Overheard on CNN.com: Tradeoffs, politics of paring down military
Obama's military spending plan: Are cuts necessary in this economy, or will they leave the country vulnerable?
January 5th, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Tradeoffs, politics of paring down military

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

President Barack Obama unveiled a plan Thursday for a leaner, cheaper military. The new strategy eliminates the military's ability to actively fight two major wars at once, but the president insists that the country will still be agile enough to deal with existing concerns and new threats.

Obama unveils plans for pared-down military

Many readers seemed appreciative of this change, but some of them were quite afraid of consequences.

Flambizzle: "This is a hard call. We're all afraid of China and Iran or if they buddy-up. But [Obama] promised this and here it is, and we do need it. I don't like to think of losing jobs or even soldiers' jobs. But this country can't continue to militarize while people starve. Those days are gone and we're broke. And the reliance for a lot of the economy on super-powerful military-industial contractors is a throw-off from the Cold War that is bad for our economy and country. And, quite simply, it's also an obvious attempt to curb America's military bullying. Now someone like Bush won't be able to con us into throwing away money and lives anymore. It will be unrealistic as much as it was unaffordable."

Some commenters said the government should focus on trimming its bureaucracies first.

skiingislife: "Way to sell out our defense while still providing billions of dollars to bloated bureaucracies and aid to people who shouldn't even be in this country to begin with. No better time to trim the military than when Iran is rattling its sabre, North Korea is doing God-knows-what, North Africa has been completely destablized, Russia is upping the ante over missile defense...what a rube.

Others suggested that perhaps even more should be cut.

Talgrath: "As I read it, our military budget will still continue to grow more than we need it, we will still spend more on defense than the next 10 big spenders combined and somehow Republicans are complaining that this is drastic? No, drastic, realistic action would be to cut military spending and reduce our military bases and the size of our military; we need to make those cuts, but they won't happen because we have to continue to be the world's defacto world government."

But on the other hand, there will be some job loss and industry reductions as a result of these cutbacks.

belmarek: "Sooooooo.... We will put out of work thousands of military personnel, and increase the unemployment and further burden on the economy.. Then we will leave ourselves less able to respond to threats because our military will be too busy policing our citizens. Yeah.. Great idea."

A commenter claiming to be an Army veteran said he was in support.

Mijan: "People keep whining that they want budget cuts, but they won't deal with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: military spending. This needs to happen. I'm a 7-year Army veteran. I was an officer, injured in the line of duty. And I have a duty to the truth, which (in this case) is that we are grossly overspending on the Department of Defense. Cutting back on military spending doesn't mean we're cutting all military. Do you people have any idea how much we've OVER-grown our military in the past couple of decades? We keep adding and adding. Of course we're going to spend ourselves into the poor-house! Don't blame Medicare or Social Security. We need to be realistic. We have tons of money in our budget ... but we're spending it wrong. Cutting out some of the military spending is necessary and rational."

allmosttoast: "I thought Medicare and Social Security were far bigger money pits than the military. Can you explain?"

Concerns about remaining nimble in the face of international threats inspired this conversation.

izaaks101: "Obama, get a newspaper and read it. You might want to tell your cabinet to do the same. Russia, N Korea, Afghanistan, and IRAN. Oh and by the way the new leader ship in Lybia, and Egypt guess what they think of the US. Open your eyes and stop trying to win your next 4 years."

Sinator: "We have a huge budget deficit and debt. He's doing what he's supposed to do and reducing it. Do you really think having a defense budget that exceeds the next 10 countries combined is not big enough? Warmonger much?"

BrianNM: "Don't need ground forces in all those countries at once. If you want to be fiscally conservative, you don't start ground wars."

Mike570: "The conventional war phase of both Iraq and Afghanistan were won by our forces quickly. Policing the indigenous peoples and weeding out insurgents? That's a very deep hole to throw lives and money into. You'd think we would have learned in Vietnam. Even the Romans couldn't win that battle."

One reader said political posturing would cloud evaluation of the decision.

Nodack: "It doesn't matter what Obama does. He could single handedly cure Cancer, end world hunger, balance the budget, erase the deficit, lower the jobless rate to 0, create the ultimate health care system and Republicans would still hate him and call him the worst president in history out of spite."

