Rebuttal of Chris Preble’s attack on Romney and Republicans

Last month, in the Foreign Policy magazine, utterly discredited leftist libertarian Chris Preble wrote a screed (titled “Bipartisan Bloat”) attacking Mitt Romney and Republicans in general (and as a party) for refusing to agree to deep defense cuts, while accusing them of supporting a “bloated” military budget.

InformationDissemination’s Bryan McGrath has already ably rebutted Preble’s blatant lies, so I’ll only add the following:

1) Preble is so ignorant about the Constitution, about the long-standing principles of limited-government conservatism, and about the principles of the GOP, that he sees no difference whatsoever between providing for the common defense on one hand (which is the highest Constitutional DUTY of the federal government) and unconstitutional domestic programs related to issues such as education, healthcare, and agriculture, which are reserved exclusively to the states and the people.

The truth is that there is nothing inconsistent about providing robust (and even increasing) defense spending while at the same time cutting domestic spending on unconstitutional programs and agencies. It’s fully coherent and fully consistent with the Constitution and the principles of limited government conservatism (which is a different thing from libertarianism).

2) Without a strong military to protect it, the US economy will be at high risk from physical attacks on America and its key allies. Moreover, if domestic spending is cut deeply enough, and taxes are cut concurrently, enough money will be freed up for the private sector.
Moreover, Preble is ignoring the deep defense cuts that Obama has already implemented or scheduled, starting with the 50 programmatic closures in 2009 and 2010, and culminating with the First Tier BCA-mandated defense cuts and sequestration.

3) “The party that opposes nearly all other forms of federal spending happily embraces the military variety.”

I wouldn’t say that it blindly and happily embraces the military variety, but as I said, military spending is different from unconstitutional domestic spending, as there is a huge difference between providing for the common defense on the one hand, and spending money on unconstitutional federal education/healthcare/agriculture programs on the other hand. Only a libertarian (or a liberal) is blind to that huge difference.

4) “Republican candidate Mitt Romney accuses Obama of fostering a “culture of dependency” in the United States, yet ignores that U.S. security guarantees have created an entire class of affluent countries around the world that now rely upon U.S. tax dollars to pay for their defense.”

This is also garbage. Only a minority of America’s treaty allies are “affluent countries” like Britain, France, and Germany – most of them, including Central European, Middle Eastern (except Israel), and East Asian (except Japan and SK) allies are poor countries who would not be able to provide for their defense on their own even if they spent 10% of their GDPs on defense. And allies such as Israel, Japan, and SK actually contribute far more to their own security than Preble claims. Japan and SK refund 50% of American base construction costs in their countries and a large part of the cost of stationing American troops there. Israel has one of the strongest militaries in the world and spends over 7% of its GDP on defense. SK spends only 2.5%, but is not far behind the US, which spends only 3.47% (or 4.22% if war and DOE costs are included). Moreover, Israel and South Korea, unlike the US, draft ALL of their males into their militaries. EVERY Israeli and EVERY South Korean male is a soldier and has a duty to protect his country – unlike young Americans, who are not required to lift a finger in their own country’s defense.

Mr Preble: when young Americans are drafted into the US military, then, and ONLY THEN, you may complain about South Korea not doing enough. Until then, shut your mouth.

” Some Republicans are open to tax increases to pay for an even-larger military, but Romney is not. It isn’t clear, however, how he would pay for his promised increases, which exceed the president’s plans by at least $1.7 trillion over the next decade.”

But this claim is utterly false. Mitt Romney’s promise to increase base defense spending to 4% of GDP would not increase defense spending by anything even close to 1.7 trillion dollars per decade, even assuming very optimistic GDP growth rates. Currently, America’s GDP is $15.29 trillion; 4% out of that is $611 bn, i.e. just $86 bn more than what Obama proposes for FY2013. Even if GDP growths quickly to $16 trillion by FY2017, 4% out of that will still be only $640 bn, not even close to being $170 bn above Obama’s plan for FY2017.

