Michael Cohen
February 20, 2013

On 1 March, the most dreaded word in Washington will become a fiscal reality – sequestration. Just those four syllables are enough to send chills up the spine. The across-the-board spending cuts will impact a host of federal agencies, but especially the Defense Department. It will become the law of the land, plunging the nation into a bleak, dystopian future in which (possibly) the rivers will boil over, locusts will consume the nation’s agricultural bounty, and cats will sleep with dogs. America will almost overnight be reduced to a second-rate power, quickly to be overrun by hordes of foreign insurgents empowered by America’s retreat from the global stage.

Obviously, I am exaggerating. But only sort of. If you listen to American’s military leaders talk about the impact of sequestration, you might be convinced that, in fact, the sky is falling.

According to the nation’s highest-ranking soldier, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey (pdf), sequestration will “put the nation at greater risk of coercion”. This is actually tame when compared to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s prediction that sequestration would “invite aggression”. His deputy, Ashton Carter calls sequestration and the possibility of a year-long continuing resolution to fund military operation as “twin evils” (pdf). In the words of Chuck Hagel, the man likely to replace Panetta, the spending reductions would “devastate” the military.

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