When the Democrats and Republicans could not agree on budget cuts by mid-night on last Friday, the US President Barack Obama signed into effect a wave of steep spending cuts - known as the sequester – which will take $85bn from the US federal budget this year. The “sequester” was drawn up in mid-2011 as Congress and the White House feuded over raising the debt ceiling and how to slash the huge US deficit. Republicans wanted deep cuts in spending while Democrats insisted on raising taxes to pay for much needed services.
So with the “sequester” in, Americans can expect budget cuts of $43bn in defense, $26bn in non-defense discretionary, $11bn in Medicare and $5bn in other sectors. Defense officials say 800,000 civilian employees will have their working week reduced. They say they will also have to scale back flight hours for warplanes and postpone some equipment maintenance. The deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf has also been cancelled.
The US has been spending a huge sum of money – nearly the total amount spent by all other countries combined - in the defense sector for quite some time. A good portion of this defense money, however, has been spent on projects which has more to do with intervention and triggering wars than the real defense of the country from outside threats. The military industrial complex has been steadily growing with their false and often paranoid claims that other nations are a threat to the security of the USA.
In recent years, e.g., we are told repeatedly by the so-called experts - all on the pay-roll of those agencies -- that even a country like Iran is now America’s ‘greatest threat.’ Forgotten in such absurd claims is the mere question: how could America, with thousands of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, scores of warships in the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, and thousands of bombers and hundreds of nuclear submarines, and thousands of land-based missiles be threatened by Iran – a country which has no bomb-grade Uranium, let alone a single nuclear bomb?
With some cuts in the defense sector, who knows, there may be less urge to start a war and thus, more benefit coming from the “sequester” than it was possible under normal condition!
It is definitely not the first time that the USA faced such a crisis. During President Reagan’s second term in office, the USA faced a ‘sequester’. As many Americans would recall, it was not all that bad; and as a matter of fact, it did bring more benefits than harm.
Nonetheless, it is a nervous time for many, especially the lobbies that cater to the interest of those sectors which may be affected by the budget cuts. Mindful of the fact that such cuts may, in fact, trim the annual aid to Israel, AIPAC has been loudly lobbying against any cuts to Israel. With the Israel-firsters controlling the Capitol Hill, it is, however, highly unlikely that Israel would be affected by such cuts. To many of these elected reps, the fate of an elderly American losing Medicare is less consequential compared to the threat posed by the all-powerful AIPAC – the Israel lobby. That is the way things are today, and will remain as such for a foreseeable future – whether ordinary Americans like it or not!
I hope that the current sequester would help to trim America’s urge to go to war when such is either unnecessary or could be avoided, and bring some sanity back. No nation can afford a Pyrrhic War with no end in sight. In their utter arrogance, American leaders have forgotten this old message and they need to rethink their strategy so that America does not commit that blunder.
I would like to end this article with an optimistic note. And what could be better than a short story from Molla Nasreddin Hodja? (The interested readers may like to read my compilation work – Anecdotes of Molla Nasreddin Hodja for Children of All Ages, published by the Kitab Bhavan, India.)
One day a man found the Hodja pouring the remains of his yogurt into Aksehir Lake. "Hodja, what are you doing?" the man asked. "I am turning the lake into yogurt," he replied. When the man laughed at him, he said, "But you never know perhaps it might."
This endorsement of hope against all odds has remained valid in every era, even in our time.