What do you think about Obama's decision? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Military • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. bcogrunt

    I was a Vietnam Vet. 18 months ground combat, M-60's. USMC enlisted. Gung ho until I learned later that it was a contrived war, by politicians who were never in the military. So I am sort of jaded. My wife spent 32 years, mostly in Germany and Pentagon watching the in house waste of money, and seeing the top brass continue the spending after retiring and getting cushy jobs in private industry, exempt from having their programs and incomes slashed by the bureaucracy. Then there was Iraq........sort of compared to Nam in the political sense. Will not go there, the Iraqui-Afghan Vets only have the right to decide if it was worth it, and change the course of the future., while dealing with the trauma that is there. Those that were hippy protesters in the 60's, and those that never have served in the current volunteer service, need to listen to those who have been there. Sitting at home, drinking a beer , is a lot different than being 10,000 miles from home with rounds coming over your head. Lots of bravado on these websites, with no idea of what it takes to give back to the Country. My opinion only
    God Bless the Vets, and the comrades I lost.

    January 6, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. Degradable

    Many of us over here in the UK are deeply appreciative of US lead and support over the years. But we feel unsettled by US decline in economic power as much as military. Therefore if the US sort itself out economically, and if that means reducing military presence "so be i t. " The UK is going through a painful transition as our politicians cut budgets to try to balance the books. Our concerns in UK are cuts to the Royal Navy, being an Island we depend on the sea for everything, yet our political masters are "sea blind" and cut every force to meet budgets. Based upon that then, I suppose the US people need to ensure that the cuts fall in the correct places and not across the board just to balance the books. The other expectation that you in the US should have is that your allies over here sign-up to work with you more than we have done in the past to offset costs. The US and to a lesser extend UK can no longer singularily "police" the world.

    January 6, 2012 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
    • jimmer

      I hope your experiences would lead you to vote Ron Paul then......thanks for your service....

      January 6, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • jimmer

      sorry....reply was ment for bcogrunt.....

      January 6, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Agreed. Completely.

    January 6, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. gung hoe

    @bcogrunt first of all let me give you my thanks for the lifetime you spent serving our country.You sir are truly a american hero.With that being said I also served 75 may 27 to 79 as you know that was during a time of peace darnit,I wish as many of my friends that i had experienced combat,I know to a person that has been or a person that never served that souds perverted,but.have you ever been trained to do a job and never put that training to use myself it was mortars.Now everytime there is a outbreak I feel like I should be there.But with you being a soldier you know the importanse of us havig troops as a force around the globe,both as security and as a strike force.I watche ABC evening news nite b 4 last and they said and I quote in 3 months b 4 we left Iraq 20 civys were killed and the 3 months after 200 .Now if that dont prove my point it wont be

    January 6, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. gung hoe

    @degradeable thank you for your comment.First of all let me let you kmw that the little bit that we are saving by the reduction of forces wont balance our books at all,It will just give our politicians more money to give to companys that they know in advance that theyre going under or pet projects such as a billion to study the breeding habits of frogs or a bridge to nowhere

    January 6, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. ronvan

    bcogrunt & degradable comments ring of truth. The military is the "political arm" of governments, and when told to deploy they go and do what they are trained to do. Planning, coordination, LEADERSHIP, and clear defined goals with an exit stragedy, are paramount. As a 23yr. ret. Army Viet Nam Vet., I can see comparisons to Nam and these countries. Todays military is NOT the military of my times! They are so technically advanced with equipment and weaponry that it makes my day look like we had bows & arrows. I agree totally that we cannot continue to be the worlds police force, and that when cuts are made they need to be smart and not spur of the moment decisions. Naval, & Air power are paramount. Drones, intell., cyber warfare and spec. ops. are the way of the future. Ground troops will ALWAYS be needed, and must be equiped with the best we can give them.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. gung hoe

    @ RONVAN very very good post THE POSTER OF THE DAY! A llso thanks for your service!The closest i got to combat was two different blowups on the Z In korea

    January 6, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dagorath

    First and foremost, I want to thank all of the great men and women who have served this country in the past, and who are still serving right now. Those of us who have not walked that path could never hope to understand the true intensity of battle. Still, we are thankful.

    I can't really understand the logic of having bases in 130 countries world-wide with a struggling economy. I understand that this is indeed a day in age where weapons of mass destruction are a very real threat, and because of this, we cannot afford to simply turtle in isolationism. However, we do have to ask ourselves how much is too much?

