Money & The Economy

Rebuttal of Doug Bandow’s newest anti-defense lies

The pseudoconservative, anti-American “American Spectator” magazine has published yet another ridiculous screed by leftist-libertarian, isolationist pundit Doug Bandow (whose screeds AmSpec publishes regularly while refusing to publish my works, thus giving a voice to only ONE side of the debate). In his latest screed, as in previous ones, Bandow makes a litany of blatant lies, which can be summed up in the following themes:

1) “The GOP tossed money at the Pentagon, creating new unfunded liabilities out of two unnecessary wars…”

FALSE. Firstly, the GOP did not “toss money at the Pentagon”. From FY2001 to FY2012, base defense spending rose by only 36%, and total military spending by 65% – over more than a decade. As for “two unnecessary wars”, that is also a blatant lie. While it might be argued that the Iraqi war was unnecessary, no such claim can be credibly made about the Afghan war, which was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. In case Bandow or anyone else has forgotten, that war was started by the Afghanistan-based terrorists who attacked America on 9/11 (which was an act of war, not a crime), and was necessary to rout these terrorists, bring them (including Osama bin Laden) to justice. After 9/11, the only alternative to invading Afghanistan and routing Al Qaeda and the Taleban was doing nothing, thus showing that an attack on America could go unpunished. And that’s exactly what Bandow advocates. Shame on him.

2) “The GOP ran against the idea of a budget sequester because it insisted on protecting bloated military outlays.”

FALSE. The military budget is not bloated at all. It amounts to only 4.22% of America’s GDP and just 17% of America’s total federal budget, even though defense is the #1 Constitutional duty of the federal government. It is needed to finish the war in Afghanistan and to protect America from foreign threats, including Putinist Russia, Communist China, North Korea, and Iran. It is not bloated at all. Virtually everything in the base defense budget and in the DOE’s national-security budget pays for the troops, units, weapons, installations, and programs that the military needs to protect America. Any claims that the military is “bloated” is a blatant lie. And the GOP has NEVER protected military spending. (It should have, but it has never done so.) (See below.)

3) “The GOP’s foreign policy can be summed up in two words: permanent war.”

Another blatant lie. The GOP has never supported permanent war. It  (except a few neoconservatives like John McCain) does not advocate intervening in Syria or resending American troops to Iraq, and supports withdrawal from Afghanistan. Heck, McCain supports withdrawing them from Afghanistan BEFORE the stated 2014 deadline if nothing can be accomplished there (which it can’t). By contrast, the Obama Admin is now mulling keeping a large number of American troops in Afghanistan well past 2014, perhaps forever. Who is the party of permanent war here?

4) “Nevertheless, Republicans remain locked in the past, determined to paint their Democratic opponents as weak irrespective of the facts — such as Obama intensifying the Afghanistan war.”

The FACTS are that the Democrats, including Obama, WERE and ARE very weak on foreign policy. They support, and to a large degree, have already orchestrated, massive defense cuts. They support America’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, and Obama has already taken big steps toward that, by a) signing a unilateral nuclear arms cuts treaty with Russia that allows Moscow to ENLARGE its arsenal, b) cancelling the development of any new American nukes; c) cutting America’s nondeployed arsenal unilaterally; and d) sabotaging the modernization of the few nuclear weapons and delivery systems America maintains. Obama has also been cravenly appeasing Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Tehran, and Latin America’s communists such as Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez, with disastrous results. Miring America deeper in a quagmire like Afghanistan is a sign of stupidity, not toughness.

5) “Thus, excepting the redoubtable Rep. Ron Paul, during the primary debates the Republican contenders, most of whom had never been anywhere near a military installation let alone worn a uniform, did the foreign policy equivalent of the Maori Haka…”

LIE. Rick Perry has served in the USAF as a C-130 pilot, flying these aircraft around the world, and Newt Gingrich, as the son of an Army soldier, grew up on military bases in the US and abroad. And no, Republicans did not do “the foreign policy equivalent of the Maori Haka” during the debates.

6) “Mitt Romney spent five years, from his announcement until the final debate, simply shouting “we’re number one.”

LIE. Mitt Romney articulated far more than that during his campaign. He outlined a clear foreign policy with regard to Russia, China, Iran, and Latin America, and a clear defense policy: investing a modest 4% of GDP in defense, building up the Navy (specifically, submarines, frigates, amphibious ships, destroyers, and naval strike aircraft), keeping an 11-carrier fleet, speeding up Next Generation Bomber development, and reversing the cuts to the ground force. Agree or disagree with these policies, he did articulate specific policy choices.

