Monday, October 22, 2012

The foreign policy of fools

Tonight is the third and final presidential debate, the topic of which is foreign policy.  Had the Republicans nominated Ron Paul--or the Democrats, Dennis Kucinich--we might well see an actual debate.  Actually, if Paul was running against Kucinich, we wouldn't see many fireworks, but at least the heads of Bill Kristol and Max Boot might explode.

As it stands, both Obama and Romney are interventionists, to put it mildly.  While the President has drawn down some of the armed forces from Iraq, he increased the number of soldiers in Afghanistan.  Twelve years later, we're still mired in that graveyard of empires.  One would think that this would be a position on which the president could be challenged.  Yet the Republicans, in their boundless stupidity, have nominated a hawk who thinks that Obama was wrong in deescalating the war in Iraq.  The President's Nobel Peace Prize remains an immense joke, but in this race, he is actually the peace candidate.

Consider: the President recognizes the power of the executive branch to assassinate American citizens.  Romney, no doubt looking forward to using this power for himself, has yet to raise an objection to such a grotesque violation of our basic human rights.  If the American people are fortunate, perhaps this will be discussed in tonight's debate, but even if the moderator mentions this policy, we will be wholly unable to do a thing to alter it. 

Instead of substantial debate over a very important topic, we'll be compelled to endure a tedious discussion over precisely how much leadership--and what kind--will best ensure that we may continue to meddle in the Middle East without experiencing too much blowback. 

The American people are tired of war.  We should never forget that warfare has a significant moral dimension; the bombs we drop extinguish lives, a large percentage of which belonged to civilians, innocent of the crimes perpetrated by our enemies.  Regrettably, too many Americans are inured to the death and destruction that resides thousands of miles away.  Surely our leaders would tell us if they were responsible for the death of innocents.

However, the costs of war hit home in other ways.  The government is not in the habit of increasing taxes in order to help fund its bloated military, now bogged down in wars that will cost, when all is said and done, several trillion dollars.  Instead, the dollar is debased.  As a result, food and gas prices continue to rise.  Americans must sacrifice for the good of our benevolent government.

We're not going to hear about this in tonight's debate, but what Eisenhower called the Military Industrial Complex is an immense drain on the nation's economy.  Precious resources go to produce weapons of destruction which we unleash on the world.  From the purvey of a defense contractor, war means more contracts.  But while these welfare queens make fistfuls of cash due to the fact that we spend more money on the military than every other country in the world combined, the Americans who do not work for the bloated warfare sector become poorer.

A country of responsible citizens wouldn't tolerate military pork in an age of austerity.  But history is replete with examples of bankrupt nations going to war, in part to distract its citizenry from trouble at home.  The depressing fact about tonight is that Obama is likelier to declare war on Iran than he is to offer real cuts to what is deceptively called defense.  Even more depressingly, the President is probably the lesser evil in this horrible race to the bottom.

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