With all this talk of isolationism in the GOP, namely over our “kinetic military action” in Libya and the wearying, ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s an atmosphere that Republicans will be more willing to cut defense spending and reorganize our military to better fit in with the rest of the world. No more Dubya’s and silly foreign expeditions, more or less. But there’s one area that I see missing: Europe. I think it should be front and center.
When we Americans start arguing over welfare spending, it almost inevitably comes to be that those on the “left” say “Well, we’re spending billions and billions of dollars on bombing people in foreign countries, maybe we should cut that first, huh?” Naturally, conservatives balk at cutting military spending (while libertarians agree and then continue arguing to cut welfare anyways), but in terms of Europe, this is an area where they can make a great tactical manuever. I say this because, also almost inevitably, some liberal or progressive will then cite Europe as a great example of their welfare state ideal, saying “See, they can do it! Why can’t we, with the #1 economy in the world, do the same?” This was almost always brought up in the healthcare debate, focusing on the United Kingdom’s NHS, Germany’s social insurance policies, and infant mortality. And what else can conservatives and libertarians say? Europe sucks? Only in some limited aspects, and that’s simply not a respectable argument anyway.
Like 2008, the field is littered with so-called conservatives who have been indelibly influenced by the rise of the neoconservatives, which peaked in 2004 and has, unbeknownst to its members, been in free-fall decline ever since.
At around the same point in the race four years ago, Ron Paul was relatively unknown except for a few hard-core followers. He made an impression back then in one of the early debates by repeating something he has said for years, that he would abolish the income tax given the chance.
His famous exchange with Rudy Giuliani at another debate propelled him even further. But because Paul didn’t have nearly the financial backing his opponents had in the early part of the campaign, his showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, two key states, seemed to doom his attempt to electoral failure. In all other ways, however, he has secured a victory that no other person with whom he’s shared a stage before or since has even remotely approached.
He’s made it possible for people to associate themselves with the Republican party and be proud to do so. As long as they can do so by defining themselves as “Ron Paul Republicans” that is. So, in this respect, the 2012 cycle is vastly different .
Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a speech last Friday at the UN which caused US “diplomats” to pack up their toys and run home.
In his speech to the annual General Assembly, Ahmadinejad said it was mostly U.S. government officials who believed a terrorist group was behind the suicide hijacking attacks that brought down New York’s World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon.
Another theory, he said, was “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime” — his way of characterizing Israel.
“The majority of the American people as well as most nations and politicians around the world agree with this view,” Ahmadinejad told the 192-nation assembly.
Shortly after walking out of the speech like spoiled little children, the US envoy responded by written statement claiming Iran’s president had offered up “vile conspiracies” and “anti-Semitism”. Even if you accept that the translation of his statements are perfectly correct, it isn’t clear at all that he claimed to believe the conspiracy himself, merely that a large number of people outside US government circles believed them.
Last year, Brett and I sat down to put together some of our thoughts for a podcast for 9/11. Not necessarily to memorialize it, but to share what we’ve learned from it.
We discussed where we were that day and our thoughts on the state of the country, our rights in the aftermath and the wars that have taken place as a result of the “war on terror.” I also recommend two books by Michael Scheuer, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes and Imperial Hubris, on terrorism and al-Qaeda in relation to our foreign policy.
You can download the podcast here (39 minutes/35 MB).
Here is some coverage from that day. You can read my own recollection of that day over at my personal blog. Please share your own recollection in the comments.
From Foreign Policy b/w of The Daily Beast comes some really fascinating thought on Ronald Reagan’s approach to foreign affairs:
Was the Gipper as tough as his fans make him out to be? “Today’s conservatives have conjured a mythic Reagan who never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight,” Peter Beinart writes in an excerpt of his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, in Foreign Policy magazine. “But the real Reagan did both those things, often. In fact, they were a big part of his success.” Beinart says Reagan was “terrified of war” and he fought suggestions, from both within and outside his own administration, that he bomb or send troops into Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba. Beinart also takes issue with the conservative boast that Reagan “frightened” the Soviet Union into submission. “The problem with this story is that Reagan began abandoning his hard-line anti-Soviet stance in late 1983, 18 months before Gorbachev took power,” Beinart writes.
A critical case in point here would be the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. It killed 241 American servicemen, the most killed in an assault on American troops since World War II. Reading about the attack’s response is illuminating:
Over the past few weeks I have had quite a few conversations with Conservatives which have led to a debate about interventionist versus non-interventionist foreign policy. It usually starts with them attacking Ron Paul for one reason or another (check out this article on Midwest Spin for an example). After I respond and question their criticism, it usually ends up being their disagreement with his foreign policy.
Foreign policy can be a very complex topic. I think that non-interventionists, for the most part, know why they support that policy much better than your typical interventionist. Many interventionists do not even understand the difference between non-intervention and isolationist.
