While the Republicans who are running for president seem to have grasped the truth about the economic abyss that the country is peering into, there continues to be an air of unreality whenever the discussions turn to foreign policy and national security issues. Perhaps it is fortunate that the leading candidates rarely venture into those uncharted waters except in the form of simplistic slogans that could well be placed on bumper stickers.
Sen. John “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McCain has been expending most of his strangled rhetoric on defending the indefensible by talking up the “success” of the Libyan adventure, so he has left it to his colleague from Arizona Sen. John Kyl to do the heavy lifting on other national security issues. Kyl has already announced that Republicans will block any defense cuts in the $1.2 trillion in overall spending reductions being negotiated by a bipartisan commission. It is also reported that some previously agreed-upon budget reductions at the Pentagon are already being shifted to other parts of the government, so military spending will essentially remain untouched.
Is there any doubt that pervasive militarism has now become a core value of the Republican Party? If there is any confusion, check out the positions being taken by the presidential candidates, with the sole exception of Ron Paul. Front-runner Rick Perry has this to say: “We must renew our commitment to taking the fight to the enemy wherever they are before they strike at home,” an assertion that is not too different from what President Barack Obama is doing, which in turns derives from the Bush Doctrine that the U.S. can respond to any perceived security threat anywhere, at any time, and in any fashion. Perry is also being advised on foreign policy by neoconservatives including Doug Feith, and he identifies strongly with evangelicals. He is also a strong supporter of Israel.
But Mitt Romney outdoes Perry. In spite of the fact that Washington spends as much as the rest of the world on what it refers to as defense, Mitt sees weakness. He wants to “restore defense capabilities to ensure security at home and peace abroad…. America must make long-overdue investments in our military. Modernize air and naval forces, weapons systems, and equipment. Grow the number of troops and ensure that funds go to their needs and care. Establish robust missile defense and repair and update our nuclear arsenal. Oppose efforts to cut our military budget.” We must also “bolster our support for Israel, which has always been and will continue to be our strongest ally in the Middle East” and, “building on NATO, establish a global military alliance of democracies dedicated to ensuring security and protecting freedom.”
Even more discouraging is the mindless jingoism emanating from tea party favorites. The tea parties have led the charge for reducing government spending, and one has to believe that most of them are sincere, unlike Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Eric Cantor, both of whom are now urging fiscal restraint after cheering the bloat of the George W. Bush years. Someone has to tell the tea partyers that an interventionist foreign policy has not only made us less safe, but it has also been the major driving force in the surge in the size and cost of the federal government. A recent Special Investigator for Afghanistan Reconstruction report reveals that each of the thousands of federal employees sent to Afghanistan for the bottomless pit job of “reconstruction” costs the taxpayer more than $500,000 a year, not counting the billions of dollars more dedicated to various projects that they supervise. Each American soldier costs closer to $1 million annually. And that is only Afghanistan. Unless you address the money-hemorrhaging by eliminating the root cause of an out-of-control foreign policy, shaving a bit from Social Security and Medicare will only wind up freeing up still more money for overseas adventures.
is not a word much favored by some tea partyers when it comes to foreign
policy. Witness Michele Bachmann. On her website, she
plays the national security issue hard, using a photo of a soldier
saluting with what appears to be a sunset behind him as a
Beyond the basic task of defending our borders and our homeland, it doesn’t take a Nobel Peace Prize to recognize that preserving our security comes down to one simple maxim: stand up for our friends … stand up to our foes … and know the difference.…We have a president who tells our true friend, Israel, that it must surrender its right to defensible borders to appease forces that have never recognized that nation’s right to exist.…We have a president who has taken his eye off the ball when it comes to the true threat in the Middle East: a potentially nuclear-armed Iran.…We have a president who — in unprecedented fashion — is ravaging our military strength and structure at a time of war, while elevating political correctness over readiness in its ranks. And we have a president who is declaring a premature end to the war on terror against the advice of his own generals. As commander in chief, I will … devote the resources necessary to maintain our fighting forces as second-to-none, while being judicious in the use of our power. I will ensure our borders are fully secured. And I will not rest until the war on terror is won.
Sounds a bit like lines from a playbook that has been around for the past 10 years, featuring more of the same and bombs away, to include Iran. And then there is Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, much beloved by the tea parties. Rubio believes himself to be a foreign policy expert apparently because his parents were born in Cuba. He sought, and obtained, a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after developing a severe case of happy feet when elected senator on Nov. 2, 2010. He rushed off to Israel the following day, where he met with a major donor to his campaign and no doubt presented his credentials to be confirmed for the Foreign Relations Committee. The position on the committee was a reward for Rubio’s remarkably, even by American standards, outspoken support of the concept that Israel and the United States are two peas in a pod: “We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish state. Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel.”
Rubio, like Bachmann and Sarah Palin, speaks often about American “exceptionalism,” interpreting that to mean a God-given right to intervene globally. As he explained in an interview with National Review, “There is no replacement for America in the world. If America withdraws from the world stage, it will create a vacuum, and that vacuum will not be filled by someone better than us.”
And much more craziness is afoot in the minds of those who continue to see the world in terms of unmitigated good engaged in an apocalyptic struggle with unmitigated evil, a concept introduced to the American people by the great political and moral philosophy duo George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. As noted with Bachmann and Rubio, the theme of defending Israel is like a river that runs through many of the foreign policy positions embraced by Republicans, who may consider it a sine qua non for those running for high office. Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois, described as a “tea party firebrand,” intends to introduce a motion in the House of Representatives that will express congressional support for Israeli annexation of much of the West Bank if the Palestinians attempt to declare statehood at the United Nations later this month. The fact that the United States has no national interest whatsoever in supporting a new Israeli land grab apparently does not occur to Joe, who considers the concept of Palestinian statehood “absolutely outrageous.”
Someone should tell Joe that, on the contrary, the American national interest will suffer grave damage as the Arab street reacts predictably to yet another indication that Washington will do anything to make Israel happy and absolutely nothing to help its Arab friends. Walsh was one of 56 Republican congressmen who made an AIPAC-sponsored all-expenses-paid trip to Israel during the congressional recess in August. While in Israel he met with hard-line Knesset member Danny Danon, who is politically to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and who has been advocating Israeli annexation of what he refers to as Samaria and Judea. Walsh and Danon “bounced some ideas off each other.”
What is missing here is any whiff of realism or a sense of proportion. Most Americans believe that the country must have a strong military to defend itself against possible attack, though a short list of countries that might be inclined to attack would be rather hard to come up with these days. America should not be in the business of uncritically defending Israel or anyone else, and it shouldn’t be going around poking sticks in hornet nests, but somehow the country’s political class, weaned on a diet of Manifest Destiny, can’t help itself. Time to wake up. We can’t afford the wars and the overseas bases, we shouldn’t be interfering in other people’s quarrels, and we most definitely shouldn’t be sending our young people off to kill or be killed. If you want to return to a “normal” America, you have to end the war culture. It’s as simple as that, but try telling that to a Republican.