The path to ‘a hollow military’ or a hollow op-ed?

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Mitt Romney has a curious habit of being one of the most prolific op-ed writers in the country. He doesn’t much care for interviews or press conferences, but the Republican loves to engage the media in a way in which he doesn’t have to answer any direct questions.

Lately, this means op-eds that chase President Obama around the country – the president schedules an event in a city, so Romney writes an op-ed in that city’s major daily paper. Yesterday, the tactic led the former governor to write a piece for the Chicago Tribune, condemning Obama in advance of Chicago’s NATO meeting.

Most of the condemnation is pretty boilerplate – neither Romney nor his ghost writers are good at faking expertise in foreign affairs – and almost appears intended to embarrass the United States in advance of a meeting of world leaders.

But one claim, in particular, seemed rather remarkable to me.

Instead of working to strengthen NATO, the Obama administration has taken actions that will only undermine the alliance.

Last year, President Obama signed into law a budget scheme that threatens to saddle the U.S. military with nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. President Obama’s own defense secretary, Leon Panetta, has called cuts of this magnitude “devastating” to our national security. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has plainly said that such a reduction means “we would not any longer be a global power.” Despite these warnings, the Obama administration has pledged to veto an attempt to replace these cuts with savings in other areas.

This is reckless…. With the United States on a path to a hollow military, we are hardly in a position to exercise leadership in persuading our allies to spend more on security.

Romney may have trouble keeping up with current events – I imagine he’s rather busy – but he should at least try to brush up on the basics before publishing nonsense in major media outlets.

In reality, most of the defense cuts Romney’s referring to were proposed by Republicans. He may not realize this, but he’s accusing his own allies of trying to gut the American military.

It’s true that the Obama administration is prepared to cut about $500 billion from the Pentagon budget in the coming years. But contrary to the misleading claims in Romney’s op-ed, U.S. military leaders support these cuts and have asked Congress to approve them. These reductions – made in the name of fiscal responsibility, which Republicans occasionally pretend to care about – don’t “hollow” the U.S. military. We can accept this as true since the U.S. military agrees.

But there are additional Pentagon cuts that may yet be approved, not because the White House requested them, but because congressional Republicans did. As Ben Armbruster explained:

Congress, however, is responsible for the other $500 billion in military spending cuts as a result of the bipartisan debt deal that Obama signed into law. Those reductions are set to take place because of the sequester the deal put in place should lawmakers fail to agree on how to find savings elsewhere (House Republicans want to cut much needed programs for the nation’s poorest to offset the military spending cuts).

Indeed, as the Washington Post noted, “Romney’s statement fails to note that the sequester was part of a deal negotiated by the White House and leaders of both parties, a sweeping proposal that was approved by nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference and six in 10 Senate Republicans.”

Here’s hoping NATO officials in Chicago for the event didn’t see the op-ed. I’d hate to leave world leaders with the impression that the leaders of one of our major political parties has no idea what he’s talking about.

Defense and Mitt Romney

The path to 'a hollow military' or a hollow op-ed?

Updated