Rebuttal of John Pickerill’s lies about defense and foreign policy

Last month, the PatriotPost published a ridiculous screed titled “True Conservative Foreign Policy”. In it, its author, John Pickerill, who claims to be a Navy veteran, claims he’s giving people (as the title suggests) the one and only “true conservative foreign policy”, by which he also means the “true conservative policy” on defense. Furthermore, he claims that his is the “true” Constitutional and Tea-Party-compatible policy. And what exactly does he advocate? “Deep military spending cuts”, “noninterventionism”, and other isolationist Paulbot garbage.

He’s completely wrong, however, not least because the Constitution actually authorizes, and even REQUIRES, a strong national defense and generous funding for it, as explained in detail here and here. It is, in fact, the highest Constitutional duty of the federal government, prioritized by the Constitution above any other issue. Any defense cuts, but especially deep ones, constitute a reprehensible DERELICTION of that duty.

Any amount spent on defense, and a military of any size, are Constitutionally legitimate and do not constitute a Big Government program. They are fully consistent with the Limited Government Principle.

For someone claiming to be following the Constitution and demanding that others obey it, it is ridiculous and shameful for Pickerill to demand deep defense cuts, let alone to imply that they are required by the Constitution.

And it is ridiculous in any case for Pickerill to claim to be speaking for the entire Tea Party or defining conservatism and Tea Party principles. (BTW, only 27% of Tea Partiers support any defense cuts, as evidenced by this Gallup poll from 2011.)

Moreover, the Constitution does not require nor prohibit any particular foreign policy, interventionist or noninterventionist. It merely requires that wars must be declared, the military is to be under civilian control, and treaties cannot be ratified without the Senate’s consent; and the Congress has the prerogative to punish piracies, offenses committed on the high seas, and offenses against the Law of Nations.

Pickerill claims that the policy he advocates is the “true conservative foreign policy” and that conservatism and the Limited Government Principle require deep defense spendingcuts and limiting that spending to a low level as well as isolationism. He’s wrong, however. Providing for a strong defense, including funding it GENEROUSLY, is an IRREMOVABLE, INTEGRAL, INEXCISABLE part of conservative philosophy. Instead of requiring defense cuts, the conservative ideology requires GENEROUS (albeit not bloated) funding for the military. That is a key tenet of conservatism and distinguishes us conservatives from libertarians. Therefore, anyone who supports deep military spending cuts is NOT a conservative and has NO right to call himself/herself one.

At the beginning of the article, Pickerill also invokes the Christian Just War Doctrine and formulates his own version of it, his own opinion on when wars are “just”, then recklessly dismisses America’s Afghan, Iraqi, and Bosnian interventions as unjust. The four conditions that he sets (the gravity of the threat, prospects for success, etc.) are reasonable by themselves, but Pickerill interprets them as, and intends them to be, effectively barring any military intervention abroad. He opposes any such interventions. That is a lunatic, isolationist policy.

Furthermore, Pickerill objects to the US maintaining any military bases abroad, including in strategically important and dangerous countries as Japan and South Korea. He claims that the Cold War is over, so the US should close all of its bases and withdraw all of its troops home. He’s completely wrong.

Firstly, while the Cold War is over, there are still significant, growing threats to the security of the US and its allies, in Europe as well as (and especially in) the Persian Gulf and the Pacific Rim. China is the biggest threat, but North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Red Sea pirates are very dangerous as well. And despite Pickerill’s pious denial that “North Korea is no match for South Korea”, the converse is the truth. The ROK has a very large economy but a weak military, which is far smaller than the DPRK’s and is equipped mostly with obsolete weapons produced in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g. F-4 and F-5 fighters are the mainstay of the ROKAF, while M60 Patton tanks are the cream of the ROK Army’s tank fleet). The DPRK also has something that the ROK does not – nuclear and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles of all classes – and in large quantities. The ROK is completely defenseless against these, save for 16 US Army Patriot batteries on the Korean Peninsula, which are the ROK’s only BMD. And dumping these endangered allies, leaving them to cope with potential aggressors like China and North Korea by themselves, would be suicidal and immoral.

