This is why we have Simpson and Bowles and David Walker and Alice Rivlin and every other fiscal scold in the country is running all over Capitol Hill rending their garments that the congress simply must repeal this horrible "sequester" --- and replace it with a more "balanced approach." Like Simpson-Bowles.Competition for the title may be fierce, but I'm fairly certain that the asinine debt ceiling "compromise", consisting of equal parts pointless committee and unenforceable promises, will go down as the single worst piece of legislation passed during the last four years. And it's a bipartisan bit of jackassery, too, requiring stupidity and/or insincerity from both sides.
The con is this: they are all acting as if the deficit targets are carved in stone and cannot be changed only the way to get there. And the Democrats are right there selling the same snake oil. Their only deal breaker is some kind of revenue in exchange for cuts, which some of the the Republicans seem to have finally begun to see is the deal of a lifetime.
After all, we already know that the desire to repeal the defense cuts is thoroughly bipartisan. Leon Panetta already gave that game away. They are being used as a negotiating tool to get recalcitrant Republicans on board with some kind of "revenue" that the Democrats can call a "win" in exchange for Simpson-Bowles level cuts. (The Tea Party faction is not inclined to give Democrats even a phony "win" but that calculation may very well be different in the lame duck.)
News flash: the Republicans signed on to the "sequester" with absolutely no intentions of following through with it. The only question is whether they now, having stated outright that they have absolutely no intentions of following through with it, can successfully change the law to exempt defense cuts while leaving cuts to every other damn thing in place, or whether a"compromise" is negotiated that still nullifies every bit of the defense cuts in exchange for some token easing of the non-defense cuts, or whether all parties involved admit they were gigantic morons for even proposing this humiliatingly asinine nonsense in the first place, axe the sequester entirely, and start contemplating the budget again from some marginally more adult standpoint.
Since there is almost zero chance of that last bit happening, it seems we are back to the usual routine of wondering whether the eventual deal cut will be catastrophically bad, or just astonishingly bad. There's no particular interest in repairing the economy among these clowns, but there's still quite a lot of interest in potential ways to make things just that much worse, for anyone who is not either wealthy or connected.
After tax cuts, conspicuously unfunded wars and the like, we've simply run out of easy money we can fork over to the rich unless we fundamentally change how we treat everyone else. Before the Great Recession hit, the corporate anarchist class tried convincing us that shoving everyone's Social Security into the private stock market casino would be a fun idea; if you can't take the money outright, just pass a law saying the public has to at least let you play with it a while. We only got a healthcare bill by promising that private interests would keep, and expand, their current, captive for-profit market. But there's no more money to give, at this point. If we want to enact the Ryan plan, or the Romney plan, or any of the other excruciatingly similar plans to lift even more of the naughty burdens of citizenship from the rich, we've got to take that money directly from someone else—and it's not going to be from defense contractors.
It's amazing that we're at the point where politicians are openly advocating for taking dollars away from poor Americans, sick Americans, retirees and others in order to hand that money directly over to rich people in the form of tax breaks, but there we are. Whether or not the crown prince of the 0.01% wins election this November doesn't even matter; by December, all of Washington will once again be twisting itself in knots to justify that very thing. Yet again.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2002:
Not your father's Gulf War
The Gulf War was a seminal moment in warfare, perhaps the last of the great tank wars. The US was so dominant, so outclassed its Iraqi enemy, that many surrendered any illusions they could confront the US with conventional weapons. Libya, for example, reportedly reorganized its army into guerilla units, recognizing the futility of conventional warfare against better-equipped foes.
The next lesson was provided courtesy of the Chechens. Sent in to quell secessionist rebels, Russian tank and mechanized infantry columns easily swept across the northern Chechen plains. Yet Russian euphoria quickly changed to horror as they attempted to occupy the capital, Grozny. Thousands of men died in a series of well-orchestrated ambushes. Russian artillery and air power methodically leveled the entire city, yet to this day, Chechen rebels continue to bedevil the occupying Russian forces. Snipers can hide behind rubble just as well as behind standing buildings.
Lesson #3 is ongoing -- the Palestinian resistance. I won't wade into the morass of who is right -- the Palestinians or the Israelis. I hold them equally in contempt and abstain from supporting either side. They reap what they sow. But from a military standpoint, the Palestinians seem to have the upper hand. The Israelis have modern weaponry, armor, attack jets operating from airfields just minutes away from their targets, attack gunships, night-fighting capabilities, and some of the best military training in the world. Yet, they are hamstrung by Palestinian guerilla tactics and a masterful PR operation by Arafat and his cronies.
Here's how it works: place a sniper in a populated building. Shoot at occupying Israeli troops. The Israelis call in air strikes, turning the building into rubble and a graveyard for dozens of civilians including women and children. Arafat comes out and weeps his crocodile tears for the dead, and the (non-US) world is outraged at the carnage and "heavy-handed" Israeli tactics. This is a refinement on the Chechen strategy, adding an effective public relations element to the strategy of urban resistance.
Of course, urban resistance is as old as warfare itself. I don't mean to imply that Chechnya and Palestine are pioneers in any way. But, both are examples of how urban guerillas can still fight technologically superior foes to a standstill by using age-old tactics. Regardless of how good US technology is, there is still no easy way to ferret out snipers without house-to-house combat. And like it or not, that will cost lives.
(And if any of you are wondering, Somalia is not analogous -- US troops were trying to arrest associates of warlord Aidid, not subjugate and occupy the country.)
Hussein may be a bit loony, but he's not stupid. He knows he cannot hope to defeat the US in the open desert. Thus, he plans to abandon the open desert for the relative security of his cities. The US would be forced to attack civilian targets to eliminate Saddam's forces, inevitably causing horrific civilian casualties. And CNN and Al Jazeera would be there to capture Hussein shedding tears for his martyrs, turning world opinion sharply against the US. Even a successful occupation of Baghdad could be met with years of casualties as Saddam loyalists engaged in hit-and-run guerilla tactics.
There was a reason Bush I didn't march on Baghdad.
Despite all the war talk, nothing is inevitable. While Democrats are too afraid to oppose war, many influential Republicans are fidgeting. When House Majority Leader Dick Armey opposes war, along with influential foreign policy wonks such as Lugar and Hagel, things are not looking good for Bush. No doubt things are bleak for the Democrats when Armey is the voice of reason