The Corner

A Fire Bell in the Night. Zzzzzz . . .

If I remember correctly, George Will once referred to a book by Jean-François Revel as “a fire bell in the night.” (The phrase comes from Thomas Jefferson.) Well, something called the National Defense Panel has issued a fire bell in the night. But I don’t think anyone will hear it. Because a) it’s a government report and b) it’s a government report that people aren’t disposed to hear. No one wanted to hear George W. Bush talk about the collapse of Social Security: because Social Security hadn’t collapsed yet. And no one wants to hear about the diminished state of our defenses. Because the Hun is not in Boise.

Don’t harsh my mellow, man.

The National Defense Panel is a body charged by Congress and the Pentagon with reviewing our defense strategy. The secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, appointed its chairmen: William Perry, who was the Pentagon chief under Clinton, and John Abizaid, the retired Army general. The panel included Obama’s first undersecretary of defense for policy, Michèle Flournoy.

It is probably something like a patriotic duty to read the whole report. I have not. I have scanned, and would like to print two excerpts — one somewhat specific, and the other general. Here’s the first excerpt:

The Air Force now fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history yet needs a global surveillance and strike force able to rapidly deploy to theaters of operation to deter, defeat, or punish multiple aggressors simultaneously.

And here is the general statement. Referring to our defense cuts, the panel says,

Not only have they caused significant investment shortfalls in U.S. military readiness and both present and future capabilities, they have prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve. Unless reversed, these shortfalls will lead to a high risk force in the near future. That in turn will lead to an America that is not only less secure but also far less prosperous. In this sense, these cuts are ultimately self- defeating.

In the coming presidential campaign, I will be listening for something: Who will grasp the importance of defense and national security? Who will understand that the rest of what we want depends heavily on these things (perpetually)? These issues are probably not vote-getters. But an element of leadership is getting people to confront what they may not want to confront.

Anyway, that’s probably enough for a lil’ blogpost.

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