Pentagon (Photo by Newscom)

The Pentagon’s major strategy known as the Quadrennial Defense Review was released this week. It immediately drew praise from the New York Times’ editorial titled “The Defense Budget” for cutting weapons programs—although not nearly enough—and for acknowledging a decline by choice regarding the role of the United States in the world.

The editorial singles out the cancellation of the C-17 transport plane, the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine, and the F-22 fifth-generation fighter for applause, and dismisses them as “anachronistic and unnecessary.”  The article’s stock-in-trade is a litany of recycled sound bites about “still unproven” missile defense, “cold war relic” weapons, how the Pentagon must make “tough choices,” and how America cannot afford to write the Pentagon “a blank check.”

Worse, still, the NYT celebrates the Pentagon’s acknowledgment that “while the United States remains the world’s leading military power, it is much more dependent on allies to help maintain international stability.”

Of course, the U.S. carries a disproportionate share of the military burden of its alliances and international missions because it is singularly committed to defending liberty and responding to humanitarian need abroad.  The recent response to the earthquake in Haiti, which was predominantly funded and manned by the U.S., is one example.  Indeed, over 20,000 U.S. troops and 41 C-17s (among other platforms) are being used in Haiti relief operations.  But you wouldn’t know it listening to President Obama dismissing these essential, unique airplanes as “pure waste” on Monday.

This is true even beyond our geographic neighborhood, as with our efforts to protect Muslims from genocide in the Balkans during the 1990s.  As House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), said at Heritage earlier toady, no fewer than 30 countries around the world rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for their core security.

The Obama Administration’s policy of engagement and negotiations has so far failed to curtail Iranian or North Korean nuclear programs, or to strengthen the protection of human rights in China or Iran. If the U.S. has indeed decided to become “more dependent” on the international system and less dependent on our military might to underpin global stability, it is trading in a robust instrument of global liberty for a weaker one.   Just as no country can be expected to provide security and pursue its interests solely through the use of military power, no country can expect to be taken seriously during high-stakes negotiations without the potential threat of military force to back up its word.  Not only do most of our allies lack the military resources to defend nations from aggression or to respond effectively to crises, but many international alliances and institutions are further constrained because they are dominated by the hostile powers they are intended to restrain.

In this international environment, the U.S. should do all it can to maintain a broad spectrum of core defense capabilities that can be called upon at any time to respond to any threat or challenge. For example, the U.S. should invest in more modern, fifth-generation stealth fighters—which cannot by any reasonable accounting be called anachronistic relics—and begin developing a sixth-generation aircraft to maintain our military advantage and deterrent.  Russia just unveiled its stealth fighter jet, the Sukhoi T-50, late last month, and numerous other countries are challenging our dominance of the skies.

As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out this week, it is not a cause for celebration, but a cause for consternation, that the military has been handed an insufficient budget that will force it to make “tough choices” that reduce our capabilities and make America increasingly vulnerable.  Theodore Roosevelt understood that a wiser approach was to talk softly and carry a big stick.  The NYT naively believes the Administration should take the stick off the table and dismantle it entirely, even before the talking yields any tangible results.