We are getting to the season when the conservative think tank types try to paint the more wild conservatives as potential “isolationists” and then use the same paintbrush against liberals who are critical of wasteful defense spending. They imply that if one questions how and why we have gone to war in Iraq (a war based on a lie), and Afghanistan (better reason but perhaps more misguided in strategy and execution).
The real aim of this smearing is to pump up the DOD dollars for their “fellow travelers” and supporters in the defense industry. At exactly the same moment they try to spend many more tax dollars on defense, their non-national security colleagues deride government spending and bemoan high taxes on the rich, who are profiting off this war. Proof of this can be found in the op-ed cited below.
There are a number of convenient conservative myths in the op-ed article “Is freedom’s price too high for the right?” by Danielle Plaetka and Thomas Donnelly (Washington Post, September 24, 2010). While they cite some interesting poll figures about American attitudes about American leadership and a strong defense, the fact remain there is a increasingly larger number of people who question the efficacy of our military involvement especially in Afghanistan and also Iraq. But the issue at hand is not polling figures but U.S. national interests and global security.
The biggest fallacy in this article is the assumption that American leadership is largely defined just by our military intervention. Many experts, including myself, are of the opinion that often military intervention acts as a counter-weight to the effective management of security. For example, instead of defeating terrorism our military action has too often acted as a recruiting tool for terrorist groups.
The old argument that those who oppose excessive military spending are isolationists is a red herring dating back to the McCarthy era. I am no isolationist, but I support wise engagement not stupid ones nor those based on falsification. As to DOD budget numbers, the authors again apply twisted arguments when they say “In the longer term budgetary shortfalls in defense inevitably affect our willingness and ability to take on challenges.” First, our current defense expenditures are equal to the expenditures of the next ten countries including our close allies. And some of the money still goes to systems more appropriate to the cold war than to 21st century realities.
Indeed I am happy to know that Americans still support a robust role for America in world affairs, and they are correctly concerned by the so-called “war on terrorism.” But we should not equate doubt about foolish escalation of military expenditures and even more so that withdrawal from a bad and wrong “battlefield” would lead to a “retreat from the world.” Perhaps it would focus our attention on more effective and less costly preventive diplomacy.
I also object to the ad homonym attack on former Sen. George McGovern, a World War II hero airman, who is no isolationist.