The nation’s armed forces are under sustained attack. Unfortunately, while the military is engaged in two conflicts overseas, the most serious fire they are taking comes from some of their fellow Americans, starting – incredibly – with their Commander-in-Chief.
In recent days, Team Obama’s hostility towards the uniformed services has been increasingly in evidence. Consider the following, illustrative examples:
Dissing his commanders: Last spring, President Obama replaced the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan with a man skilled at waging counter-insurgency operations, General Stanley McChrystal. He did so in pointed rebuke to what amounted to a “counter-terror” campaign waged by the Bush administration – trying to kill or neutralize key Taliban and al Qaeda operatives without having sufficient forces to clear or hold territory and protect the affected population.
At the time, President reinforced his contention that Afghanistan was a “necessary” war. He assigned additional forces to the theater so as to enable his new commander to engage in the sort of operations required to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people and defeat the insurgency.
But that was then, this is now. Gen. McChrystal and his bosses, Central Command’s General David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, believe that as many as 60,000 additional troops are needed to avert failure in Afghanistan. But President Obama and his key advisors, notably White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and campaign strategist David Axelrod, have evidently concluded that the public – or at least the Democrats’ base – has no stomach for such a build-up.
So the theater commander who thought Mr. Obama meant what he said five months ago has been left hanging in the wind. His request has become a political football in Washington and the President’s partisans have reviled the general for making known his professional assessment of the situation. Morale in Afghanistan has reportedly plummeted, compounded by Washington’s growing incoherence about the threat posed by the Taliban – who wants to be the last guy killed fighting an enemy it turns out we are happy to have run the place? – and by restrictive rules of engagement that are getting troops killed unnecessarily.
Hollowing out the military: The Obama administration has secured congressional approval for virtually all the cuts it sought in defense spending. Particularly hard hit have been the budgets for modernization and replacement of aging and worn-out equipment. Some estimates suggest there is as much as a $50 billion shortfall in the procurement accounts. History clearly teaches that these bills will come due over time, and be paid for in blood by inadequately equipped American servicepersonnel.
Two areas are of particular concern. First, Team Obama has not only cancelled the NATO-agreed missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. It has cut over a billion out of other anti-missile accounts, incentivizing our enemies to continue their acquisitions of ballistic missiles and leaving America and its allies at ever-greater risk.
Second, President Obama reportedly rejected the military’s recommendations with respect to the size of the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Determined to demonstrate his commitment to “a world without nuclear weapons” by accelerating the elimination of ours, he evidently is demanding that an entire wing of Minuteman III missiles be scrapped. Were that decision to be adopted – especially in the absence of any modernization program for the U.S. nuclear arsenal – the robustness and credibility of our deterrent would be significantly degraded.
Attacking the Military Culture: During his address to gay activists on October 10, Mr. Obama repeated his campaign pledge to “end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” By this, the President actually means that he will work to repeal the statutory prohibition on homosexuals serving in the military.
Barack Obama, however, clearly does not want to repeat the mistake made by the last Democratic president to pander to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. When, to this end, Bill Clinton tried a frontal assault on the military early in his presidency, he was soundly defeated by those on Capitol Hill who took seriously the judgment of uniformed leaders who argued that such accommodations would seriously degrade the “good order and discipline” essential to the armed forces.
Mr. Obama hopes in due course to euchre today’s commanders to go where their predecessors wisely refused to venture. Can he do so while simultaneously slashing their budgets, exhibiting disrespect for their professional judgment and jeopardizing their missions?
Worse yet for Team Obama’s bid to compel the integration of people of every sexual predilection on the military, over 1100 distinguished retired generals and admirals have urged that the existing ban be maintained. In a statement issued earlier this year, they wrote: “Our past experience as military leaders leads us to be greatly concerned about the impact of repeal [of the law] on morale, discipline, unit cohesion, and overall military readiness. We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
The Commander-in-Chief has a responsibility to appreciate that we have but one military and wartime is an especially ill-advised moment to undermine, hollow-out or otherwise assault it. His failure to do the former and willingness to do the latter will bring us all grief.