The big news today is Rand Paul’s speech at Heritage, in which he identified himself as a realist and attempted to chart a middle way between “isolationism” and the neoconservative ideology–the “war caucus,” he called them–that’s dominated GOP thinking on foreign affairs. Be sure to read Daniel Larison’s take.
It’s tempting to see Rand as something of a lone voice in the interventionist wilderness, and it’s undeniably true that his speech today was one of the strongest refutations of the GOP foreign policy consensus in some time. The Senator largely framed his argument against intervention in political-philosophical terms, with references to George Kennan and lots of talk about Congress’s role in formulating foreign policy.
But he has allies putting the argument in fiscal terms. In a memo released today–the timing probably isn’t a coincidence–several small-government groups including Americans for Tax Reform, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Downsize DC, and the Republican Liberty Caucus urged Congress to consider defense savings. It says “sequestration will not weaken our military and should be the first step in realigning the Pentagon’s priorities,” and takes aim at the portion of the GOP that seems to believe any cuts to DoD endanger national security. “We believe renewed attempts in Congress to derail discussions about meaningful changes to Pentagon spending will harm both the development of a coherent defense strategy and the sustainability of the federal balance sheet.”
How much are they asking for? A “minimum of $50 to $100 billion in annual Pentagon budget savings over the next decade—savings taxpayers were promised in the Budget Control Act of 2011.” In other words, they want the GOP to commit to the same amount of defense savings as the sequester, but in a smarter, more targeted way.
According to Politico, the House GOP is warming up to the idea of sequestration. Sen. Ayotte is introducing an “alternative to sequestration” this afternoon, probably involving savings through personnel attrition. And even Michele Flournoy, Bill Kristol’s pick for SecDef, offered some good ideas in the Wall Street Journal.