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Rebuttal of William Hartung’s lies about defense spending and US defense needs

In a recent (Feb. 22nd) opinion piece for CNN’s website, liberal anti-defense hack William Hartung of the George-Soros-funded “New America Foundation”, a stridently liberal group, stated many blatant lies about America’s defense spending and defense needs. This article is intended not only to refute his lies, but also to show how absurd they are, as they are a representative sample of the lies that the Left has been spreading about defense issues for many years.

Hartung hails sequestration and falsely claims that the defense budget is “bloated” and that it’s “obvious”. But it’s not; it’s a blatant lie. The nation’s entire military budget – $611 bn – amounts to less than 4.2% of America’s GDP and just 17.58% of all federal spending. This includes OCO (Afghan War) budgets and spending on the DOE’s defense-related programs.

To put it into a perspective, 4.2% of GDP is the smallest share of national wealth the US has devoted to its defense since FY1948, if you exclude the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

The Webster dictionary of English defines bloated as “bigger than justified”. America’s current defense budget is well-justified, and it’s hardly bigger than needed. Today, the US faces several severe security threats, ranging from peer competitors Russia and China (both of whom have large nuclear arsenals and large standing conventional militaries, as well as aggressive and well-funded armament/modernization programs) to rogue states like North Korea (already possessing nuclear weapons and ICBMs) and Iran, to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and FARC. The US also has a huge plot of land, three long coasts, a long, porous southern border, and a large airspace to defend – not to mention many crucial allies.

No, the defense budget is NOT bloated, considering the above threats and national security requirements.

Hartung then attacked the US military’s weapon procurement and modernization programs, even though the US military urgently needs them, as it is currently mostly using obsolete, decades-old, worn out equipment. The USAF’s average aircraft age is over 24 years; it’s tankers and bombers are, on average, over 40 years old.

Hartung then specifically attacked the F-35 program. Granted, the F-35 has suffered egregious cost overruns and delays and the F-35 is not well suited for air to air combat (due to its unmaneuverability, low max speed and ceiling, very limited stealthiness, and poor weapons load). But Hartun then attacked the air superiority mission altogether, falsely claiming that it’s “increasingly irrelevant.”

That kind of claims only proves how totally ignorant Hartung is. (And the CNN allows this ignoramus to comment on national security issues?) Only a totally ignorant person would make such a claim.

Air superiority is still a VERY relevant and VERY important mission, despite some people’s fantasies that conventional warfare is over and that the only wars from now on will be with insurgencies and terrorists. Air superiority is the sine qua non of any successful military operation. Control of the air is a prerequisite of victory in any war – even against insurgents or terrorists. And there are several countries – such as China, Russia, North Korea, Belarus, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela – which have capable air defense systems and/or fighters and are thus able to seriously contest control of the air. China and Russia possess the biggest threat in that regard – they both have the S-300 system, Russia also has the S-400 (and intends to export it to China), the PRC has the HQ-9, and they both have hundreds of Flanker fighters, while Russia also has the PAKFA (IOC slated for 2016), while China is developing the J-20 and the J-31.

If air superiority is the sine qua non of victory in war, nuclear deterrence is the sine qua non of national survival and of preventing war (or at least nuclear war) from erupting in the first place. In that regard, nuclear deterrence has been a huge success: ever since its inception in 1945, nuclear war – and any war between the great powers – has been completely prevented. And that has been precisely BECAUSE nuclear weapons were (and are) there to restrain the great powers and to force them to coexist.

Yet Hartung attacked nuclear deterrence just as viciously (and foolishly), claiming that possessing nuclear weapons is “increasingly irrelevant to our security.” No, it is not irrelevant at all. It is HIGHLY relevant.

Russia currently has 2,800 strategic and up to 4,000 tactical nuclear warheads, deployed and nondeployed. Of these, at least 1,550 strategic and 1,000 tactical warheads are deployed. The strategic warheads can be delivered by Russia’s 434-strong ICBM fleet (capable of delivering 1,684 warheads to the CONUS by itself), 251 strategic bombers (each capable of carrying 6 nuclear-tipped missiles and 1 nuclear bomb), and 14-strong SSBN fleet (capable of delivering, collectively, over 2,000 warheads to the CONUS – all of this while being in their homeports).

To deliver its tactical warheads, Russia has a wide range and large number of delivery systems, ranging from surface ships to attack and cruise submarines to tactical aircraft (e.g. the Su-24, Su-25, and the Flanker family), artillery pieces, and the SS-26 Stone SRBM. A detailed study of Russia’s nuclear arsenal is available here.

China has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads (most of which are immediately deliverable), as detailed here and here. On top of that, one also has to deter North Korea and Iran. North Korea already has about a dozen nuclear warheads according to Global Security, and as it demonstrated in December, it now also has an ICBM capable of reaching the CONUS. It plans to conduct further tests of its ICBMs, including the new KN-08 missile that disarmament advocates dismissed as fake, later this year.

Moreover, while China and Russia are threats to many and protectors to nobody, the US has to provide nuclear deterrence not only to itself, but also to over 30 allies who rely on the US nuclear umbrella as a matter of national security and indeed, their very survival. If the US significantly cuts its nuclear deterrent further, it will not be credible, and therefore, America’s allies will have no choice but to develop their own nuclear weapons. 66.5% of South Koreans already support doing this.

And no, a few hundred warheads would not suffice. They could destroy enemy population centers, but that would not deter the enemy – because Russian, Chinese, North Korean, and Iranian leaders do not value civilians’ lives. They care only about their military and economic assets and their tools of oppression. But to be able to target these, one needs thousands, not mere hundreds, of warheads – at minimum, the current 1,550 warheads allowed by New START, probably even more.

Deterrence means holding what the enemy REALLY values at risk. But then again, the Left rejects the entire principle of deterrence. Leftists think that military weakness guarantees safety and military strength is provocative. Ellison’s bill aims to make America as weak as possible.

But ignorant unilateral disarmament agitators like Hartung have been calling for deep, unilateral cuts in America’s deterrent since the founding of their organizations in the 1960s and 1970s. They did not begin calling for America’s disarmament after the Berlin Wall fell, but much earlier – in the midst of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was still alive and very dangerous.

In other words, they have ALWAYS been singing the unilateral disarmament siren song – no matter what the times and circumstances were. And just as they were dead wrong during the Cold War, they’re dead wrong today.

Hartung’s claims are blatant lies; they also show his utter ignorance of defense and (other national-security-related) issues. No intelligent person listens to what he says, and if he doesn’t know that, he’s mentally deficient.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Mtnka says:

    I do trust all the ideas you have presented to your post. They are very convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for beginners. May just you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

    • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

      Thank you for the comment, Mtnka.

      I usually write long rebuttals (and sometimes get complaints that my articles are too wrong). Therefore, I decided to keep this particular article as brief as possible.