7) “Although the Republican nominee did his best to avoid stating a clear position, at times he seemed to believe that the U.S. should have stayed in Iraq forever, over the objection of the Iraqi government, and be prepared to stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary for undefined “victory,” which likely would be forever…”

LIE. Mitt Romney never said that. He actually agreed with Obama’s deadline for withdrawal (2014). Now the Obama Admin is mulling  keeping American troops in Afghanistan well past 2014, maybe forever.

8) “That also means tying military outlays to security challenges, not an arbitrary share of GDP.”

But the US military budget is ALREADY tied to security challenges and threats, not to any arbitrary share of GDP like Mitt Romney wanted. It is, moreover, tied to a specific (if highly imperfect) strategy the DOD devised a year ago to (more or less perfectly) protect American interests around the world while conforming to the budgetary limitations of the Budget Control Act. It is needed to finish the war in Afghanistan and to protect America from foreign threats, including Putinist Russia, Communist China, North Korea, and Iran. It is not bloated at all. Virtually everything in the base defense budget and in the DOE’s national-security budget pays for the troops, units, weapons, installations, and programs that the military needs to protect America.

9) “Why should Americans spend as much as the rest of the world combined on “defense” when that means subsidizing rich allies, engaging in foolish nation-building, and launching military actions that create more enemies than they kill?”

The US does NOT spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. The US spends only 41%, and that’s only if one accepts SIPRI’s woefully understated figures for China’s and Russia’s military budgets. If one rejects them and understands that China and Russia spend much more on their militaries than SIPRI claims, America’s share of the world total falls far below 40%. China’s real FY2012 military budget was between $160 bn and $250 bn according to the DOD, not the mere $143 bn that SIPRI claims. And that’s without accounting for PPP differences.

The US is NOT subsidizing rich allies (see below). As for engaging in foolish nation-building and launching wars, spending as much on the military as today does NOT automatically lead to such policies and does NOT have to lead to them. Spending a lot on the military does not mean that you have to conduct nationbuilding projects or get involved in wars of no relevance to American interests. Bandow is merely trying to scaremonger people into thinking that current defense spending levels mean that America will inevitably be drawn into new wars. This is utter garbage, as is the entire rest of his ridiculous screed. Spending a lot on defense does NOT have to mean that you’ll be drawn into irrelevant, unnecessary wars or nation-building projects; whether you get drawn into them depends SOLELY on whether you decide, freewillingly, to do so. Under Ronald Reagan, the US spent more on defense than it currently does, yet, Reagan (as Bandow himself recognized) generally refused to draw America into unnecessary wars, the failed excursion into Lebanon being the sole exception.

10) “There can be no sacred cows if the budget crisis is going to be resolved.”

But the US military budget has NEVER been a sacred cow, including during the last 4 years. During the last 4 years, Republicans agreed to numerous defense cuts, including the massive program killings of 2009 and 2010 (saving $330 bn), the ratification of the New START unilateral disarmament treaty in 2010, the Gates Efficiencies Initiative of January 2011 ($178 bn), and the massive defense cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act ($487 bn in the first tranche alone). Any claim that the defense budget is, or has ever been, a “sacred cow” is a blatant lie.

In fact, the DOD is so far the ONLY government agency to have contributed ANYTHING to deficit reduction.

Moreover, defense cuts are NOT necessary to balance the federal budget, as proven by the budget plans of Chairman Ryan, the Republican Study Committee, Sen. Toomey, and Sen. Lee.

OTOH, even deep defense budget cuts will utterly fail to even make a dent in the defense budget; even eliminating the military budget ($645 bn in FY2012) entirely would fail to even halve the budget deficit.

11) “On international issues Republicans need to rediscover the value of peace. For most of the campaign Mitt Romney channeled George W. Bush and John McCain. Yet conservatives once believed in peace. They opposed wasting lives and money on dubious international crusades; they understood that war threatened economic prosperity and social stability. If war became necessary they wanted to win and end it, not turn it into a permanent condition.”

But to have peace, it is necessary to have a strong defense – THE strongest military in the world. Yet, America’s edge is steadily sipping, and the defense cuts Bandow proposes would cause America to lose it even faster than will otherwise be the case. This will bring about war, death, and destruction, not peace. Of course, the US shouldn’t waste men or money on dubious “international crusades” or nationbuilding efforts, and wars need to be won and ended swiftly. But keeping the peace requires having THE strongest military in the world – and with Bandow’s defense cuts, that would be completely impossible. And BTW, George W. Bush was the one who signed the 2008 agreement with Iraq providing for the withdrawal of US troops from that country by 2011.

“Indeed, Ronald Reagan was horrified by the prospect of nuclear war and refused to be sucked into nation-building in Lebanon.”