Secondly, strategically-located foreign bases (such as those in Japan, SK, Europe, and the Gulf) are very useful.  According to Adm. Jonathan Greenert, one ship stationed forward, abroad, is worth 4 ships based in the CONUS. Troops and units based at overseas bases (such as those in Japan, SK, Europe, and the Gulf) can be brought to a combat zone (or respond to aggression or a natural disaster) much faster, and much cheaper, than troops and units based in the US, especially in the CONUS. Also, it’d be much cheaper to keep the troops stationed where they are and to keep America’s overseas bases open than to close all of these bases and bring all the troops back home. Foreign bases constitute a minority of DOD spending on bases, which, in turn, constitutes a tiny minority of its Operations&Maintenance budget.

Pickerill falsely claims that:

“A significant portion of military spending has little to do with National Defense, and everything to do with profits and getting re-elected. I urge everyone in the Tea Party to take this into consideration the next time our elected officials or political pundits tell us that deep cuts to our military budget would be dangerous to national security.”

Utter garbage written by a Paulbot isolationist. Deep cuts to the military budget WOULD be very dangerous to America’s national security. While there is waste in the budget of the DOD (and in the budget of every other government agency), there is not enough of waste in it to make DEEP cuts to it. DEEP cuts (by that, I assume he means cuts much higher than, say, 10%) would gravely weaken the military by forcing it to dramatically reduce its size, dramatically cut or even cancel outright its modernization and research programs, leave a lot less funding for operations and maintenance, and deprive the military of funding for training and personnel compensation. That would gravely weaken the military and, as a consequence, deeply imperil national security. As an example, cutting defense through sequestration ($108.7 bn per year, $1 trillion over a decade) would produce these consequencesSo despite this Paulbot’s false claims, deep cuts to the military budget WOULD gravely imperil national security. There’s no way around this fact.

There’s also no way to get around the fact that a strong national defense means a large military armed with the most modern weapons (of many categories) America can produce, bought in large quantities; a military dispersed around many bases; a well-compensated military that attracts America’s best youngsters; a military superior to its rivals, not just on part with them; and that such a strong military costs a lot of money. Defense on the cheap is not, and will never be, possible.

And despite Pickerill falely claiming a little earlier that “Most US military spending has nothing to do with national defense”, it’s still a lie. The truth is that the vast majority of US military spending has everything to do with national defense:

  • $293 bn per year is spent on military personnel (feeding, clothing, housing, salarying/compensating, training, and caring for them and their families) and on operations and maintenance (the vast majority of O&M spending is spent in the US and the surrounding waters where the Navy trains). Spending on bases is a part of the O&M account, and a small part at that (less than $9 bn per year for each Service), and of that, only a minority is military spent on bases abroad.
  • A further ca. $170 bn per year is spent on developing and buying weapons and other equipment for the military – weapons that are truly needed to equip the US military and be superior to America’s enemies. Despite Pickerill’s false claims that America’s weapon programs “have nothing to do with national defense” and exist only to benefit defense contractors, that’s a lie; almost all of the DOD’s weapon programs, save for a few exceptions, are needed to equip the military to defend America against current and future threats, and to replace obsolete, worn-out, costly to maintain old weapons produced decades ago. (The older they are, the costlier they are to maintain.) So replacing old weapons with new SAVES taxpayers money.
  • A further $45 bn per year is spent on intelligence, monitoring threats as diverse as the NK nuclear and missile programs and terrorists.
  • A further $10 bn or so is spent on missile defense.
  • The SOCOM (which killed Osama bin Laden) receives $10 bn per year.
  • A further amount of money is spent on DOD agencies responsible for contract auditing, contract managing, logistics, and other important defense-related tasks.
  • A further amount of money is spent on administering the DOD ($4.7 bn per year on the OSD, several billions per year on the administrations of each Service Department).
  • And ca. $110 bn per year is spent fighting the Afghan War, against the Taleban and Al-Qaeda, a war they started.

Deeply cutting any of these parts of the military budget (including GWOT supplementals before the Afghan War is over) would gravely weaken the military. It would mean deeply cutting procurement and research, operations, maintenance, or personnel spending (and numbers) – any of which, alone or in combination, would dramatically weaken the military.

