"As a Republican, I find it unconscionable that my party has put tax-cutting orthodoxy before national security."
Despite holding no official office, Grover Norquist has been described as the 13th member of the supercommittee, such is the lobbyists' influence over its six Republicans.
Tom Rogan. Tuesday 22 November 2011 21.21 GMT
On Monday night, the debt committee failed in its task to find a solution to America's debt crisis. Democrats and Republicans share blame for this debacle. However, in offering revenue increases far below the realistic compromises offered by House speaker John Boehner in his August negotiations with President Obama, Republicans bear a heavy burden of responsibility.
In the end, supercommittee Republicans put an anti-revenue orthodoxy before the interests of the country. Now, unless a bipartisan deal can be reached by the end of next year (an even greater challenge during an election year), the US military will face automatic and catastrophic cuts. In their unwillingness to engage in a pragmatic compromise, supercommittee Republicans have seriously jeopardised the national security foundations on which the Republican party has long resided.
What Republicans did – or did not do – on Monday night was dangerous, illogical and, in the context of ongoing foreign combat deployments, immoral.
I am a Republican. A major part of my attachment to the party stems from its traditional support of a well-equipped and effective military. After 9/11, I often took comfort that our deployed personnel generally had the support that they needed to do their jobs. Amid the looming cuts, those years seem very distant today.
Decline of the U.S. Military:
While President Obama has already announced around $450bn in cuts to military spending over the next decade, these reductions represent a balance (albeit imperfect) between lowering the fiscal deficit and avoiding substantially weakened US military capabilities. But by inviting, via their intransigence, $500bn dollars of additional ten-year cuts to the military, supercommittee Republicans appear to have effected an overnight party conversion from foreign policy realism to strategic idiocy. While there are notable Republicans who have been honest about the need and practicalities necessary to protect military spending, so far, their numbers are insufficient.
There can be no question that combined together, the effect of the cuts will be disastrous for the US military. Defense Secretary Panetta has suggested that if the cuts proceed, military procurement would be gutted to such an extent that America would have its "smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest air force in its history". The US Military leadership have echoed this assessment. The head of the US Army, General Odierno, has stated that the cuts would "almost eliminate our modernisations programs", while US Marine head, General Amos, noted that the cuts would potentially lead to "a Marine Corps below the end strength that's necessary to support even one major contingency".
All this risk, in a decade that will likely see the continuing rapid growth of the Chinese military, continuing instability in the Middle East and South Asia, alongside the need to rebuild a force strained by years of war. It is crazy that the prospective benefit for these cuts is the avoidance of revenue reforms that would ask some to pay a little more and others simply to pay what they are supposed to be paying already. How can our party with a straight face ask young men and women to deploy on multiple combat tours and then reward that service and sacrifice with the message that it is more important to honor Grover Norquist's pledge than it is to support them? This is the opposite of what it is to be a Republican.
Beyond the impact of the cuts on the US military, the impact of the cuts on the credibility of the Republican party will also be profound. Over the past ten years, Republicans have often rightly opposed those who have mixed absolutely justifiable anti-war attitudes with unjustified attacks on non-political military officers doing difficult jobs. Whatever one thinks of the politician or the war (and they should feel free to air those opinions robustly), military personnel deserve the respect and the backing, when deployed under orders, that they need in order to do their jobs effectively.
Now to strip our servicemen and women of the tools they need to do their jobs is the ultimate insult and the height of hypocrisy. Such action is also extraordinarily politically stupid. The Republican party is risking the support of millions of veterans and military voters who have long gravitated to our party.
Republicans in Congress must now take account of the choice that our party faces. We can restore our national security position as intellectual conservatives, or we can continue to morph into a party of ideological partisans. We can follow in the intellectual legacy of scholars like Henry Kissinger, or we can pursue the foreign policy expertise of a Herman Cain. We can embrace the heritage of leaders like Abraham Lincoln, or we can sacrifice our military at the altar of Grover Norquist. This is our choice.