James Joyner: 
My New Atlanticist essay “Australia Prepares for U.S. Decline ” discusses a recent Aussie white paper that is generating much discussion in the foreign policy wonkosphere. Basically, they see a rapidly rising China and a United States that’s overstretched with other commitments and could therefore reduce our commitments to the Asia-Pacific region. Hence, they’re planning for major defense upgrades.
I consider the history of American spending and the impossibility of knowing what portion it is “wasteful” until after the fact â€” and even then. I conclude,
Yglesias is right that marginal cuts in American military spending don’t necessarily impact other countries. The combination of the sheer volume of American military spending and global conception of our interests creates a free rider problem that we have complained about but accepted for decades. Even our great power allies have much more limited interests than we do and we’ve got enough excess capacity that they would be reasonably confident that we would meet our treaty obligations even with a somewhat smaller force.
How much would we have to cut back to change that equation? Again, it’s unknowable. Clearly, just the hint that we might be recalibrating in Asia seems to have woken up the Aussies. Then again, they’re arguably our most enthusiastic military ally, having demonstrated an uncommon willingness to join in any fight. We would likely have to trim our military to levels currently unimaginable to shake most Western European countries out of their comfort zones and into picking up a significantly larger share of the overall defense burden.
More at the link .
By definition, then, if it’s unknowable, does it not stand to reason that we may have damaged ourselves already, without knowing it? Example;
Clearly, just the hint that we might be recalibrating in Asia seems to have woken up the Aussies.
More correctly, I think what is upsetting the Australians into action is the notion that they can no longer depend on the United States as they once did… the United States is no longer the dependable freind and leader they once were. That may well suit the military budget cutter that is BO. But in terms of our standing in the world, it has damaged us.
Here again is yet another example of the United States abandoning its long held international commitments, for the sake of being seen as a “a peaceful people ” and instead being seen as undependable. And of course to save money so they can be spent on social programs.
We would likely have to trim our military to levels currently unimaginable to shake most Western European countries out of their comfort zones and into picking up a significantly larger share of the overall defense burden.
That’s true, absent any world situation requiring military intervention. However, we both know that vision is at best fantasy. Spain for example, given another 3/11 or worse, would a potluck igniting the horse is already out of the barn would scramble in desperation to reassemble a reasonable military. Thing is, it would take a couple of generations for them to get to the point where they actually had one. In the meantime they would blame these United States for leaving the damned barn door open.
I suggest to you that’s the way of it; Assuming that we have enough of the military to make a dent in whatever world situation requires a military response, we will be seen as warmongers, chastised as such by the leftists of the world, until such time a war making capability is desirable. at that point it’s down to whether not we had the testicular mass to maintain that level of military , or we gave into the cries of the world wide left and dismantled it, piecemeal.
We’ve never quite gotten used to the idea that people and countries that are not in world leadership positions are as a matter of course going to bitch about those who are, regardless of the actions of those world leaders. Like it or not, we are in the position of being not a world leader but the world leader. The ever hopeful left, trying to push that responsibility off onto world organizations such as the United Nations for example, have forever held on to that folly, in the face of the failures of such organizations.
And in terms of freedom, you’d better thank your lucky stars that they have, in fact, failed. The United Nations, after all, has served as nothing more than a legitimacy provider for those seeking the destruction of the west.
No, if we want to hang on to the freedom that we have as Americans, we’d better start accepting the role the providence has provided us. Act like we are the ones running the show, because we are. One of the requirements of that role is having the strength militarily to support that role. If we are overstretched, as a military, then perhaps we better start investing in our military. Military cutting, regardless of how meager Yglesias considers it to be, is going in exactly the wrong direction.