If there’s one encouraging development in the recent debates over sequestration and cabinet appointees, it’s that the hawks have conspicuously overextended themselves.

Senator Lindsey Graham, in addition to asking for unprecedented, privacy-violating disclosures and expressing an apparently greater concern for Iranian public opinion than American fiscal stability, threatened Sunday on “Face the Nation” to hold up Obama’s nominations for defense secretary and CIA director over lingering questions about Benghazi.

Meanwhile, just as the House GOP is warming up to sequestration, or at least the associated political leverage (former NH Senator Judd Gregg and Transom editor Ben Domenech both have op-eds in support of that strategy), the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative is asking that they give it up. As usual, the message is that sequestration will have dire consequences for national security. Bill Kristol’s other outlets are spreading the word. Daniel Halper has the FPI’s letter to congressional leadership pushing these talking points:

  • The Navy has indefinitely delayed the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf—a decision that significantly weakens America’s ability to provide regional security and protection to allies at a time when the Iranian regime continues its work to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.
  • The Air Force plans to cut the flying hours of its pilots by 18 percent, and more broadly will have to curtail the service’s ability to conduct air-to-air refueling, support Army logistical requirements and, by September of this year, train new pilots—reductions that cumulatively will erode America’s vitally important airpower capabilities.
  • The Army will delay training for almost 80 percent of its Brigade Combat Teams, cancel critical maintenance, and stop training new aviators and military intelligence specialists—delays that, according to the service’s leaders, will result in the “rapid atrophy of unit combat skills with a failure to meet demands of the National Military strategy by the end of the year.”

These decisions probably have at least as much to do with uncertainty as to whether or not sequestration will actually happen, after being assured for so long that it would be avoided–two of the three complaints have to do with delays, not cuts. And we already have one carrier in the Persian Gulf. Sequestration will inevitably mean paring some things back, but many of its economic impacts, particularly on contractors, would not be felt for several years because of billions of dollars in backlog, as a new paper from the Center for International Policy points out (below).

Chris Preble, defense policy chief at the Cato Institute a former Naval officer, makes the case for why the only thing worse than sequestration is no cuts at all.

Minimum Returns: The Economic Impacts of Pentagon Spending by