But Ronald Reagan understood (probably better than anyone but yours truly) that keeping the peace requires America to have the strongest military in the world, and he built such a military after 12 years of disastrous defense cuts, disregarding peaceniks, pseudoreformists like POGO hacks and isolationists like Bandow and his CATO Institute buddies. Under Reagan, the Air Force got its first strategic bomber since 1962 and its first ICBM since the Minuteman-III, while the Navy built a new fleet of SSBNs and SLBMs and several new nuclear warhead types were designed and produced; development of the B-2 stealthy bomber was continued and 132 were planned to be bought, while the US military also deployed Pershing and GLCM missiles to Europe. THAT was what kept the peace and prevented nuclear war during the Reagan years. And sadly, Reagan DID initially get sucked into nationbuilding in Lebanon – a disastrous blunder that cost America 241 troops. To his credit, he reversed that mistake quickly. Moreover, Ronald Reagan DID intervene militarily when American interests required it. He was no isolationist, unlike Bandow. Listen to Ronald Reagan himself.

12) “The GOP also should insist on international welfare reform. For more than six decades Washington has subsidized the defense of Asian and European allies. All are now prosperous and populous. Indeed, the Europeans collectively have a larger GDP and population than America. It’s time for Republicans to admit that the party is over. The U.S. should spend less while its friends spend more — and they will do so only if the U.S. spends less. ”

Those are also blatant lies, as well as destructive policy proposals. Firstly, contrary to Bandow’s utterly false claims, the US would need to spend on defense as much as it does now (which isn’t really much, BTW – just 3.47% of GDP for the base defense budget) even if it were not defending any allies. That’s because all of the troops, equipment, and defense programs that the DOD has or plans to hire/buy would be needed to defend America itself even if the US were not defending any allies. All of the US military’s current nukes, ships, planes, ground vehicles, and troops would be needed to defend America itself even if it weren’t defending any allies.

Secondly, defending America’s allies is in America’s own national interest. If crucial allies like Japan, South Korea, or Persian Gulf allies are attacked (or succumb to) China, North Korea, or Iran, that would pose a huge threat to America’s own national security. (Threats to US security don’t stop at America’s borders, contrary to what isolationists claim).

Thirdly, many of America’s allies are poor (e.g. Central European allies like Poland, as well as some Asian allies like Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam), and none of America’s European allies nor Japan could be called “prosperous” at this time – they’re all suffering from even worse economic problems than the US, due to the global economic crisis. They have even lower economic growth rates, lower GDP per capita, higher unemployment, and in many cases, higher debt-to-GDP ratios than the US. They’re not prosperous today. If they are, the US is booming economically.

They will not spend more on defense even if the US spent less and withdrew its defense commitment – because they can’t afford to, as they have even worse economic problems than the US.

And there’s a big difference between relatively wealthy Western European countries like Britain and France and poor Central/Eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania (as well as poor Asian allies like Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam). The former could, in theory, assume more of the defense burden, the latter cannot, because they are POOR. Yet, these poor Central European states are actually America’s staunchest and most loyal allies, and at the same time, they face a direct threat from an aggressive, KGB-run Russia. Dumping them and leaving them to fend for themselves would not only bad for America’s national interests, it would be immoral. It would be a heinous betrayal.

Cutting America’s own defense spending will not change this. It would only make matters worse by giving defense cutters across the Atlantic another excuse to cut their own countries’ defense budgets: “America is cutting its defense budget, so we can afford to do the same!”

13) “This doesn’t mean “isolationism,” the all-purpose swear word against a traditional, constitutional foreign policy.”

It IS isolationism, no matter how hard Bandow tries to deny that. Isolationism is about dumping America’s allies, withdrawing all US defense commitments to all allies, and retrenching behind oceans in the vain hope that the crocodile won’t come to eat us. It’s the same old tired policy as the one the US tried before the attack on Pearl Harbor, with disastrous results. It’s the same old policy that led to WW2, with 60 million dead people and the destruction of two continents, and to the Korean War, which led to the destruction of the entire Korean Peninsula and the deaths of millions of people (including over 50,000 American troops).

The foreign policy that Bandow advocates is not “traditional” or “constitutional”, either. Isolationism, while practiced during the 1920s and the 1930s, is NOT a traditional American policy – the US has a long history of going to war abroad and intervening abroad going back to the days of Thomas Jefferson (at the shores of Tripoli). Then came the War of 1812 (started because the then War Hawks wanted to conquer Canada, NOT because of impressment as is usually claimed), threats of war to Britain over Oregon, the Mexican-American war (started because Southern planters wanted to conquer more land), the supply of weapons to France in 1870-1871, and the Spanish-American War.

