On May 19th, AT published a ridiculous article full of factual errors written by libertarian Californian writer Tim Daniel. Despite his denials that he’s “not as anti-war as Ron Paul”, it’s clear that he’s not just anti-war, he’s also adamantly opposed to the cause of a strong defense.
His article, however, contains several factual errors.
Firstly, he wrongly called Ron Paul the “Tea Party favorite”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although a few Tea Partiers do indeed support Paul and want to hijack the TPM, he is not the favorite of the Tea Party; Sarah Palin is. She has won most recent presidential poll of Tea Partiers with 16% of the vote; Paul received only 5% and ended up sixth.
The truth is that very few Tea Partiers support Ron Paul. Sarah Palin is the real heroine of the TPM. One cannot credibly claim that the favorite guy of the TPM is the guy whom Tea Partiers list as their sixth preferred candidate. It’s likely that Tim Daniel deliberately lied to promote Ron Paul. In a recent blogpost for AT, Daniel defended Gary Johnson as a “Tea Party candidate”, which he’s not. Gary Johnson is a Libertarian, not a Tea Partier.
Secondly, it’s not true that the rift is among conservatives. The rift is among Republicans (Ron Paul is, on paper, a registered Republican, although by heart he’s a devout big ‘L’ Libertarian, and so are some of his supporters). These days, inside the GOP, there’s a small group of fanatical Libertarians who worship Ron Paul first and God second and believe that America is to blame for the hostile policies of dictatorships and terrorist organizations. They blame everything bad in the world on America.
Who’s a conservative is a debatable issue, but it can certainly be said that the principles of a strong defense and a confident foreign policy that puts American interests first are two of the several non-negotiable, inexcisable parts of conservative philosophy. Those who disagree with them cannot be credibly called conservatives. Remove these 2 principles, as well as socially conservative beliefs, from the equation, and you get libertarianism, not conservatism. Ayn Rand’s criticism of anti-defense libertarians was correct.
Republicans who oppose a strong defense and a confident “American interests first” foreign policy are not conservatives, but libertarians. So the rift is within the GOP, not among conservatives.
Of course, a conservative foreign policy doesn’t mean promiscous interventionism, wars of natonbuilding, undeclared wars, or murky, undefined missions such as the bombing of Libya. These are liberal policies. But neither does ‘conservatism’ allow for an isolationist (noninterventionist+protectionist) policy favored by Ron Paul. Conservatism calls for an outward-looking America and free markets; Ron Paul, despite his “free market” rhetoric, wants to build up government barriers to trade. Yet Daniel thinks Paul is a consistent limited government conservative. He’s not.
And to say that his statement about OBL’s death was ‘controversial’ is a vast understatement. It was one of his many “Blame America First” statements with which he has repeatedly proven, in front of millions of people, that he’s both a traitor and a fool. Republicans – conservatives and RINOs alike – understand that jihadism is a threat which America did not bring upon itself with its foreign policy, but rather the result of the hateful Islamic ideology, with its roots in the 7th century. There are many clear commandments in the Quran that call on Muslims to kill non-Muslims wherever they meet them. Ron Paul and his minions think that Americans travelled back in time and caused the Muslims to write these hateful words.
Ron Paul has even blamed the 9/11 attacks on America, and when confronted by Rudy Giuliani (the real hero of that day), he refused to recant. He has consistently been blaming all evil in this world on America, has repeatedly made the ludicrous claims of an American ‘empire’, has vastly exaggerated the military budget at $1.5 trillion per year, has accused the US of ‘militarism’, and has teamed up with anti-American liberals Barney Frank and Ron Wyden to propose and sponsor legislation that would cut core defense spending (not including the OCO budget) by $1 trillion over 10 years, i.e. $100 billion. On their chopping block were, inter alia, the F-35 program, the V-22, and the nuclear triad’s bomber leg.
Tim Daniel evidently finds these policies appealing; he has called on libertarians and conservatives to “come together” to significantly cut the defense budget, which, although it seems massive in raw numbers at $513 bn (with another $160 bn to be consumed this fiscal year by OCO costs), constitutes a paltry 3.50% of GDP ($14.62 trillion according to the CIAWF), the lowest level of defense spending since FY1948 if one excludes the last 4 fiscal years of the Clinton era.
And although Daniel has directed his axe against wasteful expenses, such as overlapping bureaucracies and Cold War era bases, he’s ignoring the vast, unmet modernization needs of the military (which the QDR Independent Review Panel called a ‘modernization crisis’). Any savings made at the DOD should be reinvested in the DOD, not used to “deficit reduction” caused entirely by skyrocketing domestic spending (discretionary and nondiscretionary alike).
Daniel also agrees with Rand Paul on closing bases in Japan and South Korea, two crucial allied countries situated in the most important region of the world: the Pacific Rim, inhabited by the majority of the world’s population. American troops are in these countries because of their strategic significance (and because of the common threats they share with the US, China and North Korea), not to re-fight World War 2.
Daniel argued that “Rand offered no tolerance for anti-war libertarians, unendearlingly calling them the “hippies of the right,” but that doesn’t mean that a coming together of the two sides is a non-starter in confronting the excess of the Pentagon’s sub-trillion-dollar budget.” Leaving aside the fact that the FY2011 DOD budget is $673 bn and for FY2012 D has requested $671 billion, it’s funny that we seldom (if ever) hear Ron Paul or Tim Daniel bemoan the excesses of domestic spending items – such as the Porkulus, subsidies, entitlements, welfare rolls, and healthcare programs? The US spends $2 trillion per year on HC services (counting both public and private spending), yet we seldom hear anyone complain about these costs. Why? Because the DOD is everyone’s favorite whipping boy these days.
There will evidently be some wasteful expenses in the defense budget even after the big reforms put forwards by Secretary Gates and the HASC are implemented (FY2012-2016). Congress should eliminate all of them, but it should redirect any resulting savings towards defense – which is a Constitutional duty of the federal government (another fact which Libertarians and Mr Daniel conveniently ignore).
Daniel has also called for timetables of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, again ignoring the fact that they’ve already been declared: US troops are to leave Iraq in December 2011 and Afghanistan in 2014.
He says that “nothing short of a complete reevaluation of the mission and purpose of the United States military is needed today.”
The mission and purpose of the military should be evident to everyone even without a review: it is to protect America, its interests, and its key allies (e.g. Britain, Japan, and South Korea). The fruit of one review can be found here. In 2010, the DOD did its own QDR, which also stated the military’s purpose. The Heritage Foundation has done a much more comprehensive review – of not just the mission and purpose, but also the exact needed force structure, equipment, personnel, and capabilities.
Rethinking America’s foreign policy is needed. But bringing conservatives together with anti-defense libertarians (who are immune to facts and reason) is impossible. For conservatives, a strong defense is nonnegotiable, while libertarians categorically oppose it for ideological reasons. These two philosophies are completely incompatible.