If you support non-intervention you either have found yourself in a debate and had to defend non-intervention, or you will find yourself in one sometime in the near future. I have found there are a few things to keep in mind when you are in these debates:
1) Be ready to explain the difference between non-interventionism and isolationism. Isolationism is the foreign policy of North Korea. Non-intervention involves open dialogue, free trade, and minding your own business overseas. Two vastly different approaches. Just because you don’t support having a global military empire does not mean you are an isolationist.
2) Know some facts and figures. The United States has over 700 permanent military bases spread out across over 100 nations. Roughly 20% of the federal budget is military expenditures. There are facts and figures that give proof that 1) our military expenditures are financially unsustainable and 2) we most certainly have a foreign policy of intervention and global imperialism.
The latest controversy of the day among many on the right, led principally by Liz Cheney and William Kristol, involves attacking Justice Department lawyers who represented alleged members of al Qaeda or the Taliban detained at Guantanmo Bay.
[L]awyers now at the DOJ worked on the historic Boumediene case. That case established the Gitmo detainees’ right to challenge their detention in habeas corpus hearings. In effect, the habeas proceedings have taken sensitive national security and detention questions out of the hands of experienced military and intelligence personnel, and put them into the hands of federal judges with no counterterrorism training or expertise. That lack of experience shows. For example, in one recent decision a federal judge compared al Qaeda’s secure safe houses (where training, plotting and other nefarious activities occur) to “youth hostels.” The habeas decisions are filled with errors of omission, fact, and logic.
Still other lawyers did work on behalf of these well known terrorists: Jose Padilla (an al Qaeda operative dispatched by senior al Qaeda terrorists to launch attacks inside America in 2002), John Walker Lindh (the American Taliban), and Saleh al Marri (who 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sent to America on September 10, 2001 in anticipation of committing future attacks).
Now, we don’t know what assignments these lawyers have taken on inside government. But we do know that they openly opposed the American government for years, on behalf of al Qaeda terrorists, and their objections frequently went beyond rational, principled criticisms of detainee policy.
President Obama’s recruitment of Presidents Clinton and Bush to help in the process of raising funds for relief in Haiti brought to mind memories of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Back then, President Bush recruited his father and President Clinton to take up a similar task.
At the time, the US response was certainly adequate, at least. Criticism was present, as President Bush couldn’t do much of anything without inciting outrage from someone, but the US response was robust and focussed just as the response to Haiti’s earthquake is.
However, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the US government seemed as if it didn’t care. For some reason, the undeniably horrible, delayed response by the Bush administration to Katrina has been compared to Obama’s Haiti. A more appropriate comparison would be comparing Katrina to the recent Ft. Hood and attempted Detroit attacks, in which the government which is there primarily to protect us seemed as bumbling and disconnected as it did under President Bush after Katrina.
That comparison leads to an important point, which is that the United States government and military seems better able to respond to disasters overseas than it is in its own country. This is undeniably a result of countless foreign wars and of being the world’s foremost superpower. We have military personnel at the ready to respond in Port au Prince, Kabul, Baghdad and Okinawa, but not on our very own shores.
It’s the last day of 2009. We made it through a crazy year that saw liberty put at risk on an all to regular basis. We decided the best way to recap the year was to take ten of 2009’s biggest stories and write a blurb about each one of them (we tried to keep it short and to the point).
Before you continue on, each of us here at UL want to thank you for a great 2009. We appreciate you reading. We’re planning for world domination in 2010 and hope that you’ll join in the fun.
So, here they are in no particular order, United Liberty’s Top 10 Stories from 2009.
Tea Party Movement (Brett Bittner): The wave of “hope” and “change” that swept Barack Obama into the Presidency of the United States closed out 2008 and opened the door to a new movement in American politics, the Tea Party movement. I believe that his election was merely a catalyst for many groups of a conservative nature and strong views on limited government to unite to form one voice to stand up to the political status quo, calling out Democrats and Republicans alike for their affinity to grow the size of government to a breaking point.
We’re not live-blogging it , but we followed President Barack Obama’s speech last night announcing that 30,000 more troops will be heading to Afghanistan with a withdrawal of those troops beginning in 2011:
In a speech meant to mark the beginning of the end of the eight-year conflict, Obama made the case that the future of Afghanistan is not only an American security concern at home, but an international threat – and that the added U.S. commitment will be joined by greater contributions from NATO and other allies.
“Now, we must come together to end this war successfully,” Obama said, according to prepared remarks released by the White House.
Obama’s decision escalates the United States’ commitment in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000 troops at a time when many Americans no longer believe the war is worth fighting. But by setting a date that marks the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement there, Obama hopes to ease concerns among the public about a protracted involvement in the conflict.
“The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers,” Obama said. “They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”