It’s time to reduce the size of the military
by Chuck Hagel
Never before have we enjoyed such a harmonious global community. I can scarcely think of a single conflict that might require U.S. military intervention, yet for some weird reason, the armed forces keep getting a ton of money pushed their way. The 2014 Department of Defense budget is $612 billion. That sum staggers the mind. Do you know how long it takes to count to 612 billion? Go on, hazard a guess.
The answer is 30,000 years. I know this because last year I tried. I lost count just shy of a million. It took me two weeks.
President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, but we face something much more sinister: a military-industrial complex on steroids. Drunk. And going to a bar where there aren’t enough girls.
Admittedly, having a military does come in handy. It’s great fun sending a team of Navy SEALs to smack around the occasional Somali pirate. It feels good when our Marines distribute food after an earthquake levels some third-world village. But these simple tasks only require a dozen soldiers and a helicopter. Maybe a boat, too.
Our forefathers expelled the British with nothing more than 50 shoeless farmers armed with slingshots. These patriots didn’t need fancy ICBMs or big, scary gunships. They used the most effective weapon of all: their noggins.
For too long the American taxpayer has shouldered the burden of ensuring general peace and stability in the world. It’s time to shrink our military and pass that responsibility to our good friends in Russia and China who are more than willing to settle into our 900 military installations scattered around the world.
Chuck Hagel is the United States Secretary of Defense. Click here to view his original letter to Sen. McCain.
We must not shrink our troops
by John McCain
My first argument against reducing the size of our military is feasibility. I am unconvinced that current technology enables us to shrink anything, let alone human beings whose physiology might be damaged by reducing their size.
Even if we could magically shrink our uniformed men and women, the disadvantages would greatly outweigh any tactical and fiscal benefits.
Defense Secretary Hagel has stated that reductions would result in a “smaller and more capable” military. While “smaller” is indisputable, I fail to see how the military would be more capable. Does he envision root-beer-bottle-sized soldiers sneaking undetected into enemy installations or vehicles, planting explosives or gathering intelligence? I’ll say this: no one, no matter how brave and patriotic she is, could face an adversary the size of a C-17 transport plane without wetting herself.
While I admit that transporting troops would be cheaper if they only weighed 10 ounces, we would lose money in other areas, such as uniforms. In the last few years, the Army has spent billions on new designs and form-fitting trousers and jackets. These would be comically large for miniature soldiers. Why, a recruit could easily become trapped and even suffocate in a jacket pocket. Casualties would be high.
What about the deleterious effect of shrinking on the ability to handle weapons? An M16 with a 30-round magazine weighs nine pounds. That may not sound like much, but a soldier only eight inches tall would barely manage to pull the trigger. The recoil could kill him.
Lastly, what would other countries think of the mighty United States if they saw our hamster-sized infantrymen? They’d say we’d lost our minds. The sight alone would cast the humorless Vladimir Putin into a fit of laughter. Then he’d order Russian tanks into Kiev. In no time at all, we’d have World War III on our hands. What would we do then — reverse course and develop more expensive technology to increase the size of the military? That would take a long time.
John McCain is a Republican Senator from Arizona. Click here to view his original letter to Secretary Hagel.