. David Williamson

    As usual, Jay Nordlinger has the best take on this – the majority of US voters chose decline, so this appointment is to be expected.

  16. DocJay

    General Jack D Ripper.

  17. Scott R

    Chuck Hagel has very sad looking eyes, which is appropriate for a SecDec.

  18. Valiuth
    Peter Robinson

    Valiuth

    Peter Robinson

    The Europeans, of course, had us to defend them.

    Whom do we have? · · 1 minute ago

    Texas! · 0 minutes ago

    Just packed my briefcase, preparing to head home feeling low.  You put a smile on my face instead.  Of course!  As long as Texas remains Texas, all is not lost. · 1 hour ago

    Glad to help.

    I read this article earlier today too and I admit like you I was astonished at the fact I actually agreed with a David Brooks column. I am also amazed at his candor. The question is will most Americans have the realization that you had? I have the sad feeling though that 52% of us won’t think to hard about it. 

    Ultimately in lieu of Pax Americana I think we will have another age of bloody wars and shifting borders. I think when the US or the EU are forced to back down from some petty local tyrant like an Assad people will begin to question our defense draw down. At least that is my hope. My fear is that we will just have another World War forcing a rapid remilitarization. 

  19. Aaron Miller
    Valiuth

    …. The question is will most Americans have the realization that you had? I have the sad feeling though that 52% of us won’t think to hard about it. ….

    Well spotted.

    I expect the majority of American voters to remain blissfully ignorant of this inherent contradiction between defense spending and unrestrained welfare spending. Voters will continue to demand military actions we cannot afford.

    And why not? For all this talk of debt and disaster, Americans don’t have to ration a thing. Life goes on as before.

    National skydiving, my friends. It’s a long way down. There’s plenty of time to forget about the hard ground beneath us.

  20. Xennady

    Forgive me for having a slightly different perspective.

    But I cannot help but note that 1) the US border is infamously open and unprotected. 2) the trillion-odd dollars we spend upon has plainly failed to allow US citizens to safely exercise their free speech rights to criticize a certain religion without fear of bodily harm. 3) and the actual use of the military of late has been to expensively remove the government of Libya, which was troubling us not.

    Worse, I read elsewhere that US policy regarding the rapid modernization and expansion of foreign nuclear arsenals is to do absolutely nothing. Money would be of good use there, but none is to be spent.

    This is not a recipe that will produce public support for the present level of defense spending, for good or ill.

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