Military strength and American exceptionalism

Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers, U.S. Marine Corps/DoD

Article Highlights

  • Absent a reversal of course, the next commander-in-chief may not be able to preserve American global leadership.

    Tweet This

  • For conservatives, one of the tests of American virtue has been American strength.

    Tweet This

  • A #GOP candidate who would restore America’s greatness must also restore American military power.

    Tweet This

This is part of an ongoing series preparing for the AEI/CNN/Heritage National Security & Foreign Policy GOP presidential debate on November 22.

After World War II, after Korea, after Vietnam, and after the Cold War, Americans have naturally reduced the size of their armed forces and reduced levels of defense spending.  Preparing for retreat from Iraq and, soon after, in Afghanistan, oppressed by a sluggish economy and a metastasizing federal debt, the United States is laying plans to reduce its military to dangerously weak levels.

"What has made the United States exceptional is not just political principles that are universal in theory, but principles that guide the vigorous exercise of power." --Thomas Donnelly

The Army and Navy are on track to return to pre-World War I scale. The Air Force will be cut to a level perhaps without precedent in its history; a decade ago, “air power” was the signature form of American power, now we try to shape the world with “soft power.” Absent a reversal of course, the next commander-in-chief may not be able to preserve American global leadership. His only choice may be to “lead from behind.”

Seen in larger context, the reductions of the Obama years, the Budget Control Act and those that may emanate from the congressional “Super Committee” are a continuation of the extended Cold War defense drawdown. Almost an entire generation of new weaponry has been eliminated; U.S. forces fly planes, sail ships, and drive combat vehicles built in the Reagan years. Soon, the strength of active-duty forces will be half what it was in Desert Storm.

For conservatives, one of the tests of American virtue has been American strength.  What has made the United States exceptional is not just political principles that are universal in theory, but principles that guide the vigorous exercise of power. Thus, a candidate who would restore America’s greatness must also restore American military power.

 

Thomas Donnelly is a resident fellow and director of the Center for Defense Studies at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Thomas
Donnelly

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 27
    MON
  • 28
    TUE
  • 29
    WED
  • 30
    THU
  • 31
    FRI
Monday, October 27, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
State income taxes and the Supreme Court: Maryland Comptroller v. Wynne

Please join AEI for a panel discussion exploring these and other questions about this crucial case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America

Join Lerman, Wilcox, and a group of distinguished scholars and commentators for the release of Lerman and Wilcox’s report, which examines the relationships among and policy implications of marriage, family structure, and economic success in America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
The 7 deadly virtues: 18 conservative writers on why the virtuous life is funny as hell

Please join AEI for a book forum moderated by Last and featuring five of these leading conservative voices. By the time the forum is over, attendees may be on their way to discovering an entirely different — and better — moral universe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A nuclear deal with Iran? Weighing the possibilities

Join us, as experts discuss their predictions for whether the United States will strike a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of the November 24 deadline, and the repercussions of the possible outcomes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
The forgotten depression — 1921: The crash that cured itself

Please join Author James Grant and AEI senior economists for a discussion about Grant's book, "The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself" (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.