Rebuttal of the “Reason” mag’s and Jim DeMint’s false claims

Sen. Jim DeMint has recently given a lengthy, 5-page interview to the libertarian, anti-conservative “Reason” magazine, and it was conducted by RM editors Matt Welch and Nicholas Gillespie (the guy caught lying in the infamous RM video I refuted a few months ago).

DeMint wrongly said in the interview that “the GOP should adopt a lot of Ron Paul’s ideas” and “should become much more libertarian”, thus giving signs that he has converted to libertarianism and that considers Ron Paul to be a prophet.

Sen. DeMint is completely wrong. No, the GOP should not adopt any of Ron Paul’s ideas (except on the Federal Reserve, privacy, and drug legalization), and no, it should not become libertarian to any degree. It shouldn’t become libertarian at all.

Ron Paul is right only on a few discreet issues, and that proves nothing. Even a blind pig will find an ear of corn once in a while. Ron Paul is like a blind pig. Apparently, the vast majority of Republicans agree, since they have so far rejected Ron Paul in all states that have voted so far.

Ron Paul needs to be completely ignored and shunned, and that is why he has been clobbered in this year’s Republican primaries, just like four years ago.

Specifically, Sen. DeMint says this about defense spending and foreign policy:

DeMint: Well, there are a lot of obvious things. Not just the waste. We do need to rethink the money we spend on military and defense. I think Ron Paul does make a good distinction: There’s a difference between spending on military and spending for defense.

The primary function of the federal government is to defend our country. We need to make sure that we have the technology, the intelligence, the equipment to defend America from a lot of new threats. And if that is not doable with bases all over the world, we need to rethink how spread out we actually are. We have to demand that our allies actually pay a greater proportion of their defense. We’re still in Germany; we were there after World War II. We’re in South Korea. We’re in a lot of places. We may need to be in some of those places for deployment and protection. But I think it’s fair to say let’s rethink that and make sure we’re spending money in the right places.”

An examination/rethinking of defense/military spending, and a debate in the GOP about it and about US foreign policy (and America’s defense commitments to its allies), is fine and even healthy.

But that’s not what libertarians want. They want defense to be deeply cut (and thus gutted) and the US to withdraw from world affairs and retrench behind its borders.

While I agree with Sen. DeMint that America’s allies can and should start paying much more for their own defense, I also believe it would be geopolitically and strategically unwise, as well as immoral, to pull the rug from under them by terminating defense commitments to them (or at least to strategically-important allies such as SK and Japan). Furthermore, the vast majority of the defense budget is used to defend the US, not foreign countries, and therefore, the US would have to spend the same amount of money it spends today on defense even if it were to defend itself and dump all of its allies. Furthermore, spending money on defending America and its crucial allies is money well spent, so to answer DeMint’s concern, “we are spending money in the right places” – the US and strategically important countries.

And no, the US doesn’t have “bases with all over the world”, and America can be defended with the bases it currently has abroad (indeed, these bases are needed and it would cost far less to maintain them than to bring the troops back to America and build the bases for them in the US). (That is not to say that every single base/installation is absolutely needed and cannot be closed, or that US troops can’t be safely withdrawn from Germany and Italy.)

As for waste, there is not much waste in the defense budget (if DeMint claims otherwise, he needs to prove that claim). And most of the “waste” that Sen. Tom Coburn has supposedly found in it are actual military capabilities and needed weapon systems, and only a tiny minority of that is actual waste. The vast majority of the defense cuts that Coburn proposes are cuts to crucial military capabilities and modernization programs, NOT wasteful spending. So for anyone to use Coburn as a credible source is ridiculous.

While DeMint admits that the US needs modern weapons, technology, intelligence capabilities, and well-trained troops to defend itself, he fails to mention that they cannot be acquired or maintainted on the cheap and cost a lot of money. There’s no way to avoid spending a lot on them. Defense on the cheap is not possible, as the disarmament of European countries has shown.

DeMint further falsely claims:

“And frankly, some of our spending is politically driven because a particular defense system or ship is built in a certain congressional district or state. The money’s allocated not necessarily because our generals want it but because someone in Congress wants it. Those are the kinds of things we need to change. But the first priority of our federal government is to defend our people, and we need to make sure we do that well.”

That’s not true. There are no longer such weapon programs in the defense budget. There were some as recently as a few years ago, but there aren’t any anymore. Robert Gates has closed so much weapon programs that there aren’t really many remaining at all. The DOD’s current weapon programs are not parochial nor politically-driven, they are absolutely needed to replace a wide variety of obsolete, worn-out weapons, and to maintain or, in some cases, increase America’s defense capabilities.

Earlier, on the second page, DeMint said this:

reason: How much of the defense budget can be cut without hurting American preparedness or the ability to protect American lives?

DeMint: I’m not sure what that number is. But I do know there’s waste in Pentagon spending. We’ve identified waste not only in the Pentagon but all across the board. I’ve got a whole chapter on waste that [Oklahoma Republican Sen.] Tom Coburn opens for me. We can find a lot of that. But we have to have a vision for what we want our military to do. And that’s why in the last couple of weeks, I’ve said I want whoever our nominee is in the Republican Party to listen to some of the things Rep. Ron Paul [R-Texas] is saying. “

Furthermore, DeMint said on that page:

“But we have to have a vision for what we want our military to do. And that’s why in the last couple of weeks, I’ve said I want whoever our nominee is in the Republican Party to listen to some of the things Rep. Ron Paul [R-Texas] is saying.”

