A drone used as part of the campaign against al-Qaeda. (Courtesy U.S. Air Force/Reuters)

David Ignatius’s Jan. 1 op-ed, “Military tests for the next president,” was a sobering reminder of the gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to using U.S. military power. However, Mr. Ignatius missed a key issue that few of our bellicose presidential candidates and columnists have addressed: How do we pay for all the military force they want to throw at various problems around the globe?

There are times when the use of U.S. military power is essential, and defeating the Islamic State is an example of where diplomacy and coalition-building need to be supported with force. In other situations , such as dealing with China and Russia, sustained and persistent diplomacy, not force, is required. When the United States deploys its military abroad, it must pay for it; we can no longer afford to finance overseas military operations with deficit spending, budget gimmicks or shifting funds from vital domestic needs such as education, infrastructure and mitigating the national impact of climate change.

Political candidates and many of Mr. Ignatius’s columnist colleagues seek to show their toughness by calling for a more robust military response to issues ranging from the Middle East and Russia to China. But until they detail what taxes they would raise to pay for their proposals, we should judge their calls for what they are: political grandstanding that is a recipe for bankrupting the United States at home and undermining its influence aboard. 

Kenneth C. Brill, Bethesda