To the Editor:
Should the U.S. engage or disengage in world affairs? In 2011, our past Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, worried that the White House and Congress were contemplating changes in our national security posture without taking into consideration long term implications based on past historical events. In one of his last addresses, Mr. Gates stated: "If we are going to reduce the resources and the size of the U.S. military, people need to make conscious choices about what the implications are for the security of the country.....The tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the American people — accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades — want their country to play in the world." Several years later, the consequences of a U.S. with fewer military resources and a smaller role in the world are coming into focus. The resulting picture is forcing us, though weighted down by the cost of engagement, to consider the costs of disengagement.
The last time we invested so little in defense was 1940. This is the best way to invite the very worst of possibilities, what Churchill called "temptations to a trial of strength." These once avoidable trials of strength are proliferating with Moscow in Eastern Europe and Syria, with Beijing in the South China Sea and with Tehran in the Persian Gulf. No matter what the disengagers say, our historic role and current position on the world stage give us a special responsibility to sustain the liberal global order forged after Word War II — an order that benefits us more than any other nation. The alternative path — the retreat of our power — leads to the spread of chaos and conflict.
Currently, Obama's administration focuses on nation-building at home and allows sequestration to whittle away at our "big stick." China's military has grown 170 percent in the past decade giving it the confidence and capability to challenge our once unquestioned dominance in the Pacific. Russia; in the midst of a 108 percent increase in military spending is reversing the settled outcomes of the Cold War. Iran is emerging as a regional power.with atomic capabilities. Syria has continued to use chemical weapons. ISIS, (IS, ISIL) is erasing international borders and threatening our allies in Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The question is which role do we want to play — isolation or leader among nations?