Fortunately for President Obama, the world he described Wednesday as being “at a crossroads between war and peace” started its descent into chaos before the full effect of his dramatic cuts to American defenses could be implemented.
A fact not loss on administration critics and military planners is that at least two key weapons programs cancelled by President Obama to much fanfare have proven central, even vital, to the American-led campaign to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State and other terror targets inside Syria.
The first night’s assault wave against terror targets in Syria included the firing of at least 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the state-of-the-art Aegis class guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh; part of the George H.W. Bush carrier task force.
It was just last March that President Obama ordered the Defense Department to phase out new purchases of Tomahawk cruise missiles, forcing the Navy to relying upon only an ever-dwindling inventory, until the program ceases completely in 2016.
In the first night alone of air operations against Syrian based terror targets, the Pentagon fired off nearly half the number of missiles its pared back purchase program permits for all of next year. If deployed at that rate continuously, the US stockpile of roughly 4,000 Tomahawks would be depleted in less than three months.
Obama’s cancellation of the cruise missile program baffles defense analysts; given the Administration’s 2012 decision to dramatically shrink the size of U.S. Armed Forces to well below that required to “conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations.” The less capable the US military is to deal with multiple simultaneous and transglobal crisis, goes the accepted thinking of top brass, the more reliant need so-called “stand-off weapons” like the unmanned ship-fired Tomahawk cruise missile that can reach targets thousands of miles away, to make up for the gap in conventional forces.
Obama’s Tomahawk decision infuriated top officials in the British Royal Navy, whose submarine attack force relies solely upon Tomahawk missiles as their ordnance of choice, and who were not even consulted about the decision before it was announced.
Perhaps more significant than the cruise missile, Obama’s decision to launch air assaults against Syrian-based terror targets necessitated the first use ever of the Air Force’s vaunted F-22 Raptor in combat conditions. The F-22 is the most capable fighter aircraft ever developed. Its speed, maneuverability, command and control systems and its state of the art radar evasion capabilities made it the perfect delivery system to hit targets in Syria.
Calling the program “an inexcusable waste of money“, Obama promised to cancel the F-22 program during his 2008 campaign for President and made good on that promise as part of his 2010 budget. Only 187 of the front line aircraft were produced and, until Monday, the plane had never been in combat. So contemptuous was the President of the F-22 that the White House refused to permit the President even to be photographed with one when visiting Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska in 2009. The White House forced base personnel to remove the F-22 out of its permanent hangar where the President was scheduled to deliver a speech lest it be seen in the background. The F-22 was ordered removed and replaced by an older, less capable and presumably less provocative F-15.
If allowed to be fully implemented, Obama’s defense cuts will result in the smallest US army since 1940, the smallest US Navy since before World War I, and the smallest force of tactical fighter planes ever in the history of the US Air Force.