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America's Military Decline: What Does It Mean?

article by John Ross Schroeder

Ambitious and expensive government programs seriously endanger America's economic stability and add to the nation's already gargantuan national debt. The inevitable downside seems to be massive cuts in military spending. Where is this disturbing trend taking a troubled nation?

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Most citizens would agree that the first and primary duty of any state is protection from hostile outside forces, including rogue nations and terrorist groups. The preamble of the U.S. Constitution states that a key reason for its establishment was to "provide for the common defence" of the nation and its people. So how is the nation doing in that regard? Let's take a hard look at America's temperature in terms of its national security.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once wrote that "to lead, a great nation must command the respect of others" ("Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-First Century," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007). Countries well understand and respect the message of awesome military might-and more importantly a nation's willingness to use it. Former President Lyndon Johnson said during the Vietnam War that "it is our will that is being tried, not our strength" (State of the Union Address, Jan. 17, 1968). This insightful observation seems truer today than it was over 45 years ago during that other tumultuous time.

Yet America's actual military strength is also being eroded-through many years of war, continuing interventions abroad and intentional downsizing. Where will this ultimately lead?

The downside of massive military cuts

Substantial and continuing cuts in U.S. troop strength, essential military hardware and advanced weapons research seem inevitable. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that "the sweeping budget cuts over the next 10 years could leave the nation with an ill-prepared, under-equipped military doomed to face more technologically advanced enemies" ("Chuck Hagel Warns of Deep Army and Navy Cuts Unless Congress Acts," Associated Press, July 31, 2013).

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