If anyone balks at buying new weapons, or spending a significant amount of money for them, remember that 1) weapons and vehicles, like most other things, eventually wear out, get old, and become obsolete, and need to be replaced from time to time (every 3-4 decades). And the US military needs a large quantity of weapons and equipment of many various kinds, from fighters to bombers to ICBMs to submarines to surface combatants to tanks, of the most modern types that exist. That is necessary for the US military to be strong and superior to all other militaries. And equipping the military with the best and most modern equipment available is one of the highest duties of the federal government. So there’s no getting around the fact that such modern weapons of many different kinds have to be developed and bought in large quantities. And unfortunately, someone has to be paid for, and therefore make money on, these purchases. That’s an unavoidable reality.

Pickerill falsely claims that the majority of the military budget “instead goes to feeding the beast that President Eisenhower warned us about: the military-industrial complex”, and cites the usage of different cruise missiles by the Air Force and the Navy during the Bosnian conflict. But the vast majority of the military budget has EVERYTHING to do with national defense, and the usage of different missiles by the USAF and the USN was an example of old-style parochialism and the “we know best which weapon type is right and you guys are totally ignorant” attitude displayed by both Services, not subsidizing the defense industry. Moreover, Pickerill himself says these missiles cost [only] $1 mn apiece, hardly huge profits for any company.

Moreover, defense companies are not at the top of the Fortune 100 list; far from it. Lockheed Martin, the largest defense company, is 26th; Boeing and Northrop Grumman rank even lower. GE is fourth, but GE earns the vast majority of its profits from civilian sales, not defense equipment.

Furthermore, it is not true that for its entire history until 1898, the US followed a “noninterventionist” (read: isolationist) foreign policy. Thomas Jefferson was actually the FIRST US president to intervene abroad, in Tripoli (present-day Libya), and he did so without Congressional authorization or even asking the Congress for opinion. He and his successor, James Madison, the supposed model statesman warning about war, also concocted the harebrained scheme that was the War of 1812, whose aim was to conquer Canada (Jefferson even promised that it would be “a mere matter of marching”). That harebrained Jefferson-Madison scheme almost ended in the destruction of the Republic, which was saved at the last minute by General Andrew Jackson. So much for “noninterventionism”. And before that, despite the US officially claiming neutrality, other countries of the world refused to respect it, routinely violated it (while the US was powerless to do anything about that), and perceived the US as supporting the other side. When the US signed the Jay Treaty with Britain, France perceived that as an act of alliance between the US and Britain, and started a Quasi War with America. So isolationism/neutralism failed abysmally even in those supposedly halcyon years of Messrs. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. It would likewise fail abysmally today if it were tried today.

And it’s not true that the US did not practice embargoes or protectionism during those years. In fact, in the Jefferson years, at Jefferson’s urging, the US adopted a TOTAL embargo against THE ENTIRE WORLD (resulting in huge economic damage for America), and when it failed, it was merely scaled down to an embargo against France and Britain. President Madison continued the embargo against Britain (Macon’s Act No. 2). In later years, from the 1860s until after WW2, the US continually had high protectionist tariffs (promised in the 1860 platform) against foreign products, and the GOP was known since 1860 as “the Party of Protection”.

Furthermore, the claim that military spending is bankrupting the country is a blatant lie, just like the rest of this screed. Military spending IS NOT to blame for America’s fiscal woes. The total military budget amounts to just 19% – less than 1/5th – of the entire federal budget. Entitlements claim by far the largest share, at 63%. If it weren’t for entitlements, the US could afford its entire military budget and still have enough tax revenue for other things, or to pay down its debt. Furthermore, military spending is responsible for only a small minority of the spending growth since FY2001. Any claim that military spending is to blame for America’s fiscal problems is a blatant lie. And as the graphs below, based on CBO and OMB data, published by SBC Republicans, prove, war spending accounts for just 4% of the spending growth since FY2001, just 18% of post-FY2008 spending growth, and a small share of overall federal spending.

