The Importance of Rebuilding the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’

An aerial view of the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower together in the eastern Mediterranean on November 3, 2023. (Photo by U.S.Navy Janae Chambers/Handout/Anadolu/Getty Images)

For the second time in two years, America finds itself providing military support to a friend in the wake of aggression. Within days of Hamas’ attack on Israel, American munitions began flowing to the Israeli Defense Forces, and no reporting suggests that a single request for military material has yet been denied. 

But the situation raises important questions: How long is such support materially sustainable given well-reported strains on defense supply chains? Even if Congress ultimately approves supplemental funding for military assistance to Ukraine and Israel, can the U.S. industrial base cash the checks? If so, what is the harm to the increasingly dangerous security situation in the Pacific—the only critical Eurasian region spared an open war at this moment—where China is testing American resolve in the South China Sea and preparing for a war over Taiwan?

In other words, are there enough guns, bullets, and bombs to sustain America’s global strategy, long underpinned by our status as the free world’s armory? Or will reality ultimately force us to retrench?  The current polycrisis may be manageable for now, but the instrument panels for both our security abroad and our defense supply chains at home are flashing red—even without the United States engaged in combat. 

First, the good news: The different nature of the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the differences between both and a possible fight in the Pacific, means any trade-offs are limited and manageable. The new violence in the Middle East has not resulted in meaningful limitations on the Ukrainians or the Israelis.

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