Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Trump mandate: We have to restore America’s military strength

Everyone knows that the U.S. military is critical to the nation’s security, and that it is also important how foreign countries perceive America’s strength. That perception of our military and its civilian leadership can encourage careful, thoughtful and peaceful behavior by other countries, or a cavalier, carefree “we’ll do as we please” approach.

Now that the Barack Obama presidency is over, we must begin restoring the military and the world’s perception of America’s strength, both of which have been severely damaged over the last eight years. The security of not just our nation, but also of the world to a large degree, depend upon a strong America.

Back in 2015 Obama stated that the U.S. is now “the most respected country on Earth” thanks to his administration. That comment drew ire and fire on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” Host Bill O’Reilly and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer both reacted strongly to the comment, with O’Reilly countering, “No, we’re not respected by Putin, we’re not respected by ISIS and other terrorists, so I don’t know what he is referring to.” Krauthammer wondered, “what planet he's living on,” and pointed out that “allies who’ve depended on us for so long are finding themselves left hanging in the wind.”

The rest of the segment detailed the many foreign policy failures of the Obama administration that contradict Obama’s delusional statement.

Two years ago The Heritage Foundation said this about funding for the military: “Consecutive years of across-the-board budget cuts have significantly weakened the U.S. military. The military will likely need several years of reinvestment to return to a sound footing.”

It is instructive to look at just how Obama’s eight years have affected the armed forces from the perspective of active members of the military.

A poll conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families was a voluntary, confidential online survey taken by 1,664 active members of the U.S. armed forces. 

The poll reflects that 51.5 percent of those responding had a generally unfavorable view of Barack Obama’s presidency, and that 29.1 percent had a very unfavorable view, the largest response of the five possible answers. Only 36.4 percent had a generally favorable view, and only 18.0 percent had a very favorable view.

The Marine Corps had the strongest level of disapproval at 60.3 percent, followed by the Army at 53.0, the Air Force at 49.6, and the Navy was the least disapproving at 45.9. Enlisted service members had a 52.1 percent disapproval rate, while 48.8 percent of commissioned officers disapproved.

Seventy-one percent think overall force levels are too low, and 43 percent think more deployed forces are needed, compared to 32 percent who think fewer deployed forces are needed.

Asked how the following “social” measures affected readiness, participants responded: Repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” helped, by 24 to 18 percent; gender integration within combat units hurt, by 30 to 15 percent; and transgenders in service hurt, by 41 to 12 percent.

Participants believe the U.S. is less safe because of drawdowns from Iraq (59 percent) and Afghanistan (54 percent), and less emphasis on large-scale overseas missions (42 percent), but more safe from greater reliance on special forces (58 percent) and training missions (51 percent). And they believe the top four significant threats to the U.S. come from the Islamic State and al-Qaida (70 percent), domestic Islamic terrorists (67 percent), China (64 percent), and Iran (49 percent).

They say the military is smaller and weaker, and the threats against the nation have increased.

In a campaign speech last September, candidate Trump outlined his view of the U.S. military, and said he planned to ask military brass to present a plan soon after he takes office to defeat and destroy ISIS, and that he will ask Congress to eliminate the defense sequester.

Among the goals he seeks are: Building an active Army of about 540,000; a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions; a Navy nearing 350 surface ships and submarines; an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft; and developing a new state-of-the-art missile defense system. And he intends to offset the spending for these goals by cutting waste and streamlining the bureaucracy, rather than increases in the $600 billion or so spent each year on the military.

"I'm going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody – absolutely nobody – is gonna (sic) mess with us," he said in a video posted on his campaign website.

Along those lines, his choice to run the Defense Department is retired Marine General James Mattis, a man well respected for his service and expertise, and who is expected to operationally strengthen all armed forces.

A strong military is just smart: Better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it. Blessedly, we now have a president who understands that a strong military presence can solve a host of problems before they ever materialize.

And, a president who strongly and unwaveringly supports what is good for America is a great improvement over the weak and tragic performance of the last eight years.

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