Winding Down Militarism

“Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war” – John Adams

Sometimes, perhaps quite often, big chances are preceded by a gradual building of grass-roots support. Sometimes, the change really comes decades earlier when people start just talking about doing things a different way, long before they actually implement those “new” ways of operating.

Perhaps that is where we stand today. I am hopeful, today, that we may well be seeing and end to rabid militarism as American foreign policy. There has been a mild shift in thinking, with Republicans perhaps moving back toward conservatism on the issue of making war.

I had noted to myself, upon seeing some debates, that there were candidates (probably considered “front runners”) who were talking in terms of “victory” about Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan. Then, perhaps because of some new polling data, or perhaps because of a fit of moral courage, there were some candidates who started talking about ending unnecessary wars. The obvious target was Libya, “Obama’s war.” But now there is even some rhetoric surrounding Afghanistan and the potential for a draw down. Even John Huntsman, by no means a conservative, is talking about the untenable cost of it all.

Thomas Skypek has a story over at Real Clear Politics in which he reminds readers that eschewing foreign entanglement was the Republican/conservative position for quite some time (story here). There have certainly been anti-war, pacifists on the Left who oppose all and any war, but they are fewer in number than the radical conservatives of the right who feel that we should only go to war if necessary to defend our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness – and nothing more.

The neo-cons and John McCain himself will invoke Reagan in their charge toward greater foreign militarism. The logic is thin. Yes, Reagan oversaw a massive military buildup, and had American forces stationed all over the world. But he did so in the face of Soviet aggression. We knew full well that a pull back would have allowed the Soviets to roll up more satellite states in their drive toward world domination. So we stood up to them. This is a perfectly rational approach to defense of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Exactly who the great bogeyman is these days is not quite clear. Why exactly is it that we need Muhammar Ghadafi to go? (No, the canard of “well, he’s a terrorist, and now that we’ve attacked him he’ll probably retaliate if we don’t kill him” doesn’t work. He has to go because we’ve already stepped in it? Nonsense.) Further, what more do we really need to accomplish in Afghanistan? Is Afghan democracy the lynchpin of American safety? If it is, we’re in big trouble.

I haven’t done the math myself, but Ron Paul claims that our foreign “militarism” – which apparently includes military bases and personnel, as well as foreign aide used to influence governments – is costing us about $1.5 trillion a year. $1.5 trillion!!!

That’s the price tag for “stabilizing” … Afghanistan? The price tag for “taking down” Ghaddafi? The price tag for maintaining a military presence in 150 countries world wide? That’s $5000 a year for every man, woman, and child in America. Is that really worth it?

What great expansionist power is chomping at the bit to overrun America if we just happen to back down on our foreign militarism a smidgen? Islamo-fascism? Please, if we went home they’d lose their best recruiting method. China, Russia, Iran? It’s not like our military will hang ’em up. We’ll still have the biggest and baddest force the world has ever known.

You could make serious strides toward balancing the budget if you started paring back all that foreign interventionism, all that “world police” nonsense. Maybe, just maybe, if Republican candidates are starting to talk like conservatives again then there is hope for some real change.

I leave you with a quote from Robert Taft:

“The truth is that no nation can be constantly prepared to undertake a full-scale war at any moment and still hope to maintain any of the other purposes in which people are interested and for which nations are founded. In the first place, it requires a complete surrender of liberty and the turning over to the central government of power to control in detail the lives of the people and all of their activities. While in time of war people are willing to surrender those liberties in order to protect the ultimate liberty of the entire country, they do so on the theory that it is a limited surrender and one which they hope will soon be over, perhaps within a few months, certainly within a few years. But an indefinite surrender of liberty such as would be required by an all-out war program in time of peace might mean the final and complete destruction of those liberties which it is the very purpose of the preparation to protect.” – Robert Taft


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