Monday, January 2, 2012

When enough is enough

You can always tell when we’re about to wage another pointless and meaningless war when the WWII and Hitler analogies start appearing. Last time, it was Saddam Hussein who was the next Hitler. Now, it’s the Iranians. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the North Korean regime. They always seem to get left out.

My old buddy Orrin Johnson is even getting in on the act. He has a theory as to what might have happened if Ron Paul had been president in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. Orrin also directs us to the Ace of Spades blog, and as might be predicted, another WWII analogy. This one’s about the Holocaust. Would a President Paul have declared war on Germany to stop the concentration camps? No, he would have done nothing, just as President Roosevelt did. Would President Paul have bombed the train tracks leading to the camps once the war had started? No, he would have used those bombs against the trains going from the munitions factories to the front lines, just as President Roosevelt did.

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Whoever would have thought that Ron Paul would be in the mainstream of military strategy? The fact is, humanitarianism is not a cause for war. It never has been. These WWII analogies are really pretty meaningless. They’re like asking what would happen if George S. Patton had been in charge of British forces at Yorktown, or how many states would we have if Genghis Khan had been King of the Eskimo’s.

The US Navy is said to be larger than the next thirteen largest navies combined. We currently have troops in 130 of the 180 countries on the planet. Of all the money spent on the world’s militaries, the US spends roughly 50%. My question for Orrin and Ace is the same that any of us would ask a liberal regarding taxes; How much is enough?

Ace goes on to poke fun at conspiracy theorists who are also supporting Ron Paul. Ace makes the mistake of confusing the symptoms for the disease. I think we can all agree with Thomas Jefferson that the success of a Democratic Republic depends on an informed citizenry. When the government hides behind a wall of secrecy, the public is forced to use their imaginations to find answers.

As I recall, conspiracy theories started with the Kennedy assassination’s Warren Commission. Whether by incompetence or design, there were too many unanswered questions. At about that time the Air Force closed Project Blue Book without explanation. The conspiracy theory industry has been with us ever since.

And now here comes the Department of Homeland Security. DHS was created because the 38 or so federal law enforcement agencies were not only keeping secrets from the public, but were keeping secrets from each other as well. It was designed as a clearing house for all the secrets. How is it working out? Nobody knows. They don’t tell us. It’s a secret.

If you want some insight as to what the Ron Paul deal is about, I suggest Daniel Henninger’s latest effort for the Wall Street Journal. There are really two Ron Paul’s. One is the “cranky Texas Libertarian,” and the other is an idea, the growing realization that there is too much. There is too much secrecy, too many closed door meetings, too many foreign adventures to no effect, too many leaders who are no more than slippery salesmen in disguise, too much intrusion, too many academic theories taken as Gospel, too many non-answers, too much fiddling around the edges, too much kicking cans down the road, too much bullshit.

Really fella’s, haven’t you had enough yet?


Orrin said...

This is a fair enough critique, but I still stand by my assertion that the world is simply too dangerous to have Ron Paul as CinC.

I agree with you that we should not enter wars merely for humanitarian reasons, although on a moral level I wish we could. (Here's an essay I wrote on that subject some years ago.)

But we DIDN'T go to war in Europe in WWII for humanitarian reasons, we did it because it was profoundly in our interests to do so. Ron Paul has told people he would have essentially ignored the self-interested reasons for entering WWII, focuses solely on the humanitarian reasons, and then declared humanitarian intervention wasn't a sufficient reason to go to war. I believe we would have suffered mightily as a nation and as a species had that argument won the day.

And nowadays when every tin-pot can target and attack any American City, conventionally and potentially with nuclear weapons of one kind or another, we just can't afford to ignore this stuff or to not have a global, forward military presence. I deployed to the Gulf twice, under two different Presidents in two parties, and the intel we received and the operations I saw leave me convinced beyond any doubt that Saddam was actively seeking weapons to use against the US and our allies, and I was frustrated that the "sanctions" we were half-heartedly "enforcing" via the UN seemed to be doing more harm to the cause of containing Saddam than good. I remain convinced that, while very imperfectly executed (to say the least), the more robust again we took against Iraq was the right thing to do.

I'm terrified that if Ron Paul were president, these threats would be ignored until they materialized in an explosion, and even then we'd get a lecture about how our chickens were coming home to roost.

Our relatively large defense budget compared to other nations says much more about those nations than it does us - their militaries are simply inadequate to defend themselves if necessary. But the question then remains - should we just leave them to their own devices? Would our interests have been served had the Iron Curtain pushed further west?

I agree with you on this - a bit more sobriety would serve us well in foreign affairs. I don't care for Rick Santorum's reckless jingoism any more than I care for Ron Paul's aggressive isolationism. But I would rather err on the side of too much umbrella than not enough.

Ron said...

I don’t think Ron Paul is suggesting we ignore anybody anymore than he suggested we let the fascists rule the world in WWII. What he is suggesting is that we take a less bellicose stance towards other countries, stop selling weapons to everybody and their brother, and concentrate on defending ourselves rather than every tin pot on the planet who‘s not as bad as the next one.

Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. I used to be one of those kids who climbed under his school desk during air raid drills in the event of a Soviet missile salvo. I used to look out the window at the playground and try to imagine what a sky full of Soviet bombers might look like. I remember people building bomb shelters in their backyards. I remember my Dad telling me that the reason we didn’t have a bomb shelter is because death would be preferable to survival. In the hills above our house was a five story early warning radar station. It’s still there. There are plans to turn it into a museum. The world doesn’t seem any more dangerous now to me.

Regarding forward deployment; that’s why the Soviets were in eastern Europe. All it got them was bankruptcy and collapse. We need a new plan before we meet the same fate.