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Jan 6, 2012

Obama slashes military spending, focuses on Asia

Crikey media wrap: Barack Obama has announced hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to US military spending over the next ten years and a renewed focus towards Asia and the Pacific region in a rare appearance in the Pentagon briefing room.

Barack Obama announced hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to US military spending over the next ten years and a renewed focus towards Asia and the Pacific region on Thursday, the result of a “defence strategic review” which aims to scale back the propensity for American engagement in large-scale nation building missions (read: invasions) in the face of the county’s disastrous debt problems.

Making a rare appearance in the Pentagon briefing room, Obama’s pledged to reduce the US army, now around 570,000 people, to around 490,000. Releasing an eight-page strategy document outlining his vision, the President also pledged to invest in intelligence gathering, cyberwarfare and countering — without articulating how — the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Flanked by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Obama was careful to reinstate America’s military credentials.

“Our military will be leaner,” he said, “but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority.”

Predicting criticism about leaving the US ill-prepared for large scale responses — citing WWII and Vietnam as examples —  Obama vowed: “As commander-in-chief, I will not let that happen again. Not on my watch.”

Naturally reactions from the commentariat have been many and varied, accentuated by the fact that this announcement takes place at the beginning of an election year.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, livid, wrote:

The voters can decide whether it is wise, when the number of threats is proliferating and when Obama refuses to clamp down on domestic spending, for him to sacrifice national security in order to make his fiscal record look less horrendous than it is.

Kieran Lalor from New York Daily News expressed concern for the thousands of jobs to be lost in NY and used the occasion to join the chorus criticising Obama’s economic cred:

Our elected representatives talk about the need for jobs, yet few have spoken up to protect New York’s defense workers from the chopping block. The massive defense cuts proposed by the Obama administration coupled with the mandatory defense cuts resulting from the failure of the debt supercommittee will put all Americans at greater risk and have a devastating impact on the economy of the Empire State.

KT McFarland at Fox News was outraged about Obama’s choice of timing and the location of his announcement. She sprayed:

Whose bright idea was it for the President of the United States to unveil his defense budget cuts [on] the cusp of a crisis with Iran and in the Pentagon’s briefing room? — What were they thinking?

Perhaps they think it makes President Obama look like a tough commander in chief to announce he’s slashing the defense budget with the victims standing right behind him.

Republicans across American predictably responded with outrage, Rep. Randy Forbes one of many:

Unfortunately, this review dangerously fails to identify risks assumed by drastic budget cuts. This laundry list of vague ‘priorities’ is not a strategy for superiority. It is instead a menu for mediocrity.

Yochi J. Dreazen from National Journal took a middle of the road approach and predicted an onslaught of vitriol from front-running Republican presidential candidate nominee Mitt Romney, who sings from a very different hymn sheet:

Talk of reducing the size of the nation’s ground forces is likewise sparking fierce GOP criticism on Capitol Hill and from leading Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, who has said – without specifying how he’d pay for it – that he’d expand the forces instead.

Not all the responses have been negative. David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy, in fact, called for greater cuts:

Frankly, I think the cuts are far too small and the U.S. can go much further without materially impacting our status as the world’s sole and uncontested superpower. As the president notes, even with these cuts we will still be spending vastly more than every major military power in the world combined.

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15 comments

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15 thoughts on “Obama slashes military spending, focuses on Asia

  1. kevrenor

    About time for the cuts.

    Just keep those troops out of Australia.

  2. RamaStar

    In my opinion, this is a good thing. The US military is too bloated and has too much of a cold war mentality still.
    For example, there is a very sizable US force in Germany still. I believe this is now fairly redundant and can be scaled back.

  3. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Well after Iraq and Afghanistan disasters , they are leaner by over 5,000 troops , plus the returned troops blowing their brains out all over the USA. Just listen to the GOP’s whinging about cuts ? Just stop invading countries for oil and gas and minerals and just pay for them, it would have been cheaper or build smaller cars.

  4. Oscar Jones

    Perhaps when Obama wins his second term he may actually fulfill some of his promises.
    He did promise massive investment in renewable energy-an industry that would create tens of thousands of jobs rather than the arms industry which is bankrupting the USA.
    Will the candidate for Wall Street rise to the challenge?.

  5. GeeWizz

    [“Well after Iraq and Afghanistan disasters”]

    Not a complete disaster, they both now have Democracy and the violence in Iraq has reduced significantly.

    [“Just stop invading countries for oil and gas and minerals and just pay for them”]

    Ahhh where to start on this piece of stupidity.

    Well first they are paying for it… market rate just like every other country. They didn’t go in to “Stealz ye Oilz” they went in to secure oil supply… in other words the Yanks ability to buy oil in the future. The Yanks use 25% of the worlds oil(might be less now with China and India) and if you remember the early 1970’s oil embargo it badly damaged their economy, petrol stations were closed because they had no petrol to sell.

    The Yanks plan has always been about guarantee of supply. Mind you Afghanistan has nothing to do with oil as they don’t have any and is a much worthy cause but I’m guessing the lefties want us to pull out and hand the whole kit and kaboodle over to the Taliban?

  6. Lord Barry Bonkton

    SB/ TTH/Geewiz Afghanistan ” DON’T HAVE OIL ” Ahhh , where do I start on this piece of Stupidity ???????????????? I think it was the NEO-CONs (Righties ) that put their Madman in Iraq and supplied him with WMD and in Afghanistan , payed and supplied the Taliban with weapons/money for drugs.
    Gee too much wizz S.B.

  7. Suzanne Blake

    Looks like more dollars for US when The Fleet arrives for R&R

  8. jeebus

    @Geewhiz, Iraq and Afganistan are disastrous wars, whose botched planning, execution and utter mismanagement have not done anything to bring peace to the region and have almost single handedly bankrupted America.

    Bush and co’s hopeless idealism sold the Iraq invasion as an operation costing “$60 billion” at most, when 10% of that amount alone disappeared into fat air after being airdropped into the country as crisp bills direct from the US taxpayer. America is now over a trillion dollars down the hole, and Iraq is beset by suicide bombings in metropolitan areas, and a government collapsing along sectarian lines.

    Now compare those shemozzles to Libya, an operation Obama coordinated with competent allies under the banner of NATO, with UN support. Result = One toppled dictator. Cost to America so far = $1 billion.

    If there’s one lesson that neo-conservatives have failed to learn despite the overwhelming evidence, it’s the foolishness of engaging in unilateral military action without bringing in the European powers. Sure, it’s doable, but the results speak for themselves.

    America needs the democratic legitimacy provided by umbrella organisations like NATO and the EU in order to mitigate both financial costs and asymmetrical retaliation.

    Obama slashing military spending is a prudent step in his direction to have American allies play a larger role in policing the world and sharing the costs of Pax Americana.

  9. GocomSys

    Agree with the “reasonable” sentiments expressed earlier. It is indeed time to reduce US military spend and start reassessing priorities.
    Ignoring the usual dim witted TTH (SB,GWh) comments who are predictably finding inspiration by copying the US republican script or on the domestic front are invariably sticking close to the Noalition agenda. Recommend: Nothing to say? Stay away!

  10. GocomSys

    Interesting developments in 2012 with truly independent sites coming on stream.

    http://theglobalmail.org/
    http://theconversation.edu.au/

    Hopefully these sites aren’t attractive for the scatterbrains of TTH (SB,GWh).