There are about an equal number of credible arguments for and against the Obama Administration’s proposal to use force to punish the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons against its own people. It is possible to have been for intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and against intervention in Syria. Conversely, opposition to prior wars should not prevent one, or in this case two — President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry — from advocating forcefully military action against the Assad regime.
What is not logically possible, however, is to be in favor of both striking Syria and sequestration, at least as it has been applied to the U.S. military. How can one argue the need to exert U.S military power in the world and the importance of U.S. leadership in the face of the use of chemical weapons if at the same time one is in favor of gutting the U.S. military? If failure to act risks another Munich, as Secretary Kerry declared the other day, then why is the United States today undertaking de facto disarmament as a result of sequestration? Even as he sought “peace in our time” at Munich, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was also funding British rearmament. Those who advocate striking Syria and also imposing a $500 billion cut on the U.S. military are doing precisely the opposite. What sense does it make to risk retaliation, acts of terrorism or a wider war while reducing the size and capabilities of the U.S. military?
However much one abhors what happened in Syria last month, a military strike on Syria would be a matter of choice and not necessity. There are other options, including doing nothing, which is what the administration did after prior incidents involving the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. But the use of force, even merely firing a bunch of cruise missiles, would not be without costs as well as potential consequences. Not the least of these would be the expenditure of some number of weapons that cost on average $1.5 million each. The President has made mention of employing 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles which would mean a minimum expenditure of $225 million. Add in all the related operations by surface ships, aircraft carriers and submarines in the region, command and control activities, intelligence collection efforts and the like and the total cost of even a relatively small strike will easily top $1 billion. If members of Congress have chosen to support draconian cuts in defense spending then they must accept the consequences of this decision in the form of a reduced U.S. role and position in the world.
Some in Congress have taken a consistent position, expressed their opposition to military intervention in Syria based, at least in part, on sequestration. Members of Congress such as Senator James Inhofe and House Armed Services Committee chairman, Howard “Buck” McKeon have expressed their initial opposition to the President’s call to action based on sequestration. The latter recently declared that “we cannot keep asking the military to perform mission after mission with sequestration and military cuts hanging over their heads.”
Those in favor of an attack on Syria need to rationalize this position with their stance on cutting the defense budget. Put in more common terms, if you want the U.S. to play you have to be willing to pay.
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