As the military's role after the Cold War has largely shifted from protecting America from a nuclear-equipped superpower to maintaining stability in the region that superpower once dominated, the Pentagon's budget has been slashed by a third, while American troops have been increasingly devoted to peacekeeping efforts. This trend has many inside the Beltway, mostly Republicans, arguing that a powerful military has symbolic importance for America's diplomatic and economic legitimacy, as well as for world peace. But a New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday showed that only 2 percent of American voters considered defense the "single most important problem for the president and Congress to deal with." The GOP can seek consolation in the poll's finding that the public considers Republicans significantly better equipped than Democrats to make military decisions. In an election year, it clearly behooves congressional Republicans to hype up the weaknesses of the nation's defense. George W. may have some angry words for his dad for letting the Germans tear down that wall 10 years ago.
A Pentagon report released last week has some in Washington claiming that America supposedly the world's last remaining superpower could no longer withstand two regional wars at once. It's been at least seven years since the Army has ranked one of its 10 divisions as C-4, or unfit to serve in war, but this year two divisions received that ranking, while, for the first time in recent memory, no division received the highest ranking. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) blamed the Army's failing grades on "insufficient funding and foreign policy that has committed military personnel to areas where we have no vital security interests." Depending on how you look at it, the report represents either a more realistic look at a flawed Army or a ploy by congressional Republicans to siphon more funding into the military and cut back on peacekeeping efforts. Pressed by the media, Pentagon officials acknowledged that the Army isn't significantly less prepared than it's been in recent years, but the standards in this year's evaluation were raised by Congress.