Romney: Our Navy is old -- excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me.
I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947. We've changed for the first time since FDR -- since FDR we had the -- we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we're changing to one conflict. Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people. . .
OBAMA: Bob, I just need to comment on this. First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen. The budget that we are talking about is not reducing our military spending. It is maintaining it.
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips. It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.
Presidential Foreign Policy Debate, 22 October 2012
What has made the spin in the above exchange is Obama's incredibly condescending and insulting response to Mitt Romney's points, focusing solely on the analogy to 1916. But in a rationale world, Romney's points make a mockery of Obama's response.
As a threshold matter, the cuts in defense spending required by sequestration came at the insistence of the White House. The stupidest thing that Republicans have done in living memory was to agree to that. The far left's wet dream, for half a century, has been to cut our defense to the bone and beyond. The Republicans misjudged the fact that they would willing accept cuts to domestic programs if they could finally gut defense.
And those of course on top of Obama's many other cuts to defense. His change of our military posture from being able to fight two wars simultaneously was not driven by any change in strategic reality, it was wholly a means to justify deep cuts to defense spending. He has stopped production on a score of critical next generation weapons systems that can't be restarted on the fly. Development of new weapons systems takes years.
As to the U.S. Navy, it is charged with keeping shipping lanes open worldwide and being able to project superior combat force to any point on the high seas. As to the size of our Navy, the numbers Romney cited came from a 2005 DOD review of force structure in respect of their missions. What Obama is doing is wholly gutting the ability of our Navy to meet their missions. This from the NRO:
The Obama administration’s neglect of the Navy can be typified by the early retirement of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and its plans to decommission other naval assets. In August of this year, I outlined on NRO why the Enterprise should remain in service, but the Big E is only the most prominent asset slated for premature retirement. The administration also plans to decommission and scrap six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, although the vessels have as many as 15 years of service life left (even without further overhauls). Maintaining freedom of the seas requires hulls in the water — and the Navy hasn’t even started building the replacements for these cruisers. At present, all we have is a design study called CGX, which may or may not enter production.
This is one area where Obama is particularly culpable: His administration, in an effort to cut costs, proposed the retirement of the USS Enterprise (which his allies in Congress passed in 2009) and the six cruisers. Numerous crises are heating up around the world, as recent events show, but there is no indication that Obama has reconsidered these retirement plans. Certainly, it would not be hard to halt the retirements, and extenuating circumstances clearly warrant a supplemental appropriations bill. None of our carriers or submarines — no matter how high-tech they are — are capable of covering the Persian Gulf and South China Sea at the same time, or the Mediterranean Sea and the Korean Peninsula simultaneously.
And lastly, we don't have "fewer bayonets" in the military today because "the nature of the military's changed." Obama is clueless. All soldiers in the Army and Marines are trained in the use of the bayonet. All infantry line troops are issued bayonets. The current model M9 is a masterpiece of work – at a foot long, it is a razor sharp short sword.
Bayonet charges have been critical events in modern warfare. Gettysburg, and thus the Civil War, turned on a bayonet charge down little Round Top. In the Korean War, the defense of Chip Yong Ni likewise saw a famous bayonet charge, that one by the outnumbered French Foreign Legionnaires. That same war saw a platoon of U.S. Infantry take out machine gun positions with a bayonet charge on a piece of terrain that became known as “Bayonet Hill.” In both Iraq and Afghanistan, British Army units have executed bayonet charges to overcome resistance, most famously in the 2004 “Battle of Danny Boy” at Al Amara, Iraq.
Beyond the bayonet charge by entire units, The bayonet has been used in all wars, through today, as the last tool of defense in close combat. More than a few al Qaeda and Taliban have been ushered off to meet Allah at the sharp end of a U.S. bayonet.
Bottom line – no line soldier will ever show disrespect to the bayonet. Obama is no soldier. He sees the military not as the single most important part of our federal government, but as a piggy bank.