President Barack Obama’s proposal to dramatically reduce the size of the U.S. military has to do with more than high blown strategic considerations. More than budget-cutting. More than the old liberal bias against the military. Slashing the size of the nation’s armed forces — to the tune of half a million soldiers — strikes at a cohort that tends to vote Republican. So why wouldn’t a Democratic president push cuts that hurt Republicans?
There’s always politics in politics, for the uninitiated. Underlying Mr. Obama’s military strip down are fundamental political calculations.
Gallup reported back in 2009 that military veterans, regardless the age cohort, are inclined to vote Republican. Most veterans didn’t start voting for the GOP after their military service.
There are reasons why the nation’s soldiers lean Republican.
The armed forces provide a culture. Today, particularly, absent a draft, military culture is self-selecting; meaning that there are reasons most young men and women choose to enter military service. Yes, for training, jobs, and careers, but many enlistees come from families that emphasize patriotism, duty, and tradition. Military service is still a draw for these young people despite every effort in recent years by the political class to turn the armed forces into a Petri Dish of politically correct experiments.
Military service reinforces, not diminishes, enlistees’ natural conservatism. And one suspects that those men and women who enter the armed forces less conservative or more liberal leave duty more oriented toward conservative values.
Note well that Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats have fiercely resisted reforms and budget cuts impacting entitlements, welfare, and the size of Washington government (outside the military). Yes, there are philosophical and ideological underpinnings that lead Democrats to want big, nonmilitary government. Yes, since the Vietnam War, Democrats have evinced varying degrees of hostility to the nation’s military.
But the tawdry underbelly of Mr. Obama’s move to slash the budgets and size of the armed forces has to do with votes. His voters are big government beneficiaries. Restructuring entitlements, reforming welfare, and making net reductions to the federal workforce do no favors to Democrats trolling for votes every two years from base constituencies.
So, why not go after that part of the government where there’s the highest concentration of GOP voters? Doing so reduces downsides and risks for the Chicago politics-schooled Mr. Obama and his Democrats.
Mr. Obama’s proposed military cuts permits him to stump for reelection arguing that he’s seeking ways to reduce the size of government. Aren’t most Americans in favor of cutting Washington spending and shrinking government? Mr. Obama will attempt to fend off GOP attacks on his proposal by continuing to argue that a strategic realignment of the military was long overdue… that America’s national defense will be enhanced, not harmed, by a leaner military.
Sound too cynical? Well, politics is a cynical business. One would hope that the president and his party wouldn’t permit political calculations to solely guide their actions regarding the nation’s defense. The hope is that there is an element of authenticity to Mr. Obama’s aim to strategically reposition the military — no matter how much in error his aim is. No one wants to believe that a president would sacrifice the nation’s defense on the altar of cheap political calculations.
But who knows? The nation has long left times where Americans, regardless of political stripe, were united in their support for the military and the imperative of maintaining a second-to-none national defense.