*Self-parody watch

SELF-PARODY WATCH…. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to increase military spending from $513 billion to $534 billion has driven a variety of strange conservatives completely around the bend. The standard talking point seems to be that a $21 billion increase, with a renewed commitment to U.S. troops, is a “cut” that will endanger the country.

But some are going even further. Take Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), for example.

“While President Obama’s short changing of America’s Armed Forces is deeply disappointing, it is — unfortunately — not a surprise. Throughout his campaign and during his short tenure as President, he has made it clear that he believes his charm and eloquence are adequate substitutes for a strong military…. The cuts announced today, however, take that naivete to a dangerous new level.

Maybe Cole has suffered some kind of head trauma recently. Since when has the president “made it clear” that he sees personal attributes as “adequate substitutes for a strong military”? And since when is a $21 billion increase in military spending a “cut”?

As ridiculous as Cole is, this critique from Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, is even worse.

[W]arfare is not a human activity that directly awards virtue. Nor is it a perfectly calculable endeavor that permits a delicate “balancing” of risk. More often it rewards those who arrive on the battlefield “the fustest with the mostest,” as Civil War Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest once put it. If Mr. Gates has his way, U.S. forces will find it increasingly hard to meet the Forrest standard.

As a substantive matter, this analysis is “insane.” As a political matter, why are neocons at AEI going after the Obama administration by relying on standards set by the founder the Ku Klux Klan?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.