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A Disciplined Defense

How to Regain Strategic Solvency

A U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet flies over the U.S. Air Force Base on Okinawa, May 30, 2009. Yuriko Nakao / Courtesy Reuters

If Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep in the Pentagon's budgeting office 20 years ago and awoke today, his first reaction would be that nothing had changed. President George W. Bush has asked for $505 billion for the peacetime U.S. military establishment in 2008 -- almost exactly the amount, in real dollars, that President Ronald Reagan sought in 1988. Rip would start scratching his head, however, when he discovered that the Soviet empire and the Soviet Union itself had imploded more than 15 years ago and that Washington now spends almost as much on its military power as the rest of the world combined and five times more than all its potential enemies together. Told that Pentagon planners were nonetheless worried about overstretch and presidential candidates were vying to pledge even higher budgets and even larger forces, Rip's head might just explode.

The current strains on resources and forces are due, of course, to

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