Obama Can't Have It All When It Comes to Iraq and Afghanistan

By Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarlandNational Security Expert

Cognitive Dissonance- def. The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes.

President Obama's Defense Budget- def. The inconsistent belief that we can end the Iraq War, win the Afghanistan War, increase the size of the Army and Marines, raise pay and benefits to the troops and cut defense spending.

President Obama's Iraq Policy- def. The inconsistent attitude that everything about President Bush's Iraq policy was wrong, but we are now able to withdraw, and leave behind a self-sustaining democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East.

President Obama's address to Congress was one of the most brilliant pieces of oratory in a generation. But the parts dealing with Pentagon spending and our withdrawal from Iraq are at odds with reality. Quite simply, the words and the deeds don't match up.

Obama promises cuts in defense spending. Without getting specific, he claims we will save money by withdrawing from Iraq and eliminating new weapons systems. That's true. It won't give him a lot of savings, certainly not enough to help plug the budget gap, but it will help. But what he's not telling you about is the additional spending required to do the other things he mentions. Let's break it down.

First, our Marine and Army units are seriously depleted after seven years of war. Most of their equipment is worn out and needs retooling, repairing and replacing. He might choose not to make those units "whole", but not if he plans to divert some of them to Afghanistan this spring. So far he's talked about sending in 17,000 troops, perhaps to be followed by more. They need to go in with equipment and spare parts. That will add to defense spending. Second, Obama plans to add 100,000 troops to the Army and Marines. That's 100,000 additional men and women who will need training and equipment. That will add to defense spending.

Third, as we ramp up in Afghanistan we can expect, sadly, an increase in casualties. As we saw with the surge in Iraq, things got worse before they got better. Increased casualties are not only tragic, but providing them with adequate care and benefits is expensive. That will add to defense spending.

And those are just direct military costs. There will be additional spending needed to pay for Obama's 'soft power' plans. In that part of the world, money talks. General Petraeus has indicated we will push for a Sunni Awakening-type effort with the Afghan tribes. That it will require additional monies and outlays to the tribal leaders to pay for their militias, and regional reconstruction programs. So, in fact, Obama will have to increase defense spending, not cut it, if he plans to ramp up in Afghanistan.

There is only one way Obama can cut defense spending -- by pulling out of Afghanistan. If he does, it will mean the only military success he has to crow about is Iraq -- Bush's War. Because even though Iraq has cost us far too much in lives and treasure, we leave behind a self-sustaining democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Not because of Obama, but because Bush's Surge Strategy succeeded. Oops.

Sorry, Mr. President, you can't have it all.

PS: By the way, Mr. President. Your pledge to cut 'unnecessary' weapons systems is probably a good idea, but it will also eliminate alot of AMERICAN jobs. Oops.

Kathleen "K.T." McFarland served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. For more go to KTMcFarland.com.