The Magazine

Panetta Plays Chicken

May 21, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 34 • By GARY SCHMITT and THOMAS DONNELLY
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The GOP-sponsored plan in the House offers a sensible way forward. It keeps the government’s pledge to begin addressing the deficit and does so by only slightly slowing the growth in welfare programs. And it steps back from what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, has called the path to “a hollow force.” Unfortunately, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, most of his Democratic colleagues, and the White House seem unwilling even to consider the plan, preferring instead to play Russian roulette with the country’s security by letting the sequestration process go forward.

Perhaps this is to be expected given the Democrats’ slim hold on the Senate and a president whose record puts his reelection in jeopardy. But it does not excuse Panetta’s dismissal of what is, so far, the only plan to prevent the gutting of the department he leads. The Budget Control Act was a piece of national-security folly, for which congressional Republicans deserve a good share of the blame. But the relish with which Democrats, including Panetta, are playing a game of political chicken with the U.S. military is inexcusable.

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