Rich, I hope the Republicans do hold out for across-the-board cuts, rather than a disproportionate hit on defense. This would be a clear, simple, and completely defensible position. Why gore one party’s ox and not the other’s? Spread the cuts out evenly.
From the Democratic perspective, I’m sorry to say, they are moving to gut defense at an opportune moment, with Republicans more divided than usual on foreign policy. Ironically, Obama’s failed and incoherent Libya intervention (a description embraced by many who favored and opposed the original operation) has created exhaustion with military action on all sides of the political spectrum.
I thought Libya was a mistake, because we had too little stake in the outcome for too much risk, but also because we now face a vast archipelago of dangers from a transformed Middle East. The Arab Spring has turned to winter. That means more trouble for American interests, not less. We need to safeguard resources for the challenges ahead, not weaken ourselves.
I’m for a policy that puts American interests first, downplays democratization as a short-term solution, is more careful on the trigger than we’ve been, but ready for action when necessary. Unfortunately, with Iran going nuclear, Turkish secularism in retreat and a revived neo-Ottoman state on the rise, Pakistan slowly melting down, and a Middle East now looking with disdain on NATO’s failure in Libya, we would be fools to disarm ourselves. Keep our powder dry and avoid foolish interventions like Libya, yes. But stand hard against disproportionate defense cuts or we’ll regret it soon enough. The British and French have already made a hash of Libya because of their own defense cuts. If America goes, there’ll be nobody left to stand against the coming tide. And believe me, the tide is coming.