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Perugino: Common defense non-negotiable
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Last night, President Obama visited Afghanistan and stood on the shoulders of the U.S. military to trumpet his foreign policy. But that military is being eviscerated under the president's budget cuts, creating a hollow force and exacerbating today's readiness crisis.

One year ago today, Seal Team Six landed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and succeeded in bringing Osama bin Laden to ultimate justice. Though some may wish to bask in the glow of that success, now is not the time to celebrate or lay down arms. Bin Laden may be dead, but serious threats against the United States live on, both here in the homeland and around the globe.

President Obama, though, is using the occasion to boost his re-election efforts with a self-congratulatory campaign ad.

"If Lincoln had spent the entire Gettysburg Address talking about himself, it wouldn't have been quite that crass." [Heritage's James Carafano]

Since President Obama took office, more than 50 major weapons programs at a value of more than $300 billion were cut or delayed. On top of this, the Administration told the military to cut almost $600 billion more over the next 15 years. And that's before any cuts under the Budget Control Act take place.

Throughout history, as in many other parts of the world today, political rule was the privilege of the strongest or the most powerful. Property was the possession of kings, barons, and lords. Each was born to his or her destiny, and almost all were subject to someone else.

America is different because it is uniquely dedicated to the universal principles of human liberty: that all are fundamentally equal and equally endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our government exists to secure these God-given rights, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed. Our Constitution limits the power of government under the rule of law, creating a vigorous framework for expanding economic opportunity, protecting national independence, and securing liberty and justice for all.

Congress and the President are given the power to provide for that defense, and the President, also commander in chief of the military forces.

It is the constitutional duty of the federal government to secure the country's international borders and preserve and protect its territorial integrity, to strengthen and preserve its constitutional government, and to promote the long-term prosperity and well-being of its people. This means that the United States must be able, willing, and prepared at all times to defend itself, its people, and its institutions from conventional and unconventional threats to its vital interests, both at home and abroad.

The means of security can only be regulated by the means and the danger of attack. The mission of the United States military is determined by America's vital interests and an assessment of the threats to those interests. Force requirements and capabilities in service to the military's overall strategic mission should determine the budget and spending needs for national defense.

In recent years, despite unmatched rates of spending and government activity, the federal government has been doing less and less to fulfill its core responsibility of national defense. Defense spending is near historical lows. Government spending and constitutional overreach must be on the chopping block. But the core and undisputed constitutional responsibility of the United States government to provide for the common defense must not be up for negotiation.

Declining defense investments that force America to marginal military superiority while countries like China and Russia invest heavily to modernize and expand their forces and rogue states like Iran and North Korea develop their nuclear weapons programs are risky and dangerous.

American policy must not be driven either by the naïve notion that we can rid the world of tyranny and remake other nations in our image or by foolish claims that we can somehow withdraw from the world and isolate ourselves from threats to our sovereignty and independence.

President Washington liked to quote the old Roman maxim: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of promoting peace." He was anxious that the country "leave nothing to the uncertainty of procuring a warlike apparatus at the moment of public danger." Wise advice, indeed, that a free and independent country ought never to forget.

William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at