President Bush rightly reminded America that “cutting and running” in Iraq was a bad idea, and that renewed effort and a different strategy made all the difference. He was spot on when he said the United States must ramp-up its efforts in Afghanistan. The White House missed a real opportunity to remind Americans about their obligation to start thinking about building and maintaining a “trained and ready” military after Iraq. With success in Iraq, some in Washington will be looking to take a “peace dividend,” cutting defense spending in the long term.
Over a half-decade of the Long War has worn on the military. The Pentagon has yet to make up all time lost during the “modernization holiday” the armed services were forced to take during the Clinton years. America’s military needs a lot of attention.
While the president did say Congress must fully fund defense and give the troops all they need—that is just not enough.
The United States must invest at least 4 percent of GDP on defense spending over the next decade to maintain a trained and ready force, pay for current operations, and modernize for the future. The president should have laid down a marker for long-term investment in defense to build the kind of military America needs for the long war.