    I cannot claim to know what it is like to be in combat, nor am I a conventional military strategist, but in a rational strategic sense, our current path is suicide. Send the defenses away and bleed the base dry of resources. it is said that the best defense is a good offense, and we seem to have taken this idea and sprinted with it. Converse to this idea; however, is the reality that the worst defense is a lack thereof. Spreading ourselves to thin and collapsing within yeilds just that.

    I can't help but agree with mike570 on the point of the Romans. The Roman empire stretched itself too thin fighting wars far from home. When invaders showed up at Rome, there was no one to defend the people, and a massacre ensued. It is fool-hardy and downright ignorant to believe we are exempt from the mistakes of the past.

    Furthermore, a large majority of American resentment in the world stems from our inteventionism during the Cold War. Funding corrupt governments to refrain from becomming communist – funding which was then used to oppress the people. Of course these people hate America. Hatred for America is bred of many things, but most notably is the fear-based morally ambiguous actions of the past – which carry the distorted rationale that the ends justify the means.

    My point in this digression, is that without condescending intervention, or "bullying" by the U.S. around the world. How many enemies would we really have? On the same point, what can we hope to accomplish by using military might? Are we treating the symptoms of world-wide poverty and inequallity, or are we treating the ailment?Violence only breeds more violence, and for years we have been playing, "Who has the bigger stick." But now that same stick is splintered into 130 countries and each piece is becoming brittle from an economy that can't afford to fund it any longer. We keep pumping money into militaristic goals that are beyond reason and necessity. When the money runs out, all of our splintered sticks will fall like dominos – what then? Rome all over again, that's what.

    Of course I am not completely against a global military presence. We must have a forward defensive position against people with resentment towards the U.S. over things like religion. As stated previously, this is a different day in age and devastating attacks can be made globally. It only stands to reason then, that our defenses must be world-wide.

    This is the mindset that leads us to spend 700 billion dollars a year on world-wide military spending, accounting for 43% of all world-wide military expenditure. Based on those figures, I would almost draw the analogy that our metaphorical "stick" has become so large and out-stretched that its weight threatens to uproot and destroy the base – America.

    The question is not: Do we need to have a global military presence – that question is rhetorical. The question is how much of a presence? and how wide-spread? Obama's plan is attempting to answer that question by logically suggesting: less.

    While I do worry about where the money would go, my hope is that the American people by and large would take responsibility, and elect competent officals who can make progressive changes for our country, instead of fighting eachother over what color they are. Someone tell me what the difference is between Republicans and Democrats, and Crips and Bloods? Media violence versus actual violence? Two sides of the same coin if you ask me. In both cases, these rivalries destroy the neighborhood.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lcpl Jenkins

    i want to thank everyone who has wrote a comment on this topic, because if it were not for me and the other honorable vetrans who fight and have faught for your freedoms since the revolutiuonary war then none of you would have been able to speak freely, and i am honestly greatful that you have used your rights as United States Citizens. i have been in the United States Marines for about 2 years now and i have no worries that our branch will notice a budget cut since we have an extremly low budget as is, but we make due ooh rah. but, we have north korea, iran, china, (or even worse all three buddied up) and none of them are our freidnly neighbors. i agree that we need a budget cut, but cutting out military funding? cutting out a NAVY air ship carrier? that is a little drastic. i do agree we need to stop throwing our money into the wind by trying to "fix" the middle east's problem's. they have been fighting for 3,000 years... we can't just make them stop. and i can understand withdrawing our troops back state side, that in turn would save millions of dollars in the long run, but cutting out jobs? cutting out units? cutting out my brothers and sisters? that just does not seem fair to throw them into n almost non existant economy. i would gladly cut my pay in half if that is what it took to keep our military around the same functional size. i know most military men and women would not want to cut half their pay checks but hey i love my job and the pay is just a bonus. and if we were to cut our military spending then where would all the money go. would it go to our starving people living on the streets? would it go to the cancer patient who are clinging to that last light of hope? would it go to the dying businesses and dying towns throughout our country or would it go to our upstate politicians? would it go to funding someone else's million dollar retirement fund? if we are serious about fixing our economy and if we are serious about cutting our budget no matter where from them we need to be serious about how we spend it.

    February 7, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
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