How the fiscal crisis puts national security at risk

November 13, 2012

In the interest of national security, and the preservation of the world order the United States has upheld and benefited from since World War II, Republicans and Democrats must make the necessary compromises and agree on a deal to address the nation's fiscal crisis in both the near and the long term.

I am not an economist or a budget analyst, so I don't presume to know exactly what a "grand bargain" should look like. It seems pretty obvious that a compromise will require both tax reform, including if necessary some tax increases, and entitlement reform, since those programs are the biggest driver of the fiscal crisis. What I do know, as a national security analyst, is that our continuing failure to address the crisis in a way that makes possible a return to stable economic growth has become a serious foreign policy problem.

In a world that still looks to U.S. leadership on many issues, despite what some say, our utter dysfunction on matters involving the basic health of our economy does not inspire confidence. Nor will the United States act with confidence abroad while we are unable to address our problems at home. It is no accident that all the misguided talk of a "post-American world" came after the financial crisis exploded.

A principal victim in the absence of a deal to address the fiscal crisis has been and will continue to be the national security budget. Republicans and Democrats alike have been prepared to see hundreds of billions of dollars cut from the defense budget, with even more cuts coming if Congress fails to avoid the automatic "sequestration." The already shrunken foreign-aid budget is also being cut at a time when, in the Middle East, for instance, we need to be spending more, not less, to support stable economies as the basis for democratic reform. 



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