President Obama promised last year that trillions of dollars in planned defense cuts “will not happen.” That’s beginning to look like a mistake. Republicans, says the New York Times, may be willing to bite the bullet on defense:
“Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “But the war in Iraq is over. Troops are coming home from Afghanistan, and we want to secure the cuts.”
The GOP, meanwhile, seems to have calculated that the squishy Dems would be so unnerved by the domestic cuts that they would cave, too.
Both parties, then, may have screwed up the politics of the sequester. Each side thought it was Michael Corleone, making an offer the other side couldn’t refuse; sadly both are more like Fredo Corleone. Neither side fully understood the other, and so the cuts that nobody wanted, and that nobody thinks make good policy, are probably going to go into effect.
This is the wrong signal to be sending out to the world right now. In Iran and Asia, people are scrutinizing us very closely as they try to read our real intentions. Many will take these cuts as a sign that all our politicians’ pronouncements about commitment and determination are just empty platitudes—that America is so wrapped up in its own petty domestic squabbles that it might blink if it faces significant external pressure. They may be misreading us, but the consequences could still be dire.