Dangers have increased around the globe at a time when U.S. military forces are smaller and less capable of dealing with trouble overseas, Rep. Tom Cole told The Oklahoman’s editorial board.
“In my time in Congress, and I’ve sat on the Armed Services Committee or Defense Appropriations almost every year I’ve been there, I have never seen a more complex and dangerous international environment than we have today,” he said Thursday.
He mentioned several potential flashpoints, starting with North Korea, where Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of its leader, Kim Jong Un, was executed late last year for treason.
“We’ve got a guy with five or six nuclear weapons and one of the largest conventional forces in the world, and we don’t know what he’s going to do any morning when he gets up,” said Cole, R-Moore. “His own uncle clearly didn’t know what he was going to do any morning when he got up.”
Cole, who is serving in his sixth term, said Chinese military activities in the East and South China Seas, together with territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, have been a cause for concern for its neighbors, who look to the U.S. for support.
“They watch what happens with the size of the Navy, which came down during the last sequester,” he said.
He called Pakistan, which has 120 nuclear weapons, “a very dangerous place, where we’re not popular.” He noted that Osama bin Laden was able to hide there for six years.
Iran, the No. 1 sponsor of terrorism in the world, is trying to get a nuclear capability. Israel has been locked in a long-term conflict with the Palestinians, while extremists and terrorists have set up an Islamic state in portions of Iraq and Syria. Meantime, Russia has apparently decided the Cold War is back on or peace after the Cold War is off, Cole said.
Despite all this turmoil overseas, America’s focus has turned inward.
“So while we’re dealing with all this other stuff at home and doing all the politics and worried about immigration issues, we have real national security issues that transcend this,” he said.
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The next president will not have the military capability that this president and any previous American president for a generation or more has been able to take for granted. It’s still the best military in the world, it’s still more robust than anybody else in the world and can still do more things, but its capabilities have been declining.”
Rep. Tom Cole,