Our Views: Big picture on defense

The popular image of China’s military is one of nearly unlimited manpower to pour against an enemy. The reality is that the Chinese military understood the lessons of the Persian Gulf conflict of 1991, that it is modern weapons that win modern wars. Thus the giant spending spree of the communist government of China on not only its army but the “People’s Liberation Army” Navy as well.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China’s military modernization is altering the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region and challenging decades of U.S. pre-eminence.

The commission advises Congress on the national security implications of the relationship between the two world powers.

That is why, when Louisiana’s members of Congress face tough votes on the budget, perhaps as early as next month, but certainly early next year, the issues of cuts to the Pentagon budget should be on their minds.

The “sequester” of budget funds that went into effect last year takes larger budget cuts in the new year from domestic programs and military spending. Its impact should not be overstated, in that a nation so heavily in the red as is the United States has to make some cuts. Those choices are tough and naturally the Pentagon cannot be off-limits.

Louisiana has parochial interests in the budget fights. Those go from food stamps for our many poor families to flood control and coastal preservation; our shipyards will benefit if the United States will more aggressively modernize its Navy and Coast Guard; our world trade depends on a military sufficient to keep the peace and preserve trade routes.

We don’t expect hostilities from the somewhat unpredictable Communist leadership in Beijing anytime soon. But the budget cuts caused by the sequester are themselves somewhat erratic because of the way those are structured. A more consistent plan, jettisoning the sequester for a bipartisan budget deal, should seek to keep our military effective even if at a lower cost.

We hope that is what Louisiana members of Congress will labor toward, together, instead of indulging in the partisan budget wars that have been all too frequent this year.