Sen. DeMint is completely wrong. The GOP does need a vision for what the military is expected to do, but to borrow that “vision” from Ron Paul is dangerous and UN-conservative. Ron Paul is completely wrong on military and foreign policy issues.

But most troublingly, DeMint said this:

“If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can be the majority party, it’s going to have to be very inclusive of libertarians and a lot of the things they’re talking about. We’ve got to rethink a lot of the things we’re doing.

It doesn’t threaten me to sit down and talk to someone who’s got a different view on the drug war or the military. If I know they believe in limited government, decentralization of power, individual liberty; we’re on the same page. That’s one of the things I talk about in the book: If you have a shared goal, you can debate and compromise and still move in the right direction (…)”

Jim DeMint is completely wrong.

There are two possibilities. Either he’s dangerously naive, or he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing just like Ron Paul. A common tactic that liberals and libertarians use to win conservatives’ trust is to agree with us conservatives on 90% of the issues so that we will overlook the other 10%. The 10% that counts.

To paraphrase conservative blogger Publius Huldah: I, Zbigniew Mazurak, have many flaws. But all of them can be overlooked with just a little good will. But if I were caught selling heroin to school children, that could not be overlooked.

It doesn’t matter how much Ron Paul agrees with us conservatives on as long as he disagrees with us on the most important issues: defense, foreign policy, counterterrorism, and Israel. Someone who calls for deep defense cuts and total isolationism is no more our ally than someone calling for socialized medicine. And that, BY ITSELF, completely disqualifies him (and everyone infatuated with him, including DeMint) and renders DeMint’s entire rant irrelevant.

If I were caught selling heroin to schoolchildren, would you care if I’m a good worker, taxpayer, churchgoer, and conservative? Of course not, and rightly so.

Someone who calls for deep defense cuts and/or isolationism is no more conservative than someone who calls for socialized medicine or huge tax hikes on the wealthy.

The Bible says “by their fruit ye shall know them”. Someone might claim to be a conservative and to support the Constitution. But if that person supports deep defense cuts and/or isolationism, either he’s stupid or he’s a liberal and therefore our enemy, and it doesn’t matter what he says on any other issue.

Besides, although Jim DeMint (who is not an intelligent person) clearly doesn’t understand it, America cannot have it both ways. The Nation will either deeply cut (and thus gut) its defense or it won’t. It’s that simple. There’s no middle route, no third way on this issue. Either America will gut its defense or it won’t, just as it could not permanently remain half-slave and half-free.

Furthermore, we conservatives and libertarians differ on more than defense & FP; we differ on what kind of federal government we want. We conservatives, like the Founding Fathers, believe in limited Constitutional government that performs a few discreet crucial functions well, not “no government at all”. Libertarians want the latter. That is a divide that cannot be bridged. There can be no compromise or third way on this huge fundamental difference. And even if one was possible, libertarians are not interested in a compromise; they want everything to be done their way.

Moreover, by saying “It doesn’t threaten me to sit down and talk to someone who’s got a different view on (…) the military”, DeMint essentially said that he doesn’t care about military and foreign policy issues and that he’s willing to ignore them and discard conservative principles related to these issues; and further, that he’s willing to compromise on these crucial issues for the sake of domestic ones.

DeMint (like other libertarians) clearly doesn’t understand that defense, other national security issues, and domestic issues (including civil liberties and the economy) are inextricably linked. You cannot have civil liberties and a strong, secure, growing economy without a strong defense and a foreign  policy that advances America’s national interests.

Furthermore, DeMint laughably claims:

“If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can be the majority party, it’s going to have to be very inclusive of libertarians and a lot of the things they’re talking about.”

This is rich. This comes from the guy who has zero experience and zero credentials in making the GOP the majority party; the guy who said just a few years ago that he would rather lead a small, ideologically pure minority than a large, but ideologically diverse, majority. If his wish were granted, the GOP would probably attract the small percentage of the electorate that the libertarians are, but it would simoultaneously scare away moderate and independent voters who currently vote Republican. This is a recipe for a permanent minority party.

For its part, the so-called “Reason” magazine made the following false claims on the second page:

“What about entitlements and defense spending? Because that’s where the real money is.”

Not really. The real money is NOT in defense spending; it’s in entitlement programs. Military spending amounts to just 19% of the total federal budget (20% according to the Reason magazine itself) and to a paltry 4.6% of GDP. Lumping entitlements and defense spending together is ridiculous and deliberately misleading. It’s like lumping fruit and meat together and claiming that they are the same category of things because they are food.

“The defense budget is 20 percent of all government spending and has increased about 100 percent since 2000.”

That is also a lie. The total military budget amounts to just 19%, which is a very small share, and has not increased by “about 100%” since 2000. Not even close.

The FY2001 DOD budget, signed in CY2000, was $291 bn in then-year dollars, i.e. $390 bn in today’s money. The current (FY2012) DOD budget under the FY2012 NDAA is $645 bn. That means the military budget has increased by only $255 bn, i.e. by only 39.5%, since FY2001. That is not even close to 100%. Gillespie and Welch are simply lying.

In conclusion, Jim DeMint is flat wrong. The GOP should not become any more libertarian than it is, should not adopt any of RP’s ideas (except on drug legalization and privacy), and should not be inclusive for libertarians. As Ronald Reagan rightly said, “a political party cannot be all things to all people.” And for us conservatives, libertarians are not our allies; they are not, contrary to DeMint’s claims, “on the same page” as we are. They profess a completely different ideology and vehemently disagree with us on at least 10% of the issues. The 10% that counts.

Someone who calls for deep defense cuts and/or isolationism is no more my ally than someone calling for socialized medicine.