Plenty of compelling concerns have been raised about possible U.S. military intervention in Syria, but yesterday, a far-right senator gave voice to an unusual argument that I haven’t heard from others.
The Pentagon’s dire fiscal situation due to defense spending cuts under sequestration has left U.S. armed forces unable to afford possible military action in Syria.
“Our military has no money left,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
Due to the $500 billion in budget cuts slated for the Pentagon over the next decade, the Obama White House “further undermines future military readiness and capabilities” to deal with the growing crisis in Syria and elsewhere in the world, according to Inhofe.
As a matter of common sense, Inhofe’s complaints about gradual reductions to the Pentagon budget are hard to take seriously. If the Defense Department is subjected to modest cuts – cuts military leaders have already endorsed publicly – over the next decade, it affects our ability to intervene in Syria now? Even for Inhofe, this is silly. Besides, has Inhofe seen what’s happened to defense spending under President Obama?
But putting that aside, I’m struck by the assertion that “our military has no money left.” First, the claim is literally unbelievable – the United States invests more money in its military than most of industrialized countries in the world combined. As tensions with Syria have intensified, there haven’t been any military leaders who’ve said the Pentagon is simply too broke to act.
Second, if Inhofe really believes his own rhetoric, shouldn’t he be desperate to remedy the problem?
By the senator’s reasoning, right now, the United States is incapable of pursuing a robust national security agenda, even if it wants to. If U.S. officials see military action as necessary, according to Inhofe, that’s too bad – “our military has no money left.” Indeed, the Oklahoma Republican added yesterday that the sequester “has put us on the brink of a hollowed force.”
If Inhofe is right – he’s not, but if we take his claims at face value – doesn’t this suggest an unprecedented crisis? Shouldn’t Inhofe be taking every possible step to increase spending and shut down the sequestration policy, as quickly as possible?
The fact that he isn’t suggests Inhofe doesn’t genuinely believe his talking points. There are all kinds of persuasive reasons to oppose military strikes in Syria; worrying that the Pentagon is running out of cash isn’t one of them.