Obama’s Military Cuts: Replacing Men With Machines

Like Yogi Berra, I’m getting a feeling of deja vu all over again and, like Gene Roddenberry, a vision of a Trekkie future to go with it.

From the February 2, 1994 edition of the New York Times:

President Clinton’s military budget for the 1995 fiscal year puts Pentagon spending in a holding pattern, canceling some weapons to finance better training and higher pay for military personnel.

Military spending would rise $2.8 billion in the coming fiscal year under the Clinton plan. Taking inflation into account, that represents a decline of slightly less than 1 percent from the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. The Administration plans a 5.9 percent cut for the 1996 fiscal year.

The $263.7 billion proposal submitted today has something for almost everyone to dislike. Some members of Congress want to cut more weapons programs to pay for social needs. Others fear the advent of a military unable to fight two major wars at once, a benchmark for Pentagon planners. A third faction sees the Pentagon’s budget not only as the bulwark of military preparedness but also as a jobs supplier, from soldiering to shipbuilding to software manufacturing.

As David Horowitz notes, things didn’t turn out so well:

In 1994, troops were sent to Haiti, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Clinton asked for a Defense increase of just $2.8 billion but Congress approved a decrease of $17.1 billion. The shrinking budget caused sharp reductions at the Pentagon.

There were more peacekeeping missions to come, including in Somalia where 1,800 Marines provided cover for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers. But the downsizing of the military continued with 40,000 troops removed from Europe. The Base Closure Commission recommended shuttering 79 more bases. Clinton’s budget request for fiscal 1996 was $10.2 billion lower than the prior year.

At this point, we are well into the Clinton presidency and the eleventh straight year of declining military budgets. The president and the Congress have slashed the defense budget to the point where, after adjusting for inflation, it is some 40% less than in 1985 during the second Reagan term.

The year 1996 saw cruise missile strikes against Iraq and 18,000 U.S. troops stationed in the Balkans as part of a NATO force. Clinton sent the U.S. aircraft carrier Independence and three other ships to the Taiwan Strait because of tensions between Taiwan and China. For 1997, Clinton sought another $10 billion reduction, though the bill he eventually signed set aside $244 billion for defense—finally halting the long string of declining budgets, but just barely.

It was a bit calmer overseas in 1997, though 8,500 Americans were still keeping the peace in Bosnia. The Defense budget rose to $268 billion but Clinton proposed more base closures. The Senate rejected the recommendation.

In 1998, the U.S. and Britain struck military targets in Iraq because Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. Clinton also launched missiles against targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan. These attacks came on August 20, three days after Clinton admitted on TV that he had misled the nation about “that woman.”

Defense Secretary William Cohen had become concerned about his budget, and so he called for more base closings—and more money. The Joint Chiefs said that unless funding levels could be increased, some weapons systems or overseas deployments would have to be eliminated. In 1999, the budget was at $250 billion—the same year we were using our military to halt Slobodan Milosevic’s “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo.

For fiscal 2000, Defense requested $267.2 billion billion, including a pay raise for soldiers. The USS Cole was bombed and peacekeeping efforts continued in the usual spots like Kosovo and Bosnia. Clinton’s presidency was winding down and his final Defense budget totaled $288 billion with a supplemental bill of $6.5 billon to help pay for all the peacekeeping.

After Bush was elected and the country had suffered the 9/11 attacks, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said Clinton had cut back the military so much that we might not be able to fight a war on terrorism on several fronts. He listed the problems brought on during the Clinton years: lost air and sea lift capacity, two or three years during which nothing was procured for the military, and cuts in R&D.

President Barack Obama unveiled a defense strategy on Thursday that would expand the U.S. military presence in Asia but shrink the overall size of the force as the Pentagon seeks to reduce spending by nearly half a trillion dollars after a decade of war.

The strategy, if carried out, would significantly reshape the world’s largest military from the one that executed President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cyberwarfare and unmanned drones would continue to grow in priority, as would countering attempts by China and Iran to block U.S. power projection capabilities in areas like the South China Sea and the Strait of Hormuz.

But the size of the U.S. Army and Marines Corps would shrink. So too might the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the U.S. military footprint in Europe.

Troop- and time-intensive counter-insurgency operations, a staple of U.S. military strategy since the 2007 “surge” of extra troops to Iraq, would be far more limited, with the force no longer sized for large-scale, long-term missions.

“The tide of war is receding but the question that this strategy answers is what kind of military will we need long after the wars of the last decade are over,” Obama told a Pentagon news conference alongside Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Panetta said the new strategy would mean the Pentagon would field a “smaller and leaner” military force but said the exact number of personnel would not be determined until the Defense Department finishes its proposed 2013 budget in the coming weeks.

Administration officials have said they expect Army and Marine Corp personnel levels to be reduced by 10 percent to 15 percent over the next decade as part of the reductions.

The Army’s current strength is about 565,000 soldiers and there are 201,000 Marines, meaning an eventual loss of between 76,000 and 114,000 troops.

Critics already are charging that the cuts are being driven by budget woes rather than U.S. defense needs but Obama and Panetta emphasized that the reverse is true. They did not divulge details of spending and cuts, which will be detailed in Obama’s upcoming federal budget for fiscal year 2013.

“Some will no doubt say the spending reductions are too big; others will say they’re too small,” Obama said.

There’s the Deja Vu.  Now, about that Trekkie future…

The original Star Trek Series (1966 – 1969) featured an episode titled “Return of the Archons.”

The U.S.S. Enterprise is investigating Beta III, where the U.S.S. Archon disappeared over 100 years before.

When the landing party exhibits strange behavior, Kirk sends another party down to investigate. They find the culture on Beta III is quiescent, with no creative tendencies. The entire culture is controlled by a group of ‘lawgivers’ known as “The Body” which is, in turn, controlled by the omniscient Landru. The inhabitants change from normal, peaceful people to a violent mob at the coming of the Red Hour. This ‘Festival’ is the society’s only outlet for the tyrannical hold that Landru has over them at all other times.

Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise is being pulled from its orbit, its crew to be absorbed into the Body. This, they discover, is what happened to the U.S.S. Archon, so many years before.

Archon survivors have formed an underground of sorts to fight the Body, and they help Kirk and Spock reach Landru. Landru turns out to be an incredibly complex computer built by Landru, a scientist who lived 6,000 years before, who wanted to guide his people into a peaceful, civilized progress.

Landru had affected the computer with his scientific thoughts and memories, but not his wisdom. For centuries the computer, ‘Landru,’ has been interpreting his suggestions to the point that no one is allowed independent thought. Kirk tells the computer that instead of helping to nurture the culture of Beta III, it has harmed it. Landru destroys itself, leaving the Betans to work toward the sort of culture Landru had wanted so many centuries before. With the promise of Federation help on the way, Kirk and his crew beam back to the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Before Landru, there were probably predator drones.

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