Contrary to the latest reports in the state run media, the idea of sequestration did not come from the GOP–it was initiated by the White House. To see why sequestration was proposed and accepted, we need to go back to July, 2011, when the budget deal came about. Obama thought he had the GOP in a bind. The GOP could either raise taxes or have default. In either case, the GOP would be toast in 2012. Wisely, the GOP walked away from negotiations with Obama and forged their own agreement, kicking the budgetary can down the road. This put the blame on Obama, for not coming up with a suitable deal to stave off default. Yet, Obama had to wrest some concession from the GOP in order to save face. Wanting to put the GOP in a bind once again–to create a new crisis and a new Sophie’s choice for the GOP in the future–the White House came up with sequestration. Their thought was that while the GOP would be willing to countenance across-the-board budget cuts on government programs and discretionary spending, they simply could not allow any cuts to the defense budget. Thus, at a future time, Obama would be holding the military hostage in order to press for higher taxes.
Yet, it has not worked out that way, and now it is Obama, and not the GOP, who is squealing like a stuck pig.
There are several things at work here.
First, the GOP had its undies in a wad in 2011 because they (rightly) thought that they would lose an easily winnable election in 2012 unless they found door number 3, a door which did not have either a tax increase or default behind it. Yet, they lost the 2012 election anyways. In these current negotiations, since the GOP has found itself incompetent at politics, might it find a better field of battle on policy grounds, by holding the line on spending and rejecting further tax increases, whatever the political cost?
Second, the amounts being cut are a drop in the bucket when one considers the total budget. As the National Review notes,
Lost in the president’s hyperventilation is the fact that under sequestration the federal government will spend just 1.5 percent less this year than it would like to, and still slightly more than it spent in 2012. Indeed, it will spend more than it has in any year in history save one (2011). And even discretionary spending, which takes the brunt of the cuts, will be set at — shock, horror — 2009 levels. Austerity, this is not.
While in future years the amounts being sequestered will rise substantially, and fall heavily on the military, the amounts on the table at present are small change. And just because sequestration kicks in this year does not mean that there will be sequestration next year–they can always make a deal in the future.
Finally, we have Barack Obama and his not yet confirmed Secretary of Defense. Obama has already announced a unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan, and appears to have no interest in actually using the military to do anything but launch drone strikes on terrorist suspects and hapless civilians who get in the way. Meanwhile, in both competency and policy, Hagel is an absolute disaster. The only way Obama could have made a worse choice would have been by going full Monty and appointing Denis Kucinich. Why not just find a bum off the street and name him Secretary of Defense, paying his salary in crack?
Fact: With the policies Obama and Hagel have in mind, the US military will be effectively hollowed out in the next four years, regardless of its budget. With a sufficient budget, the military might maintain its levels of manpower and resources. However, under Obama and Hagel, there is no question that the command structure, and levels of expertise and readiness will be greatly harmed in the next four years. And this is inevitable with Obama as president and Hagel at the helm. There is nothing Republicans or conservatives can do about it.
Fact: The reason we have a large military is to serve as a deterrent. However, the size of the military is insignificant as a deterrent when everyone knows that you will never use it. And Obama has made it clear that the military serves little or no purpose for him, and has evidenced no desire to use the military to defend US interests.
Conservatives and defense hawks want a strong military, not because they are in love with government spending or think that DoD is an employment program or a spur to the economy, but because they really think that having a strong military is an important and necessary facet for defending the US. Now we have a president who has no apparent desire to defend the US, unless a defensive action coincides with his own perceived personal or partisan goals. In this situation, how, pray tell, will a modest cut in military spending make any difference to US security?