It’s come to this: Esquire, a men’s magazine (although a reputable one), has put together a plan for slashing the federal deficit more comprehensive than anything put on the table by the Republican Party. Or the Democratic Party, for that matter, but let’s focus on the Republicans, because they’re the ones who’ve put themselves in the ludicrous position of (1) campaigning on this issue, while simultaneously (2) campaigning on issues that render the goal impossible.
Anyways, Esquire’s plan is both aggressive and feasible, but ultimately impossible. As made plain by the plan, the clearest chance for savings comes in cuts to military budgets to accomodate and respond to the new defense paradigm: as surely as Napoleonic line-warfare ended with World War I, the era of pitched battles between nation-states is long-gone. America’s goal must not be to field a large force at home or in Europe — because we will likely never need to, ever again — but to project power strategically. Carrier groups and small strike forces become more important than tanks and infantry divisions. Retooling the American military to meet new challenges and maintain global hegemony, efficiently, is a necessary and worthwhile goal, but not one that the current political climate will tolerate. Our oversized military (and nuclear arsenal, too) have become the American equivalent of the British monarchy: something expensive we keep around as a matter of irrational national pride, rather than out of any need.
If American military power can be retained and enhanced by emphasizing effectiveness rather than size, and while cutting the budget, it should go without saying that this is worth exploring. But as it stands, it will go without ever being said.