Yet, if Romney were to increase defense spending by $1.7 trillion per decade as Preble falsely claims, he would have to increase it by $170 bn EVERY YEAR compared to Obama’s plans; if, in any year, the increase was less than $170 bn above Obama’s plans, in other years it would have to be higher. Romney is not proposing to do anything of the sort.

“Republicans could reasonably claim that military spending should get a pass because the Constitution clearly stipulates a federal role in defending the country. But nowhere is it written that Americans must provide security for others; that is the job of their governments, not America’s.”

It is, actually – in the defense treaties which America has signed with these countries and which the Senate has validly ratified, thus making them the supreme law of the land second only to the Constitution. Providing for the security of crucial allies – and the US has many of them – is as much in America’s interest as in theirs.

As for defending America itself, saying that the Constitution “stipluates a federal role in defending the country” is a vast understatement. The Constitution actually makes it clear that defense is a duty, and the HIGHEST duty, of the federal government, and one of the reasons the Constitution itself was adopted in the first place. The majority of Congress’ powers enumerated in Art. I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution pertain to military issues.

And even if America were to defend only itself, and no one else, that would still not permit for any deep cuts in the defense budget, because America’s defense needs are huge, and the US would therefore need to spend as much on defense as it spends now even under an isolationist “Fortress America” policy. Defending America requires, inter alia, providing: a) a large, modern, survivable nuclear triad; b) a robust, multilayered missile defense network; c) a large, superlative fighter fleet to protect America’s airspace; d) a large fleet of cargo aircraft to haul goods around military bases; e) a fleet of CSAR aircraft; f) a large, diverse, globally deployable Navy to protect not only America’s three long coasts but also civilian American ships (which constitute sovereign US territory) around the world ; g) a robust, diverse intelligence apparatus; h) a large land army to protect America’s land borders; and other capabilities. And all of them cost a lot of money.

In short, there is no way to “defend America on the cheap.” It’s not possible and will never be.

And Preble, despite his pretentions, couldn’t care less about defending America. In 2010, he was a member of the Barney-Frank-convened “SDTF” panel which recommended DEEP defense cuts across the board – in the nuclear deterrent, missile defense, the Navy, the Air Force, and many other services and programs. In short, their proposals would totally gut the US military. Preble was an active contributor to these destructive proposals.

“Indeed, the Republicans’ reflexive commitment to more military spending is particularly curious given their appreciation for how incentives work in the domestic sphere. Republicans know quite well that people are not inclined to pay for things that others will provide for them. GOP leaders speak often of moral hazards — when individuals or businesses behave irresponsibly because others are there to bail them out. The same problem exists in international politics, but is strangely ignored in the GOP’s plan to continue policing the world.”

Also false! The GOP has no plans to “continue policing the world” – it plans to reassure America’s allies, deter America’s enemies, and handle Iran, while the GOP platform’s language on Russia and China is actually very conciliatory, even though these countries are America’s enemies. But if America rebuilds its military and keeps it strong, there will be no war, because then, no one will want to challenge the US.

Republicans’ “commitment” to military spending is not reflexive, and (except Romney and his advisors) they are not advocating more military spending – merely reversing the BCA’s deep defense cuts. And as I stated above, there is a HUGE difference between providing for America’s and its allies’ defense on the one hand, and spending money on unconstitutional education/healthcare/agriculture programs on the other hand.

Last but not least, Bryan McGrath is absolutely right that the US, by providing security for itself and its allies, has made the world much safer, allowing these countries, but above all, ITSELF (i.e. the US) to benefit from this peace and security. Under the isolationist policy that Preble supports, America’s allies would be conquered or otherwise subjugated by the strongest aggressor on their doorstep (Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran, depending on where you live), and eventually, the crocodile would come to eat the US as well, just like it came in 1941 to eat over 2,000 American servicemen (and had an appetite for more).

If the US retreats from the world and retrenches behind oceans as Preble wants it to, its allies will fall, one by one, to aggressors such as China and North Korea, Iran will carry out its threat to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, the Western Pacific will become China’s internal lake, the SOH will be shut down, and the US itself will live in a much more dangerous world, with all the consequences of that. Such a policy is absolutely unacceptable for any patriotic American.


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