Anti-war Mayors and Obama’s Illusory “Peace Dividend”

Mike Brownfield /

In his speech last week on the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama uttered some magic words that sent a few of America’s anti-war mayors into a big-spending tizzy. The Heritage Foundation’s President Ed Feulner explains in today’s Washington Times:

“For most of us, it’s the season of sun, sand and backyard barbecues. But the U.S. Conference of Mayors seems to think it’s Christmas.

And all because of one key sentence in President Obama’s recent address on withdrawing forces from Afghanistan more quickly: ‘America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.’ The mayors anticipate a windfall that can be spent on their pet projects. The prospect of a ‘peace dividend’ is creating wish lists from Albany to Albuquerque.

As Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put it, ‘We need to use the billions of dollars we are currently spending in Afghanistan to rebuild our domestic economy.’”

The folly of the President’s decision to rapidly withdraw troops from Afghanistan aside, there’s also a serious problem with the notion that much-needed military funding should now be re-distributed to pork projects across the fruited plain. Feulner explains that the U.S. military is already being shortchanged at the expense of our national defense, both today and into the future:

Let’s not delude ourselves. The fact is, we’ve been living for a while now off past military buildups. But things wear out. Equipment breaks down, and it can be patched up only so many times before it’s unable to do the job it’s meant to do. It’s time to make airplanes that are younger than their pilots and ships that are younger than their commanders.

Otherwise, we risk repeating cycles of the past. When we cut too deeply, as we did during President Carter’s time in office, we degrade our ability to defend ourselves. We end up with humiliations such as the Iranian hostage crisis and watch as emboldened enemies reassert themselves abroad. This necessitates a rapid buildup – which, fortunately, we got during the Reagan years. Eventually, though, voices call for a drawdown in military spending. Domestic priorities beckon. Too much is cut – and the cycle begins anew.

We have to remember that at any given time we’re enjoying the fruits of past military buildups. Today’s security was purchased with yesterday’s dollars. And if we continue to invest too little today, we’ll be paying for it (so to speak) with tomorrow’s underfunded military.

You can read more of Dr. Feulner’s column at The Washington Times.