Saturday, August 31, 2013


If you believe that the scenario laid out in this story from The Hill is plausible, you're living in a dream world:
U.S. military action in Syria could give the White House an advantage in the looming fiscal showdown with congressional Republicans, according to defense and budget experts.

They said the Syria crisis could boost calls by President Obama and defense hawks to reverse the automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon known as sequestration.

Steve Bell, a budget expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said if the U.S. moves forward with military action, it will underline the arguments of those who say keeping the sequester in place impairs U.S. military readiness.

"I think it has the possibility of advancing fiscal talks, I really do," he said.

He argued that if strikes against Syria are launched, it will be "very, very difficult to insist" on the defense sequester.

"Under those circumstances, I can see a [2014 continuing resolution] that would contain full funding for defense," he said.
And here's how the fantasy scenario would play out:
The White House has been banking on defense hawks within the GOP breaking ranks with Tea Party conservatives and embracing a debt deal that includes some higher taxes and reverses cuts to domestic programs.

Their hope is that the cuts to the Pentagon will grow so painful, some defense-minded lawmakers will accept more tax revenue as part of a deal to end the defense cuts.
But please note that the president's plan isn't "full funding for defense" -- in fact, in includes cuts evenly split between defense and domestic programs, plus tax increases and new infrastructure spending.

Now, how do I say this in a way that will get through to people who still think we have a functioning government? The Republican Party does not have any intention of making any deals. Yes, a deal may have to be cut if a government shutdown or a default drives the GOP's poll numbers down (though it should be noted that a shutdown or default will push the GOP's approval up among the crazy-base voters, which helps both teabag members of Congress and non-teabaggers who'll be facing primaries in 2014). But if Obama holds even somewhat firm -- and he hasn't given nearly as much ground as he could have in past budget showdowns -- he won't capitulate to the GOP plan, which is full funding for the Pentagon and even more domestic cuts.

But the truly insane part of the scenario in the Hill story is the notion that a Syria attack will bring Republicans around. This overlooks the fact that the GOP base hates this attack plan -- the base thinks the Obama administration's entire approach to Syria is wrongheaded. This isn't the result of Paulite isolationism making a comeback in the GOP -- it has much more to do with the belief that (a) everything Obama does is wrong and (b) Obama is actually aiding Al Qaeda if he attacks Assad, or at the very least is attacking one side in a fight in which the U.S. should oppose both sides.

Brilliantly geostrategic thinkers on the right such as Ralph Peters and Sarah Palin have given the base some talking points: Peters:
"While I'm concerned about the humanitarian situation, I look at this and in the cold light of realpolitik, I have to ask myself at this point: what is so bad about Assad's thugs and jihadi thugs killing each other?"
"I say until we know what we're doing, until we have a commander in chief who knows what he's doing, well, let these radical Islamic countries who aren't even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, 'Allah Akbar,' I say until we have someone who knows what they're doing, I say let Allah sort it out."
(In other words: not only is the slaughter of brown people by other brown people not our problem to solve, it's not even a tragedy.)

Republicans voters respond more to people like Palin and Peters than they do to their own elected representatives. Base voters are not going to see bombs dropping on Syria, feel compelled by patriotism to rally 'round the flag and the military and the president, and decide from there that it's a dangerous world and more military spending is needed and it's vitally necessary to reach a compromise with the president they despise whose decision to drop bombs they abhor. If anything, it's more likely that there'd be calls to defund any military operation launched by this administration without congressional approval.

So, no, don't believe this defense contractor's pipe dream.


Unknown said...

Maybe Obama is counting on the defense contractor money. General Dynamics and McDonnel-Douglas (for instance) pay congressmen a lot of money, and if that well threatens to dry up, some minds could be changed. Frankly, I think that this is the crux of the whole Syria debacle anyway. Punish Assad for using gas (bad Assad!), keep the tensions high, and Profit! YMMV.

Victor said...

I want whatever the author is smoking, drinking, snorting, ingesting, and/or shooting!

They hate that black KenyanSocialistFascistCommunistHeathenMuslim Usurper far more than the most irrational Liberal or Progressive ever hated Nixon/Reagan/Bush I/and-or Bush II - by a lot!!!

Danp said...

Has it really become mainstream to argue we should bomb for profit? Or to argue that gassing people doesn't matter? And I don't know Leslie above, but that's either really bad snark or the dumbest comment I have ever read.....anywhere.

Unknown said...

Why is it dumb? Do you want me to rend my garments over the ongoing Syrian slaughter? Why now, and not six months ago? Why Syria and not Egypt, whose government did some slaughtering just recently? Why gas and not bullets? If gassing a population is worthy of such furor, why just a "surgical" strike, designed to punish but not to stop the slaughter? Do you believe that our military-industrial complex is interested in justice and not merely business?

I am not, NOT, arguing that we should bomb anyone, or
go to war with anyone, for profit. Of course I'm not. I think gassing innocent people is an abomination. But the rest of the world is as leery of the administration's motives as I am, and my reading of the situation is that the only ones in favor are the neo-cons. Hence, profit.

Danp said...

1) a surgical strike isn't going to line anyone's coffers(or measurably affect the National Debt). 2) If Obama were a neo-con, he wouldn't have proposed the military sequestration in the first place. 3) Egypt is not comparable to Syria, and both diplomacy and cutbacks in aid are at least arguable solutions. Furthermore, while not defending it, there is a difference between protesters and non-participating citizens. 4) If Obama were relying on campaign funds from the military complex, he's going about it all wrong. 5) Who says the world is leery of the administration's motives?

Ten Bears said...

Someone, no doubt American, sold Assad those weapons. Someone, no doubt America, will collect x amount of dollars for every bullit, bomb and bunker-buster Our Little Tin Pot Dictator deploys. Nobody gives a shit about the gas. This, near verbatum runnup to Iraq, as with everything else semite, is about Israel. Is about the Zionist War Machine, the Chosen People practicing War as their dog has instructed them: by deception. Is about the Jew Military Industrial Complex making money, and killed the Not-Chosen People.

I really don't have any frame of reference by which to understand how you white dogs feel about being some pervert's bitch.

No fear.