WELL in advance of World War II, Capt. Richmond Pearson Hobson visited Oklahoma and warned that war with Japan was “certain to result.” Hobson, a military hero turned Alabama congressman, said, “It is my conviction that Japan is only now awaiting a pretext before declaring war against the United States ...” According to The El Reno Tribune, he predicted the Japanese would attack the Philippines and Hawaiian islands.
Hobson even predicted that “in a war at this time Japan would be the victor” due to the United States' “comparatively weak Navy.” The congressman called for spending an extra $50 million annually for a decade to build up the Navy. According to The Daily Ardmoreite, Hobson noted “that if the government spent one-twentieth part of the money spent for whiskey, beer and wine by the people that it would maintain a Navy nicely, and the money not be missed.”
Hobson argued a larger Navy would “act as insurance against war” and the cost of buildup paled when compared with the cost of war. He declared “all other nations are looking up to us to do something.”
Hobson's comments are notable not only for the accurate prediction of a Japanese attack on Hawaii, but also for when he made them — 1907. Hobson was correct on many points, just not the time frame. Sadly, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the nation's military had atrophied; its deterrent effect was minimal. According to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the U.S. Army ranked 17th in the world in size and combat power in 1939 — behind Romania.
Federal officials debating budget priorities should keep this history in mind. It appears President Barack Obama is not. The president's budget calls for cutting military spending by $150 billion over 10 years on top of $487 billion in already-scheduled cuts. Reductions would hit major weapons programs, missile defense, drones, Army helicopters and cargo planes; military pay raises would be held to 1 percent.
As GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney noted last year, our Navy is smaller today than at any time since 1917. The Air Force is smaller than at any time since 1947. Yet defense remains the only part of government Obama thinks should shrink. Meanwhile, he wants to increase subsidies for green energy companies (the federal budget version of whiskey and beer, minus the usefulness).
But national defense is not an extravagance. The need for American military power is increasing, not declining. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may wind down, but North Korea is a looming threat. It may have developed a nuclear device that can be mounted on a ballistic missile, according to a recent U.S. intelligence assessment. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Unrest in Syria may allow terrorist groups to obtain chemical weapons.
The only way to deter attacks by rogue actors is through the threat of a swift, effective U.S. military response. That's why U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, worries Obama's plan would “cut our missile defense budget, even as Hawaii and the rest of the country face direct and heightened threats from North Korea.”
This nation needs efficient military spending, not willful blindness to the need for a strong military. Otherwise, future generations may look back at us and wonder why we failed to prevent war despite clear warnings.