Faced with irreversible long-term fiscal pressures to reduce the U.S. defense budget, late last week the Obama administration began unveiling its supremely focused rationale behind future cuts. The result is an elegantly slim strategic statement (.pdf) that indirectly names its deepest fear in its title: “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” According to the document, over the past decade the U.S. military force structure has been “by necessity” dangerously skewed by “today’s wars.” Now America must start “preparing for future challenges” arising from a frightening and apparently imminent “inflection point” in East Asia’s military balance of power. As such, “we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” In sum, not only are these choices being forced upon America, they are the only path we can take if we are to maintain our global leadership.
You have to hand it to President Barack Obama, who is nothing if not direct in naming our nation’s primary future enemy -- one so dangerous to our strategic interests that our entire defense budget must be organized around it. If this declaration doesn’t warm the heart of every pre- or post-Sept. 11 neocon and believer in the primacy of U.S. military power, then nothing will. This is basically the primacists’ old dream of taking on the Chinese indirectly through a technological arms race -- albeit one tempered by “our changing fiscal circumstances.”
What that means in practical terms is that the parts of the defense budget not focused on the Chinese threat will be significantly reduced.