February 25, 2013

Sequester 2013: Who is Going to Blink First?

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If Congress doesn’t reach a deal by March 1, sequestration will result in nearly $1 trillion in budget cuts that will begin Friday and accelerate over the next decade. As Friday rapidly approaches, some are saying that sequestration underscores a major miscalculation on the part of President Obama. He agreed to automatic spending cuts 18 months ago because he figured that the Republican Party would agree more quickly to a deficit reduction plan that included the tax increases he favored. Unfortunately for Obama, and for the nation, it seems that the Republicans committed to reducing the size of the government have more influence than those committed to ensuring a robust national defense.

That isn’t to say that some Republicans are not outraged at the prospect of $43 billion in budget cuts at the Pentagon in the 2013 fiscal year. Because the Defense Department will only have seven months to put the budget cuts into effect and because military personnel are protected, military training, weapons acquisition and maintenance will be cut by 13 percent. Senator McCain (R-AZ) called the cuts “unconscionable.” Senator Graham (R-SC) said, “There’s no way the party of Ronald Reagan should be accepting these cuts.”

But I have to ask: why shouldn’t the Republican Party accept these cuts? The U.S. is the biggest military spender in the world. The world’s top 10 military powers spent a combined $1.19 trillion on defense in 2011—the U.S. accounted for 58% of that with $695.7 billion spent on defense.

When our country was founded, we did not have a standing army. In fact, the Second Amendment states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” I’m not going to get into the gun control debate right now, but the framers of the Constitution wanted everyone to “keep and bear arms” because “the people” doubled as “the army.” That was the level of preparedness back in the day, and our Founding Fathers wanted it to remain as such. In a presidential message to Congress, Thomas Jefferson stated, “Were armies to be raised whenever a speck of war is visible in our horizon, we never should have been without them.”

Today, the idea of not having a “raised army” seems frightening. However, we are no longer in Iraq, and we are exiting Afghanistan. Our military does not have to remain in “wartime mode.” Yet our military budget ensures that we are constantly prepared for war, and I agree with Jefferson that constant war-readiness leaves the United States too ready to fight.

We have become a nation afraid of peace while simultaneously being fully disengaged from acts of war.

During World War II, citizens joined together on the assembly lines to build airplanes, manufacture uniforms and more. Families received rations of food and gas so that soldiers overseas wouldn’t starve. Throughout the Vietnam War, the nation certainly felt the impact of the war due to the draft. We currently have no draft, and regular citizens typically are not the ones building airplanes for use overseas.

Today, contractors supply the battlefield support that once was the work of soldiers. A bloated security industry profits from our near-permanent state of conflict, and now robotic drones carry out combat from afar. True, the “supersized” military spending over the last decade is below the Cold War average as a percentage of the economy, but the United States is currently extracting itself from two wars of “uncertain achievement.” Our incredibly large military budget hasn’t even contributed to us winning a war, and if we can’t win with $695.7 billion being spent on defense, something is wrong with how we are spending our money.

By no means am I saying sequestration is a good option. I agree with Senator Warren (D-MA) who beautifully commented that sequester cuts are “just plain dumb.” It is irresponsible for Congress to allow for massive spending cuts all over the board. Sure, the Republicans want to reduce the size of our government, but sequestration is not the way this should be done.

To be frank, I am disappointed that the success of President Obama’s strategy to avoid sequestration is contingent upon the Republicans in Congress not being able to stomach massive military spending cuts. I’m not a betting girl, but I do know that’s not the wisest strategy.

It seems to me that President Obama and the Republican Party are currently playing a game of chicken with regard to the impending sequester. I’m really hoping the Republicans blink first, because the only good thing that can result from sequestration is a long overdue military spending cut.

Original Author: Jaime Freilich