In that year of happy memory, 1972, George McGovern, the Democratic nominee, declared he would chop defense by fully one-third.
A congressman asked Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird what this might mean. The Pentagon replied the Sixth Fleet might have to be pulled out of the Med, leaving Israel without U.S. protection against the fleet of Adm. Sergei Gorshkov, and provided the congressman a list of U.S. bases that would have to be shut down.
Radio ads were run in the towns closest to the bases on the Pentagon list, declaring they would be closed and all jobs terminated, should McGovern win.
Something akin to this is going on with the impending sequester.
A cut of 7 percent, $46 billion, in Pentagon spending, says Army chief Ray Odierno, will mean a 'hollowing" out of his force.
The Navy? The carrier Harry Truman will not be sailing to the Persian Gulf. The Abraham Lincoln will not be overhauled in Newport News. Thousands of jobs will be lost.
Undeniably, spending cuts by sequester slicer, chopping all equally, is mindless. And with the national security, it manifests a failure of both parties to come to terms with the world we are now in.
If, as Republicans insist, we have a debt crisis because we are 'spending too much," spending will have to be cut .
What is needed is what America, since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, has stubbornly resisted doing: a strategic review of all U.S. commitments abroad. Before we decide what our defense forces should be, let us determine what is in the U.S. vital interest to defend at risk of war.
Start with NATO. In 1961, President Eisenhower urged JFK to bring home the U.S. forces and let the Europeans raise the armies to defend themselves.
Yet, more than 20 years after the Soviet Union fell apart, we have scores of thousands of troops in Europe. Why?
And why do we have 28,000 U.S. troops in Korea and 50,000 in Japan?
In his Guam Doctrine, Nixon declared that in any future Asian war, we should provide the weapons to our Asian allies and they should do the fighting. Does that not still make sense today?
Before we can decide the size and shape of our defense budget, we need a consensus on what we must defend.
And if Republicans wish to remain a viable party, it desperately needs a credible, countervailing voice to the uber-hawks whose bellicosity all but killed the party in the Bush era.
Obama is president because of them. His most popular act, according to voter surveys from 2012? Ending the war in Iraq.