Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Democrats' Push to Militarize America

"To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. . . We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines . . . As commander in chief . . . I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary."
--Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007
Apparently, the Democrats have spent the last few years examining the US' military situation and foreign policy, including the debacle in Iraq, and concluded that what the nation needs is to take the status quo and give us more of it. How they have drawn such a lesson is a bit mystifying. Iraq is in shambles, with around $600 billion in direct costs down the drain; our nation's international standing is at an all time low. And let's not forget the 3,600 American soldiers killed in Mesopotamia, along with at least 66,000 Iraqi civilians. More than 3 million Iraqis have fled their home country since America overthrew its prior government, and Baghdad now suffers from the worst living conditions in the world. At Abu Ghraib, our nation's youth in uniform - our purported "heroes" -- committed what the Pentagon's own investigator, Major General Antonio Taguba, determined to be torture against the very people who were to receive the gift of democracy.

Time to Change into Battle Gear

That Obama wants to divert more potential teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs into America's military ranks, where they will be trained to kill while drawing a salary on the back of the taxpayer, shows a devastating failure to understand what our country needs for long-term prosperity and viability. The US faces no large and imminent conventional military threat. The "peace dividend" of the '90's contributed to the strongest national economy seen in forty years. As baby boomers retire en masse, we will need more young workers to pay into the Social Security system. To take American youth out of civilian life, where they can learn and work in mainstream society, and place them into an institution that constitutes an economic deadweight, is high folly. What happened to investing in our kids' futures, instead of suiting them up for either make-work or death in the desert? America deserves better than the Democrats' vision of further militarization.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"We Have No Important Enemies"

"We have no important enemies. What we need to do is to begin to deal with the rest of the world as equals, and we don't do that. We spend more as a nation on defense than all the rest of the world put together. Who are we afraid of?"

--Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (Democrat), April 26, 2007

"We have a lot of goodness in this country and we should promote it, but never through the barrel of a gun. We should do it by setting good standards, motivating people, and have them want to emulate us. But you can’t enforce our goodness . . . with an armed force. It doesn’t work."

--Texas Representative Ron Paul (Republican), June 4, 2007

There is a macabre yet popular style of Virginia license plate that features the slogan "Fight Terrorism." Above these words is a black pentagon with a section of the American flag inside, and imprinted on top of this the date 9/11; the "11" is formed using the outline of the World Trade Center towers that were infamously destroyed by airplanes that terrorists hijacked almost six years ago. Invevitably, these plates show up on some of the most expensive and luxurious German and Japanese vehicles sold in the Washington, DC metro area, and I always marvel at the juxtaposition of opulence with the morbid fetishism of one of the most horrific days in US history. "How's the fight going?," I'm often tempted to ask the drivers of these cars.

I doubt I would get a coherent answer. An ill-defined and distant enemy who apparently has no ability to harm you on your home turf can't possibly focus the mind and stir the passions the way the shiny steel of a new sports car can. A year or two ago these cars would often feature a yellow "Support Our Troops" magnet as well, but now these emblems of convenience-store strength have all but disappeared. On one hand, if a war isn't finished before the bumper stickers fade or go out of style, it probably never will be; but on the other, if you're a driver who impulsively jumped on the jingoist bandwagon by slapping a magnet on your trunk, you should probably be forced to maintain it in full view for the duration. Once you've shown yourself to be a reckless hothead, the label should stick so the rest of us know who we're dealing with. "Stay the Course" ought to apply to wartime fashion statements, too.

One institution that has not lost its militant fervor, however, is the San Diego Padres baseball club. In attendance at one of the team's games a couple of weeks ago, held in one of the newest and most beautiful stadiums in the country, I was asked along with the rest of the crowd to rise in ovation to several hundred or more uniformed Marines who were on hand to watch some baseball. New recruits, they looked like. The usual platitudes about sacrifice and heroism were offered up as I seethed about the beautiful and bucolic sport of baseball -- America's pastime, we're told -- being enlisted in the cause glorified by the Virginia license plates. When it comes to outdoor entertainment on a beautiful spring day, we baseball fans have a right to expect our sport to be hermetically sealed off from all endeavors involving organized killing.

As the ballpark crowd lavished frenzied applause on the honored guests, it was clear that several pertinent questions were being overlooked. Is it through the military that we want American youth to apprehend the wide world beyond our country? How will the experience transform these citizens and influence the trajectory of their lives? Do we taxpayers in fact get our money's worth out of paying to train and support these kids? And, indeed, who are we afraid of? Perhaps it was just an illusion caused by the verdure and fun of a baseball game, but it was hard to believe that any menace outside the stadium warranted such a national focus on brute force.

Then the deplorable irony became clear: "America's Heroes", the vaunted Marines, had been given seats in the absolute worst part of the Padres' stadium. High up in the bleachers, far away from home plate, the soldiers sweltered in direct sunlight. They spent the afternoon sweating and squinting, while the rest of the crowd purportedly revered them from the cool shadows, enjoying a decidedly better view of the game on the field.