First Casualty of War: Pentagon Budget Cuts


Politico on how any momentum for Pentagon budget cuts will likely be scuttled by our latest war:

Despite the broad coalition targeting the Pentagon budget, cuts were always going to be a tough sell at a time of two wars — let alone as the military intervenes in a third country.

"It is just plain vanilla that it will make it harder to cut defense in the near term," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist with close ties to congressional Republicans. "We're going to have to fund more of this than you realize."

The airstrikes are already being used by some in the Republican establishment to blunt momentum in favor of the cuts, long considered heretical in a town in which defense contractors constitute a formidable lobby and members of Congress view the Pentagon budget as a jobs program and fear being tagged as unpatriotic.

Squeezed by political forces to his right and his left, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has led the charge against efforts to scale back defense spending.

"This would be one of those examples that can be used to buttress his argument that now is not the time for deep cuts in defense," said Josh Holly, the committee's communications director. The chairman's concern is "not being properly positioned to deal with the contingencies that might be on the horizon, whether that be a modernizing military in China or (a military action) in Libya."….

Some predict the military intervention will reawaken the public's war weariness, undercutting support for the Pentagon by showing Washington's general lack of restraint at a time of deep deficits. Experts said the Libya conflict's price tag will top $1 billion.

But Domenici suggested the Libya conflict could dull the political will to make real cuts…..

While Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, broke from the GOP pack this month to endorse defense cuts, other leading possible candidates — Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney — don't agree. This is no small thing: In a presidential cycle, lawmakers often take their cues from their party's leading candidates…..

The Pentagon budget is still projected to grow under the House Republican plan for the current fiscal year budget and under the president's proposed budget for next year, but at a slower rate.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), however, sees opportunity for cuts in this crisis:

Coburn has been an outspoken critic, calling for a defense spending freeze until the Pentagon can pass an audit.

"By subsidizing our allies' defense budgets, American taxpayers are essentially subsidizing France's 35-hour workweek and Western European socialism," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "Taking defense spending off the table keeps American taxpayers on the hook for more government at home and abroad."….

"If you are looking for waste in the budget, the Defense Department is probably the single richest place to begin looking," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

But, she acknowledged, "I'm sure all parties involved will use Libya to make the case for what they believed anyhow."

Ms. MacGuineas speaks a truth far wider than the current Libya situation, to be sure.

Bonus Libya link: Juan Cole at The Nation tells the left that they are 100 percent wrong to think they have any reason to oppose this intervention–or, by implication, any intervention now or ever that we might guess will save anyone from death or oppression (even while, inevitably, murdering others):

If we just don't care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren't people of the Left. We should avoid making 'foreign intervention' an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness).

Seriously, guys–are we on the left going to be so heartless that we oppose dropping huge bombs on people and property from the air?? Is this what we've become?

And also–Churchill! He may not have been "p.c.," lefties, but he had his heart in the right place where it counts: waging ruthless war:

It is now easy to forget that Winston Churchill held absolutely odious positions from a Left point of view and was an insufferable colonialist who opposed letting India go in 1947. His writings are full of racial stereotypes that are deeply offensive when read today. Some of his interventions were nevertheless noble and were almost universally supported by the Left of his day.

Not at all sure why Cole thinks "what would Churchill do?" is or should be a burning question to the current Nation reader, but it gives me an opportunity to link to one of my favorite essays about Churchill, from libertarian historian Ralph Raico.