The Sequester and Syria
Posted on September 3, 2013
The defense sequester is not a victimless crime.
We are about to rediscover that as we prepare to decide what we should do in Syria.
Under the budget agreement reached by the President and the Congress a couple of years ago, defense is slated to be slashed by a trillion dollars over the next ten years.
The defense budget is big, especially compared to our allies and our competitors.
We spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined.
Of course, Pentagon spending has taken on more than just spending on our military prowess.
The defense budget has become a social services agency. Billions of dollars go to pay for health care, education, housing, and who knows what else.
The defense budget also pays for military hardware, which creates jobs across America. And our defense industry, propped up by our military, is one of the biggest exporters of American products to the rest of the world.
When we scale back defense spending by a trillion dollars, it has a huge impact on our defense industry, making it harder to for them to invest in research and development, which makes it harder for the defense industry to compete with other defense companies that tend to be directly supported by their home governments (China and Russia come to mind).
The top defense hawk in the Senate in cycle is Lindsey Graham. Graham comes by this naturally, having been a JAG Officer in the Air Force. But he is also represents the huge military presence in his state.
Graham believes that America should continue to have the preeminent role in stabilizing world affairs. He also believes that slashing defense spending is bad for American security, international stability and for jobs in his state.
The senior Senator from South Carolina is facing a Tea Party challenge from the right from folks who believe that he has been too cozy with President Obama, but that is simply not true.
To Graham, the defense sequester needs to stop for his state and for American security, and he will work hard to reach an agreement to find an alternative.
At the same time, Graham believes that for America to be more secure, it can’t be isolationist. Nor can it afford to allow a thug like Bashir Assad to use chemical weapons, despite repeated warnings from an American President.
Graham sees the truth that if the threat of force is not backed up by the use of force, then America ceases to have any ability to impose stability on an increasingly instable world.
Graham’s worldview is not popular in the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.
They don’t see the need for a big military in America today. They distrust the power of the American government more than they fear the threat of attack from abroad. They worry more about the deficit than they do about jobs. They don’t want America to be world’s policeman, the one indispensable nation, the stabilizer in chief.
And the Tea Party hates Obama, so any kind of deal on anything with him is a bad deal in their worldview.
It is interesting to note, however, that both the Tea Party and the President are complicit in wanting to dramatically decrease the size and scope of the American military.
Both the Tea Party and Obama distrust corporate power. Both want to reduce our footprint overseas. Both think that America’s bungling overseas in Iraq was a mistake. And both want to spend less on our military.
That is certainly the view of Rand Paul, and especially the view of his father.
This debate over Syria will pit the internationalism/muscled militarism of the establishment wing of the Republican Party vs. the isolationism/pacifism of the Tea Party wing of the party.
The internationalist wing will be working to save President Obama from himself. The Tea Party wing will be working to help the President achieve his secret agenda.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.