The Size of the U.S. Military

During the GOP debate, the candidates blasted the Obama administration for decimating the military. “Smallest Navy since 1915, smallest Army since 1940, least number of airplanes.” They brought this forth in the context of “fighting ISIS.”

The implications are that somehow our military having less ships is the reason ISIS has arisen and gained ground.

They took these numbers from senator Lindsey Graham, who said that under sequestration, the military was cut “down to the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915.” He is right about the numbers. The Navy had 231 ships in 1915, and will have 234 in 2019. The Army will have 440,000 troops in 2019, which is the smallest since before World War II.

However, the comparison does not make sense and is not really fair. We also have fewer horses and bayonets than ever. Our capabilities have grown immensely through technology in the last few decades. We should compare how our military stands up against other nations. I simply do not believe that the number of ships, airplanes and soldiers we have has in any way contributed to the results in the Middle East.

President Obama pulled out of Iraq and partly Afghanistan because the American people wanted him to. I still want that today. And I might also add that the “sequestration” fiscal strategy that forced Obama’s hand regarding the military budget was not Obama’s idea, but that of the Republican-controlled Congress. Congress decides how much money gets allocated to the various departments, not the president. The president then just spends it. Blaming Obama for the small military therefore makes no sense.

Finally, I believe that, just like small government is good government, a smaller military is a good military, as long was we continue to advance technologically. Boondoggles like the F-35 fiasco do not go along with that philosophy, however, but that’s a subject for another day.

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