Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Military Hawks Upset with Debt Deal

Proposed defense cuts in the deal to raise the debt ceiling have caused neoconservatives to lambast the agreement.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

As both houses of Congress debated the 11th-hour debt limit deal hashed out Sunday night by senior lawmakers and the White House, neo-conservatives and other national security hawks complained bitterly on August 1 that the final package may force major cuts in defence spending in the coming years.

"If this deal governs policy for the next decade, it will be hard for the U.S. to remain a sole superpower," warned Weekly Standard editor and leading neo-conservative ideologue William Kristol.

"This is the best day the Chinese have ever had," he went on. "This deal embodies a vision of America in decline," he added.

Former Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton – whose analysis bounced all around the right-wing blogosphere August 1 – was no less hyperbolic, calling the possible military implications of the deal no less than "catastrophic".

"Make no mistake, this deal, by risking massive defense cutbacks, potentially points a dagger at the heart of our national security," Bolton, who now sits at the American Enterprise Institute, warned.

More-dovish military analysts, on the other hand, also expressed disappointment with the package, albeit for entirely different reasons.

"The proposed deal does not go far enough in reining in a military budget which in real terms is higher than at any time since World War II," noted Lawrence Korb, a senior Pentagon official under Ronald Reagan and currently with the Center for American Progress (CAP).

"In the short term, the budget deal crafted by the president and the congressional leadership gives the Pentagon virtually a free ride," complained William Hartung, director of the Arms Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He noted that military spending will be reduced by less than one percent at most over the next two years, according to the deal and that bigger cuts would only take effect in 2013.

The package, which was passed by both houses and signed by President Barack Obama on August 2 lifts Washington's current debt ceiling of 14.3 trillion dollars and require cuts in projected federal spending by some 2.4 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Of those cuts, between 900 million dollars and one trillion dollars will be taken from discretionary programmes over the ten years and cannot be made up through tax increases or other forms of revenue "enhancements".

Of that total, up to 350 billion dollars may be taken from the Pentagon, or 50 billion dollars less than what Obama had already told his military leadership to plan for.

The remaining 1.4-1.5 trillion dollars in savings – which, unlike the first tranche, could be achieved by reforming the tax code, as well as by programme cuts – will be determined by a new, 12-member Congressional committee divided equally between Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

It has a deadline of late November – in time for the Thanksgiving holiday – to formulate a package. It, in turn, must be approved by Congress by the Christmas holiday, in late December.

If, however, the committee fails to agree on a package, or either house of Congress fails to approve it, then across-the-board cuts totalling 1.2 billion dollars would automatically take effect.

Half of those cuts would be applied to the government's Medicare programme and other discretionary domestic spending. The other half, however, would be applied to "security" spending, including the Pentagon.

It's that possibility that alarms the hawks, who have been railing against the 400 billion dollars in cuts over the next 12 years already ordered by Obama and endorsed – albeit without much enthusiasm – by the former Pentagon chief Robert Gates and the military chiefs in April.

"It's hard to see what incentive there is for the committee to recommend anything very different from the default 50-50 split now enshrined in the sequestration – in which case the defence budget is going to have eat another 500-600B (dollars)," Kristol wrote on the Standard's blog.

The Pentagon's current base annual budget, however, stands at about 550 billion dollars, or more than the military budgets of the 20 next-biggest militaries combined. When the costs of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are added, the total budget will exceed 700 billion dollars in 2011, or almost twice what the Pentagon was spending before the 9/11 attacks.

In addition to its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget is based on the post-Cold War notion that Washington should be able to fight and win two major conventional wars at the same time, a strategy whose relevance has come under increasing question given the degree to which the country has found itself engaged in entirely different kinds of combat over the last decade.

As the deficit issue has loomed ever larger on the political horizon here, particularly after eruption of the Sep 2008 financial crisis, a great debate over the defence budget's future has been building steadily.

Most Democrats have called for deep cuts, while Republicans have been split between military hawks, like Kristol and Bolton, who argue Washington must maintain its global dominance at all costs, and deficit hawks, who say defence should not be exempt from the overriding need to cut the deficit.

In the last year, two bipartisan commissions, one headed by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Bill Clinton's chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, and the other, by Clinton's budget director, Alice Rivlin and former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Dominici, called for one-trillion-dollar cuts in defence spending over ten years.

But Pentagon and independent hawks have argued that such cuts would require major changes in U.S. defence strategy that these commissions have not taken into consideration. And the White House has declined to endorse the commissions' recommendations.

"To avoid reductions that are arbitrary and capricious requires clarity of strategic purpose," noted Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel at Boston University who has published a number of books critical of U.S. Cold-War and post-Cold War strategy.

"The big question is not how many billions should come out of the Pentagon's bloated budget," he said. "No, the big question is: given our straitened economic circumstances and in light of the monumental catastrophes of the past decade, what is America's proper role in the world? Simply reciting clichés about 'global leadership' won't cut it. The time to make hard choices is at hand," he said.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web (http://rightweb.irc-online.org).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson, is a “tea party” Republican who previously served as director of the CIA.

Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who served as a foreign policy aide to former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been advocating regime change in Iran since even before 9/11.

John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, is now a leading advocate for regime change in both Iran and Syria based at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Dennis Ross, a U.S. diplomat who served in the Obama administration, is a fellow at the “pro-Israel” Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Sheldon Adelson is a wealthy casino magnate known for his large, influential political contributions, his efforts to impact U.S. foreign policy discourse particularly among Republicans, and his ownership and ideological direction of media outlets.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.

For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

North Korea and Iran both understand the lesson of Libya: Muammar Qaddafi, a horrifyingly brutal dictator, gave up his nuclear weapons, was eventually ousted from power with large-scale US assistance, and was killed. However, while Iran has a long and bitter history with the United States, North Korea’s outlook is shaped by its near-total destruction by forces led by the United States in the Korean War.

Print Friendly

Europe loathes having to choose between Tehran and Washington, and thus it will spare no efforts to avoid the choice. It might therefore opt for a middle road, trying to please both parties by persuading Trump to retain the accord and Iran to limit missile ballistic programs and regional activities.

Print Friendly

Key members of Trump’s cabinet should recognize the realism behind encouraging a Saudi- and Iranian-backed regional security agreement because the success of such an agreement would not only serve long-term U.S. interests, it could also have a positive impact on numerous conflicts in the Middle East.

Print Friendly

Given that Israel failed to defeat Hezbollah in its war in Lebanon in 2006, it’s difficult to imagine Israel succeeding in a war against both Hezbollah and its newfound regional network of Shiite allies. And at the same time not only is Hezbollah’s missile arsenal a lot larger and more dangerous than it was in 2006, but it has also gained vast experience alongside its allies in offensive operations against IS and similar groups.

Print Friendly

Donald Trump should never be excused of responsibility for tearing down the respect for truth, but a foundation for his flagrant falsifying is the fact that many people would rather be entertained, no matter how false is the source of their entertainment, than to confront truth that is boring or unsatisfying or that requires effort to understand.

Print Friendly

It would be a welcome change in twenty-first-century America if the reckless decision to throw yet more unbelievable sums of money at a Pentagon already vastly overfunded sparked a serious discussion about America’s hyper-militarized foreign policy.

Print Friendly

President Trump and his advisers ought to ask themselves whether it is in the U.S. interest to run the risk of Iranian withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. Seen from the other side of the Atlantic, running that risk looks dumb.