That was the question that occurred to me while reading Daniel Oliver’s article on Mitch Daniels’ CPAC speech. Oliver noted the absence of foreign policy remarks in Daniels’ speech, mentioned the upheaval in Egypt, and then made this remarkable non sequitur:
A reasonable position for Gov. Daniels would have been to cut through that fog of argument and call for increasing the defense budget. Another position would have been to call for not cutting it, and notwithstanding that the Pentagon’s balance sheet is as unyielding of useful data as a black hole.
These would be two positions Daniels could have taken, but why would he take them? Daniels’ argument is that our fiscal predicament is so dire that addressing it should take precedence over everything else, and more than that he argues that it will require us to scrutinize and reduce all parts of the federal budget. Calling for increased or unchanged military spending in response to a political change in an allied country would not only be irrational and completely at odds with Daniels’ ideas, but it would be a sign of desperate pandering from someone who has so far admirably refused to do so. It would concede ground to the phony argument that a person’s commitment to national security is only as great as the amount of spending he wants to lavish on defense contractors.
The only connection between what has been happening in Egypt and domestic debates over budget cuts is the question of whether it is wise to eliminate aid to Egypt at the present time. Daniels might credibly argue that increasing aid payments to Egypt for the purpose of bolstering certain political parties is almost certainly a counterproductive waste of resources. I imagine he would also observe that the amount of money at stake in the Egyptian aid package is even more of a trifle than earmarks. The possible cuts to be found in the Pentagon budget are ten times as great as the entire foreign aid budget. No matter what one believes the U.S. should do in Egypt, that really has nothing meaningful to do with the size of the U.S. military budget.