The financial troubles facing the country are leading many Republicans as well as Democrats to look at the defense budget and think about cuts. Some cuts will likely take place as US forces gradually reduce their roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most proposals, including these from Oklahoma’s GOP Senator Tom Coburn, go farther.There are lots of ways to cut a defense budget; as someone who believes strongly that Americans are better off with strong global forces than without them, I agree that some serious cuts can and must be made. It’s partly a matter of politics; the defense budget can’t grow indefinitely even as domestic programs suffer deep cuts.But it’s also a question of strategy. As John Gaddis’ magisterial history of American strategy during the Cold War demonstrates, America tends to make smarter strategic decisions when we think our resources are limited than when we think the sky is the limit. Presidents like Dwight Eisenhower who worried about budget deficits conserved American strength and thought long and hard about how to accomplish our core objectives with limited means, Gaddis says. Those like Henry Truman (in his later, Keynesian phase) and the JFK/LBJ team took larger risks and assumed unnecessary burdens because they did not really believe there were any practical limits on what they could spend.Introducing sensible spending discipline and ensuring that future presidents think about the limits of America’s wallet — as long as we don’t cut too deep or too foolishly — could actually make the US stronger and more secure.