Defense Spending and Exile

January 7, 2011

Defense Spending and Exile

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post front page all announce that the Pentagon is going under the knife and will reduce future spending. But, as usual, there's some ambiguity as to what it actually means. Take this line from Craig Whitlock's Post article that Defense Secretary Robert Gates's new initiative means "cuts that actually shrink the military's bottom line could be on the horizon." Or the Journal's version: "The projected five-year budget . . . doesn't include an actual decrease in the military budget." The Times is less qualified but notes that spending "would still reflect real growth" for next year. However, it is scheduled flatline (increasing only to match inflation) by 2015, though even that "will continue to be reset by annual spending proposals . . . based on shifting economic factors" as well as Congress and emerging threats. Also of note, the secretary proposes cutting the size of the armed forces by 6 percent (this after previously vouching for increasing the number of military personnel, which still leaves the force bigger than he found it in 2006).

The Skeptics' Chris Preble sees a ploy "intended to fend off even deeper cuts." Derek Thompson thinks the point is clear: "Gates is not proposing to shrink the Pentagon's budget; he's proposing to slow the growth of the Pentagon budget." Logan Penza agrees, but notes "it does breach one of the sacred walls that have historically dominated budget negotiations." David Rothkopf calls the move "smart, timely, courageous, and probably, in the final analysis, just the tip of the iceberg," and says it's "a reminder of just how good Gates is." The Washington Examiner applauds the secretary, too, and thinks "voters will reward the Republicans' courage if they dare" to play along.

The Hill reports that the SecDef's proposals surprised House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) who had expected only to try and stymie the Pentagon's effort to cut $100 billion in waste. (Now he has to block actual cuts, too? Poor guy.) And the Raw Story headlines that the defense budget slashes "nearly top GOP’s entire first-year austerity pledge."

On a completely different topic, Yale Spanish and literature professor Roberto González Echevarria commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the rupture in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. He recounts his personal journey from naive exile, clinging to Cuban citizenship, to an American "rejoicing in this country's democracy." Even worse than the Castros' running the country "into the ground" economically, the professor writes, they failed to "remove fear from Cuban life." He hopes the "next historical break in Cuba will not be a violent one" but one that brings "peace, prosperity and democracy."