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What Does A Military Crisis Of Readiness Look Like?

Yesterday, Senator Carl Levin warned America about the dangers of cuts to military spending, saying, “Tomorrow the Armed Services Committee is going to meet to hear from Defense Department officials and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the potential effects of sequestration on our national security. Just last week, in his final appearance before our committee as Secretary of Defense, Secretary Panetta warned us of a ‘readiness crisis’ that would impair our forces’ ability to respond to crises.”

A crisis is a serious thing. Even worse, we are told, would be a crisis of crises. That’s what Senator Levin was warning us about – that cuts in military spending would create a crisis that would reduce the military’s ability to respond to crises. It’s a circular crisis, a crisis of crisis of crisis of crisis, a Crisis House Of Mirrors.

When was the last time the United States was faced with a serious military crisis?

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were not a military crisis. They were horrible crimes, but not of a military nature. That’s why, even with the huge number of jet fighters, tanks, bombs and bullets kept ready by the U.S. military, the Pentagon couldn’t do a thing to stop the terrorists. If anything, the events of September 11, 2001 exposed the error in emphasizing military strength as a source of security.

The wars in Vietnam and Korea were crises of our own making. The first Gulf War was a military crisis for Kuwait and for oil companies, but not for the United States itself.

We have to go back to World War II to find genuine military crisis. Pearl Harbor was a military crisis.

I suppose that we could categorize the Cold War’s nuclear weapons standoff as a military crisis, but once again, it was a crisis caused by the U.S. military in the first place.

Through the 20th century, and in our own time, the greatest military crisis is a crisis of excessive readiness, not insufficient readiness.

A significant reduction in our nation’s military budget would not only bring our economy back to a more sustainable footing. It would also wean Washington’s political culture away from an unhealthy tendency to perceive a military crisis around every corner.

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