Thomas Ricks, author of “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq,” is saying that “Mattis is being pushed out of CENTCOM for asking too many questions about a possible strike on Iran,” Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported Monday evening.
Although Ricks said he likes President Obama, he told Fox News he doesn’t trust the president’s picks for his national security team.
“They are people who will not recognize it when they screw up, and they will treat as enemies anyone who tells them that they are doing that,” Ricks said. “I am worried.”
Perhaps Ricks has reason to be worried.
In a Jan. 7 New York Times op-ed, columnist David Brooks accused the president of choosing Chuck Hagel as defense chief for one reason: to dismantle the military in order to free up funds for social programs, particularly the underfunded Obamacare and Medicare programs.
Recounting the “measly” 10-year, $600 billion tax hike Democrats got in the latest fiscal go-round, and surmising that additional increases were unlikely while health care costs continue to climb, Brooks wrote:
So far, defense budgets have not been squeezed by the Medicare vise. But that is about to change. Oswald Spengler didn’t get much right, but he was certainly correct when he told European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.
Europeans, who are ahead of us in confronting that decision, have chosen welfare over global power. European nations can no longer perform many elemental tasks of moving troops and fighting. As late as the 1990s, Europeans were still spending 2.5 percent of G.D.P. on defense. Now that spending is closer to 1.5 percent, and, amid European malaise, it is bound to sink further.
Here’s something else to consider. Sequestration will gut $500 billion from the defense budget if substantial cuts aren’t made in other areas by March 1. The president’s inaugural speech made it clear that it wasn’t coming from Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Because these are the programs that comprise the lion’s share of the federal budget, it really limits the options.
Given all the above, why choose Hagel as hatchet man?
“If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover,” Brooks wrote, “and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot.”
Brooks could be right. Hagel’s marching orders may be to dismantle what is often referred to as the most capable military force in history.
The type of adventure that gave rise to General Mattis’ “Mad Dog” nickname was one recorded by Ricks when he accompanied the general into Iraq. Mattis gathered a group of tribal leaders and told them, “I come in peace, I didn’t bring artillery. But I am pleading with you, with tears in my eyes, if you f**k with me, I’ll kill you all.”
If Brooks’ assessment is correct — that Hagel was appointed to significantly reduce our military capabilities– there’s probably little room in the Obama administration for a Marine General known as “Mad Dog,” and that’s the pity. The military needs realists. The military needs more “Mad Dogs.”
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