Moreover, because of these facts, the claim that military spending will force the Fed to print trillions of dollars and thus make one loaf of bread cost a wheelbarrow of dollars and thus force American families to starve is a blatant lie.

Besides, as the Heritage Foundation has proven, even abolishing military spending ENTIRELY would not even come close to balancing the budget.

Furthermore, the US does NOT spend $700 bn per year on the military. Not even close. And it’s not half of the world total; again, not even close. The current military budget is $645 bn under the FY2012 NDAA (while the Defense App. Act authorizes only $633 bn); that, according to the SIPRI, is merely 43% of the world’s total. And that is ONLY if you accept the woefully understated figures for China and Russia.

The author blindly accepts China’s woefully understated official figures, but the PRC’s real military budget is at least $140 bn to $150 bn, or almost 1/4th of the USDOD’s budget. Furthermore, China plans to DOUBLE its defense budget over the next 3 years alone. Russia’s military budget is likely to be at least $100 bn per year, and it’s not known how much exactly, given that most Russian military spending is off the books: Russian civilian ministries buy goods and weapons and then give them as “free goods” to the Ministry of Defense.

Pickerill says that the US has far more fighters and other weapons than China and Russia do, but that would NOT be the case if the deep defense spending cuts he demands were implemented. Moreover, China has more warships (and more weapons of certain other types) than the US does, and is closely behind in other categories (e.g. the number of bombers, 120 vs 162). Russia is closely behind in number of warships (230 vs 282), has over 3 times more tanks and APCs, has many times more tactical nuclear weapons, and is quickly catching up with the US militarily (Putin plans to spend $770 bn on weapons alone during the next cade). Both Russia and China, as well as other countries like Iran, also possess tons of anti-access/access-denial weapons designed to negate America’s traditional advantages and shut the US military out of combat theaters, and the DOD will need to develop and buy equipment combating (or evading) these A2/AD weapons in large quantities, which will cost a lot. Moreover, as this article and the US Economic and Security Review Commission report on which it is based prove irrefutably, China is far stronger (militarily and economically) than most people, including government analysts, estimate it to be, and understating the Chinese threat will bring about dire consequences. The Commission’s report says:

“A decade on, it is now clear that much of the conventional wisdom about China dating from the turn of the century has proven to be dramatically wrong.”

Furthermore, the report says that both governmental and non-governmental analysts have displayed “a pattern of underestimating the speed and depth of Chinese military development.”

The claim that Eisenhower spoke out against robust defense spending and advocated deep defense cuts is also a blatant lie. It’s a false claim that has been debunked many times, but the Paulbots, evidently thinking that a lie repeated 100 times becomes a “truth”, continually repeat it. Eisenhower himself, however, explained in the 1960s what he meant in his Farewell Address, thus DIRECTLY DISPROVING the Paulbots’ claim that he was calling for defense cuts. He wrote that:

“The influence of tremendous munitions expenditures is felt in every phase of our national life – millions today owe their prosperity, indeed their livelihood to this kind of production. Communities, and manufacturers, compete for new munitions facilities or contracts; to obtain such favorable situations political influence is sought and often given. Manifestly all of us should be alert to the possibility that munitions production could become so imprtant that whole communities will look upon it as a way of life; we may forget that these expenditures are merely for the purpose of defending ourselves and what we now have.

Our struggle against world Communist involves military, economic, and spiritual factors. Each is equally important and it is up to us to see that we maintain the necessary strength in each and the proper balance among the three.”

As one can clearly read from this letter from the man himself – President Eisenhower – he was NOT calling for any defense cuts, nor did he label the US military or the US defense industry a grave threat to civil liberties and democracy. What he did call for was 1) making sure that munitions production does not become a way of life for the entire country; 2) keeping all three elements of national power – military, economic, and spiritual – equally strong, and keeping a proper balance among the three.

So, instead of wanting defense cuts, he wanted a strong, adequately funded defense – but also balance between military, economic, and spiritual power, as he considered all of them equally important for protecting America and for defeating the Communists.

