Analysis: Why not push the Pentagon off the fiscal cliff?

An aerial view of the Pentagon. An aerial view of the Pentagon. Defense Department file photo
The Pentagon is bracing for the fiscal cliff. This week the White House Budget Office directed it to plan for $500 billion in cuts it may have to make over the next ten years if cliff-averting negotiations fail. The negotiations may of course not fail, but it's still worth asking: in the event that our military resources really did shrink significantly, how much damage would that do to our national security?

Here's my initial estimate: zero.

I mean, what actual threat to America's security is the military currently fending off? Are there any countries that would invade the United States if the Pentagon's budget were 10 percent smaller than it is--which is roughly what $500 billion in cuts over 10 years would amount to?

The main threat to national security you hear about is terrorism. And, so far as I can tell, a big chunk of the money spent by the military to address that problem has made the problem worse. The invasion and occupation of Iraq provided massive propaganda for terrorist recruiters (and the consequent regime change created a new ally for Iran, which is said to be our nemesis and a backer of terrorists). The war in Afghanistan has also been a Godsend for Jihadist propagandists--while, in the bargain, destabilizing Pakistan and making its nuclear weapons more likely to fall into the hands of extremists.

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