Anglo-American Influence Threatened

Last week's issue of Defense News ran a front page story headlined "Big Firms Hunker Down, Cut Jobs and Costs" in anticipation of reduced military production that will be promoted by the Obama administration supposed effort to reduce government spending.

That defense spending is not responsible for the massive budget deficits, even in the midst of two foreign wars, is beside the point. Last year, as the stimulus package was being put together to combat the Great Recession, the Pentagon was the only cabinet agency asked to make program cuts. And on Sept. 16, Senate Appropriations Committee chopped $8.1 billion from the 2011 defense budget, with the largest cuts coming in two major production programs; the Air Force ‘s F-35 joint strike fighter and the Navy's littoral combat ship (LCS).

Defense spending from 2003 to 2008 did go up, mainly due to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The increase was from $404.7 billion in 2003 to $616.0 billion in 2008. This increase may seem large, but total Federal spending went up nearly four times this amount, from $2.16 trillion in 2003 to $2.98 trillion in 2008. That means $608.7 billion of the increase was spent on programs other than the military. Revenue for the period increased from $1.78 trillion in 2003 to $2.52 trillion in 2008, a gain of $740 billion, more than enough to pay for the wars and much else besides. Indeed, during the 2004 - 2007 period when the Iraq War has at its peak, the annual deficit was declining, from $412.7 billion to $160.7 billion. It has been the recession that has exploded a budget swollen by domestic social welfare programs.

Bernard Semmel in his insightful works on the debates over defense and foreign policy at the height of the British Empire has argued that liberals advocated expanded welfare programs "against the alternative use of available tax revenues for armaments." During periods of economic expansion, rising revenues were to go to social spending, and during times of retrenchment cuts were to come from the military, creating a ratchet effect over the course of the business cycle in favor of the Welfare State and against national security. Isolationism and appeasement became the policies of liberals who did not want to spend money on defense.

While such behavior is to be expected by the very liberal Obama administration, it is also coming from the British Conservatives who have inherited a runaway budget from the profligate Labour Party. Prime Minister David Cameron has asked for major cuts in an already stressed military. According to a report in Newsweek by John Barry, Cameron will pick from three options.

In "Committed Britain," the focus is Afghanistan and future wars like it, so forces would be capable of counterinsurgency operations, but little else. In "Vigilant Britain," the focus would be on homeland defense, with an emphasis on naval power, but land forces incapable of anything beyond "an occasional foray," says one source. "Adaptable Britain" is the most expansive of the three, but it, too, envisions deep cuts. The Army could end up with four deployable units of about 4,000 each, while the Air Force would lose 60 percent of its fast jets. Still, the country would retain at least a bare-bones, multiservice defense force-and, if carefully managed, a basis for rebuilding the military when the budget crunch has eased. Whitehall optimists think it's likely that Cameron will go for this option.

London is Washington's staunchest ally whose troops have played an important role fighting side-by-side with Americans. Thus, such massive cuts endanger U.S. as well as UK security. With cuts expected in U.S. forces as well, the beneficial influence of Anglo-American power in world affairs will be reduced while the baneful strength of rivals is on the increase.