If one reads the entire speech, rather than just one sentence quoted out of context, it is clear that Eisenhower did not call for any defense cuts. What he did do was to call for “the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals”, and not to allow it to subvert America’s ordinary democratic political process, “so that security and liberty may prosper together”, which he rightly believed possible, and which has been achieved in the United States. The defense establishment HAS been combined with America’s peaceful methods and goals, and has NOT skewed the democratic political process.

As for the establishment of a large peacetime standing army and a large arms industry, Eisenhower said, “we recognize the imperative need for this development” and reminded the American people that “we can no longer afford improvisation” in the military and in the defense industry during wartime; hence, the US needs a large, strong peacetime military. Indeed, America can no longer afford improvisation, and therefore must keep a large military ready at all times to deter aggressors.

Morever, earlier in the speech, Eisenhower said:

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. “our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no aggressor will risk his self-destruction.”

So, instead of seeing the military establishment as a threat to America’s civil liberties, its economy, or its prosperity, he called it “a vital element in keeping the peace” – which it is. Without a strong defense you cannot have peace.

Pickerill denies that Iran is a threat to the US or Israel and even denies that Ahmadinejad has called on Israel to be annihilated. He claims Ahmadinejad’s remarks in Farsi should instead be translated as: “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.”

But this doesn’t change anything. It’s still a call for Israel’s annihilation. Ahmadinejad didn’t merely say he BELIEVES Israel will vanish; he said it MUST vanish, which means he WANTS this to happe, and it can be reasonably implied that Iran will attempt to effect that. That proves Ahmadinejad’s genocidal intentions (to say nothing of Ali Khamenei’s repeated calls to annihilate Israel) and completely disproves Pickerill’s false claims. The West will ignore Iranian threats at its peril.

Pickerill also quotes falsified, politicized intel reports (e.g the 2007 NIE) that make light of the Iranian threat and claims this is proof that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. But Iran is publicly known to be developing uranium deuterite, a kind of a neutron initiator. A neutron initiator has NO civilian applications; its only usage is as a trigger for nuclear weapons. Iran has even constructed a chamber in which to test that trigger and Western diplomats are now negotiating for access to that chamber.

Pickerill also claims:

“Yet the proof of Iran’s threat to U.S. national security is never clearly defined. Iran does not have a missile with the range to hit U.S. soil. Iran does not have a bomber aircraft with the range to reach U.S. soil and even if it did we could easily shoot it down well before it got close to U.S. territory.”

But if the deep defense spending cuts that Pickerill demands are made the US will NOT be able to do so, and Iran is already working on ICBMs capable of reaching the US (according to the Free Beacon, it has already bought them from China). US intel says Iran will have them by 2015.

Pickerill also lectures us that even if Iran were a threat, we Christians would need justification to strike it per the Just War Doctrine. But if there is a clear, grave threat (such as Iran) that is not deterrable and it is poised to strike on you or your allies (Israel) in the near future, not only are we justified in striking first, it would be immoral NOT to strike them before they attack and to let them launch ballistic missiles and kill people. It is IMMORAL to wait for a threat to become undeterrable and attack innocent people before acting, just as it was immoral to wait until Germany attacked Poland and Japan attacked PH before stopping Hitler and Tojo.

Pickerill also claims that the President may not use troops in combat under ANY circumstances without a declaration of war. Implicitly, this also covers imminent threats to America and periods when the Congress is in recess (e.g. the Memorial Day recess). This is a suicidal, foolish, and Constitutionally WRONG policy. As this strict constructionist lawyer has confirmed, the President may use troops unilaterally if – and only if – there is an imminent threat to the country. Sen. Rand Paul says the same.

Pickerill claims he wants peace, but the truth is that his policy proposals would only bring about war, death, and destruction. That’s what always happens when free countries cut deeply, and thus gut, their defense and/or appease their enemies (or pursue a policy of isolationism and hoping the crocodile won’t come to eat you, as the US tried before WW2). Deeply cutting America’s defense would gravely weaken the US military, making it incapable of defending America and thus inviting aggression. This would result in war and the deaths of thousands of people.

Whoops, Paulbots, you have been disproven YET AGAIN. You are OWNED.


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