America’s history is plagued by a succession of conflicts for which we have been unprepared or insufficiently committed, having succumbed to the belief that peace is a guarantee of its own existence. Over the last century, from the beginning of the Korean War to post-Vietnam, the military has too often been forced to do more with less, and each time ultimately required a significant expenditure in both blood and wealth to bring them back from the brink.
With significant defense cuts already during his tenure, President Obama has recently proposed an additional $400 billion in cuts. Perhaps the largest wartime cuts to this nation’s security capacity in history, such reductions belie the fact that Osama bin Laden’s death did not in fact end the global war against terrorists. We are still actively engaged in the fight for freedom across the world, and it is the United States military that leads the vanguard of this fight.
Operation Geronimo—the operation that killed bin Laden—was the culmination of human capabilities across multiple military and intelligence fields, and there is no substitution for such resources. To argue that the success of these resources is the perfect explanation that they are no longer needed is, to put it bluntly, asinine.
Voices against these cuts are screaming loudly, and they must continue to do so. Many argue that deployments such as those in Germany and South Korea are excessive, while those in Afghanistan and Iraq are unwarranted. The very presence, and active work, of our forces in these regions, however, is what guarantees the safety of this nation. Our bases in Germany and South Korea serve as forward deployment centers, allowing us to rapidly respond to humanitarian crises from Africa to the Philippines. Our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, by pinning down the Taliban and al-Qaeda, keep us safer at home by destroying our enemies’ mission capacity.
These missions, however, depend on the fortitude of our military. No matter how professional, how well trained, how dedicated our men and women in uniform may be, they cannot fight without the weapons that make them a 21st-century military.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is still at large. Islamist terrorist groups from the Maghreb to the western Pacific remain active, plotting attacks against both us and our allies. Rogue nations such as Iran continue to pursue nuclear weapons in utter defiance of the international community. We have won a battle in the death of Osama bin Laden, but the war is not over. Freedom is won by the blood and tears of those brave few willing to fight—and sometimes die—for the values we so take for granted.
Now is not the time to make that fight harder. Our men and women in uniform deserve the support they need to come home safely, not politically motivated cuts that needlessly risk their lives. This nation should not wait until we are attacked again to realize that our military is the bulwark of our peace and security. If our military is incapable of performing another Operation Geronimo in the future, it will not be because our military would not want to save us but because we would not let them.
Matthew Despres is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. Click here for more information on interning at Heritage.