Jacob Sullum

The deal's initial caps, Cato's Christopher Preble notes, would reduce total security spending in fiscal year 2012 by $5 billion below the current level, a decrease of less than 1 percent. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank avowedly dedicated to fiscal restraint, claims this tiny cut amounts to "gutting national security resources."

In the second stage of the plan, if Congress fails to approve at least $1.2 trillion in savings proposed by a special bipartisan committee, automatic cuts would take $500 billion from the Pentagon budget over 10 years. That's a cut of less than 10 percent from current spending. We could easily afford to cut much more than that if the United States stopped getting involved in unnecessary wars and stopped defending rich countries that are perfectly capable of defending themselves.

But according to Heritage, this 10 percent cut "would compromise our nation's security." Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., called it "incredible" and "unconscionable." If the cut takes effect, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., warned, "they'll have to have a new strategy for how they defend the United States of America." They might even decide to focus on defending the United States instead of policing the world. Unthinkable!

During the negotiations over raising the debt limit, Obama kept saying he wanted a "balanced" approach, by which he meant higher taxes coupled with cuts in projected spending. The debt deal, for all its flaws, could point the way to a different sort of balance, one that involves cutting programs Republicans like along with programs Democrats like.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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