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“Wars begin when governments believe that the price of aggression is cheap.”
— Ronald Reagan
President Reagan’s words resonate in light of the recent observance of the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
That aggression was cheap is precisely what the war lords that were running Japan believed when they set out to neutralize the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was ill prepared for war and, as a result, soon had to fight one.
I offer this topic in light of the fact that while we have been distracted by the travails of Obamacare, the IRS scandal, debt ceiling fights and the near constant threat of government shutdown, the Obama administration has been systematically gutting our military.
Soon we will have the fewest ships at sea since World War I, the smallest air force ever and an army and Marine Corps at their lowest levels of manpower, equipment, training and readiness in four generations.
More disturbing, though, is that most Americans are either completely unaware of America’s diminished capacity or don’t believe that it is a problem. Once recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters revealed that only a bit more than a third of Americans believe that the U.S. spends too little on its military. A majority – 56 percent according to the poll – believe that America’s military spending is either too much or about right.
That America’s military readiness is in visible decline (visible at least to those parties around the world who would do us or our allies harm) and that places like Syria, Iran, Egypt and Libya are heating up, is no mere coincidence. Nor is it coincidental that China is establishing dominion over airspace to which it has no legitimate claim or that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is saying out loud that he wishes to regain Soviet-era superpower status.
It is also not mere happenstance that Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are actively seeking nuclear weapons.
All of this is happening as a direct result of the growing world realization that the United States lacks the power of deterrence that it once had. As America becomes militarily weaker, bad actors become more aggressive and allies become more skeptical and distrustful.
All of this is playing out in real time right under our noses and yet we seem not to notice.
History is instructive if we are willing to pay attention. On some indeterminate date some time during World War II, the world woke up to find that the United States had more ships at sea and more men in uniform than the once mightiest-of-all-Great Britain. At that moment, world hegemony passed from one English-speaking, law abiding, Judeo-Christian God-worshiping nation to another without so much as a harsh word spoken between them.
Such power had never before passed so peacefully from one hegemon to another and is unlikely to ever do so again.
The United States did not seek the role of defender of world peace. We were doomed to it by the events of the mid 20th century. The free world would sleep just as soundly if the British Navy still patrolled the oceans and the British Colonial Office kept order in places like Egypt and the Palestinian Mandate.
But alas, the British Empire is no more and the job falls to us. If we fail to shoulder the burden, the results will be catastrophic.
America under the Obama administration is once again making the price of aggression cheap. Only this time, aggression is cheap not only for malfeasant governments but also for stateless practitioners of terror.
The fifth century Roman writer Renatus put it succinctly. “If you want peace, prepare for war.” With seven decades now separating us from the horror of World War II, it appears that we will one day soon have to re-learn this bitter truth.