The policy that Bandow advocates is not “constitutional”, either. Defense cuts are a dereliction of the federal government’s Constitutional DUTY to provide for the common defense, as well as the dereliction of the treaty duty to defend America’s allies. Treaties validly ratified by the Senate are the supreme law of the land, second only to the US Constitution.

Providing generously for America’s defense is not merely constitutional, it’s a Constitutional DUTY of the federal government.

14) “For instance, if Republicans want to promise a more prosperous future, they should promote free trade internationally.”

Also utter garbage. Free trade is yet another liberal policy which has brought nothing but damage to the US. It has caused the US to lose tens of millions of jobs (shipped overseas) and to run chronic, huge trade deficits with countries with which it used to have trade surpluses… until it signed free trade agreements with them or granted them Most Favored Nation status.

Pat Buchanan has chronicled this national suicide through free trade well.

Before 1993, when NAFTA was ratified, the US had a trade surplus with Mexico. Now it has a record trade deficit with it, as lots of jobs have been shipped south of the border together with entire factories. Before the US ratified the Korea-US FTA, America had a trade surplus with Seoul. Now it has a trade deficit with it.

Since Congress granted China MFN status in the 1990s, America’s trade deficit with that country has now exploded to the largest trade deficit between any two countries in history. America’s trade deficit with Japan is the largest ever between the two.

Every country that ever became prosperous and a world power got that way because it protected and nurtured its industry: France under Colbert, Britain under the Acts of Navigation and into the first half of the 19th century, Germany under the Kaisers, the US in the second half of the 19th century, postwar Japan, and China today.

Protectionism is the policy of ascendant economic powers; “free trade” is the policy of descendant, declining ones.

15) Bandow claims that his policy would mean “peace” and that Republicans need to make a new commitment to “peace”. This is utter garbage. His policy of deep defense cuts and isolationism (dumping all of America’s allies and ignoring the threats posed by China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran) would gut America’s defense, pull the rug from under America’s allies, and in so doing, invite aggression against bo the US and its allies. By doing so, it would only lead to war, death, and destruction.

16) Bandow also wants Republicans to support even greater legal immigration, even though it’s a financial drag on taxpayers as much, if not moreso, than illegal immigration. The problem is not just illegal immigration – the problem is immigration, period. The vast majority of legal immigrants are lazy lay-abouts from the Third World who live on welfare (paid for by American taxpayers) and vote Democratic. (That’s why Ted Kennedy and other Democrats passed the current law in 1965: to import new Democrat voters.) The US needs to drastically REDUCE the annual rate of legal immigration (which is currently a million people per year).

Just as Americans ought to realize the perils of a welfare state by looking at Greece, they can easily realize the perils of unlimited immigration by looking at California.

As Ann Coulter rightly points out, massive immigration, both legal and illegal, has transformed California into a Third World country where whites are a minority and where no Republican can get elected statewide anymore. Not so long ago, this state produced great Republican Senators and Governors such as Richard Nixon, S. I. Hayakawa, Pete Wilson, and Ronald Reagan.

If Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, two smart Republican women, one pro-life, the other pro-choice, can’t get elected statewide in California anymore, then it’s all over for the GOP in California.

Yet, Bandow is advocating that the GOP and America now commit national suicide by adopting an even more liberal immigration policy. If he gets his way, the entire country will have the electorate of California. And there will be no turning back.

Hispanic immigrants – indeed, immigrants in general – support a LARGER federal government with BIGGER “services”, according to Pew polls. This is not surprising, because the vast majority of legal and illegal immigrants come from socialist countries and have a socialist mindset. As conservative writer Selwyn Duke points out, their beliefs don’t change when they set foot on American terra firma. Thus, as Duke points out, the problem is not just “illegal immigration”; the problem is immigration, period.

In short, Bandow is lying (as always), and the policies he advocates are downright suicidal for the GOP and for the country. He advocates Republican and national suicide at home and abroad. Abroad, by gutting America’s defense, dumping all of America’s allies, handing these allies on a platter to aggressors, leaving the world for China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran to conquer and subjugate, and turning a blind eye to any aggression by these countries. At home, he wants the GOP and the US to continue committing national suicide by continuing and even expanding the suicidal policies of “free trade” and unlimited immigration.

Republicans must completely reject ALL of his snake oil. He’s not one of us. He’s not a Republican nor a conservative. He’s not even someone who wishes conservatives or Republicans well. He even explicitly says in the blurb and the ending of his article that the GOP deserved to lose this year to Barack Obama. He’s our enemy and needs to be treated as such.

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