According to Dante's Divine Comedy the inscription on the gates to hell says, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here".
That phrase should have been emblazoned on the entrance to the North Charleston Coliseum Thursday night, as well. In their lust for war, the GOP candidates to a man forgot why the Republican party even exists.
In remonstrating noisily for even more of Washington's imperial overreach abroad, rather than attacking its bloated and intrusive aspect at home, they forced the American people to abandon any hope for the restoration of fiscal rectitude, sound money and free markets.
It started with Senator Cruz who ignored the first question entirely and launched off into an utterly gratuitous exercise in rank demagoguery about the US sailors held for 16 hours by Iran. Said the candidate who is supposed to be talking about the Fed's brutal war on savers and Washington's burial of the nation's taxpayers in public debt:
“Today, many of us picked up our newspapers, and we were horrified to see the sight of 10 American sailors on their knees, with their hands on their heads,” Cruz said. “I give you my word, if I am elected President, no serviceman or servicewoman will be forced to be on their knees, and any nation that captures our fighting men will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.”
Oh, c'mon, Senator. This incident happened because two US riverine patrol boats, which specialize in coastal landings, wandered into Iranian territorial waters and at the very worst place imaginable. That is, about 1.5 miles from Farsi Island, which is a major base of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)----the very reactionary force in Iranian politics that wants to sabotage the nuke deal and stop normalization of relations with the US no less than do Washington's neocons.
So if someone needed to be called on the carpet by the GOP debaters, it should have been General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The lapse of command and control in the instance was inexcusable.
After all, treading on the IRGC's Farsi Island base could be considered the equivalent-----given the debate's geographic setting------of firing on Fort Sumter. No US warships should have been anywhere in the vicinity----especially given that the implementation schedule for dismantling much of Iran's uranium enrichment capacity is starting right now.
But let's cut to the chase. You can't let these clowns off the hook-----and Senator Rubio and Governor Christie are far the worst----on the grounds that this is just election time grandstanding. To the contrary, GOP politicians have become so steeped in defense pork barrel mendacity and the shrill Islamophobia rampant in Imperial Washington that they have become mindless megaphones for the Warfare State.
Now the truth is, statism is statism. You will never stop the Welfare State and the whole Keynesian predicate of interventionist monetary, fiscal and regulatory policy at home if you embrace the Warfare State and its interventionist policies abroad.
And that truth goes beyond the practical reality that in American political governance the inexorable cost of more guns is more butter. Lyndon Johnson lustily embraced that predicate, of course, until it blew up his presidency and sent the US economy into an inflationary tailspin.
But it was Ronald Reagan who proved the axiom. He gave a lot of speeches about small domestic government on the White House side of the Potomac, but was one of history's greatest big spending statists on the Pentagon side of the river. And when push came to shove he always and often gave up his cherished domestic cuts and reforms in order to get money for the Pentagon and legislative authority for his foreign adventures.
I do know that. I negotiated the butter for guns trades that eventually left the Welfare State intact and the Warfare State bloated like never before in peacetime.
Yet my point here is not simply that Reagan tripled that size of the US defense budget based on a totally phony neocon claim that the Soviet Union was on the verge of military superiority and nuclear first strike capacity. In fact, the Evil Empire was already heading for collapse from six decades of communist economics.
Ronald Reagan's real sin was that he swallowed hook, line and sinker what was always a phony threat because he was a statist when it came to the military and the machinery of national security. He believed everything they told him and ignored all that he knew about bureaucratic lies, exaggerations and mission creep in the domestic realm.
Stated differently, Washington has no valid mission to seek full employment and egalitarian redistribution of income at home and no legitimate purpose in acting like the world's policeman and imperial hegemon abroad. Those untoward missions flow from the self-serving machinery of the state because invention of expansionary remits is mostly what state agencies do.
At the heart of the contemporary Warfare State’s mission creep is the misbegotten notion of American exceptionalism and the premise that the world would descend into disorder and war without US “leadership” and “strength”. In fact, that’s mainly what the GOP's jingoistic attack pack talked about ad nauseum Thursday evening when they should have been pounding and pounding on the economic disaster minted by Washington and the Fed at home
Christie’s tone was merely the most bombastic:
“We need to rebuild our military, and this President has let it diminish to a point where tin pot dictators like the mullahs in Iran are taking our Navy ships,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said. “It is disgraceful, and in a Christie Administration, they would know much, much better than to do that.”
Now how does a pot-bellied governor who is stunningly ignorant about foreign policy come to such blood-thirsty rhetoric about a minor incident that was our fault, not the mullahs? Well, it happened by virtue of the fact that he has been feed a diet-----and apparently an ample one at that----of the neocon interventionist catechism that is statist through and through.
Where in the world did Washington get the right to pursue “regime change” when not one of the targets------not Khadafy, Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs, Yemen----had ever posed even an iota of threat to the physical safety and security of citizens anywhere in America?
What dog do we have in the hunt in Syria---which is an ancient quarrel between Sunni and Shiite------or in Yemen, which is exactly the same? Did we not learn anything from the destruction of Saddam’s secularist Baathist regime in Iraq, which unleashed a bloody Shiite/Sunni civil war that gave birth to the madness of ISIS?
Has not any semblance of a civilized state and viable economy disappeared entirely after 14 years of US military mayhem in Afghanistan? Pray tell, did the McCain/Lindsay/Rubio wing of the Senate GOP interventionist camp accomplish anything by cheering on Obama and Hillary in their Libya bombing campaign except to generate a barbaric hell on the parched deserts of North Africa?
As to the Iranians, these GOP blowhards seem to have no clue that the National Intelligence Estimates since 2007 have concluded that Iran had no program to weaponize nukes since a small research program was abandoned in 2003------a conclusion that has now been verified by the IAEA pursuant to the new agreement.
Indeed, the breakthrough on the nuke deal is the most constructive step for peace in decades, but the boy Senator from Florida, who apparently still likes to play with guns, promised to tear it up on day one in the White House.
Or have these armchair warriors bothered to notice that the only boots on the ground that are ever going to contain the menace of the Islamic state is its indigenous natural enemy. That is, the Shiite crescent-----Iran, Baghdad, Damascus and Hezbollah. And that if they were welcomed to the battle, Islamic State’s days would be numbered and the citizens of Lincoln NE and Rochester NY would be far more secure.
But the problem Thursday night was not just the bombastic rhetoric; it was that they spent the whole night castigating Obama for the one area where he has made progress against the Washington leviathan------rolling back the American imperium abroad----while letting him off nearly scot free on the massive fiscal, regulatory and Obamacare/Welfare State expansion that he has presided over at home.
What was especially deplorable was the endless rant from all seven of the podiums about Obama’s alleged “weakness” and the purported decline of US military capacity.
Give me a break! The defense budget this year-----sequester and all----will exceed $600 billion, and in real terms (2015 $) is still far larger than the $400 billion that the great Dwight Eisenhower thought was enough to contain the Soviet Union during it heyday.
Folks, please understand what all this bashing of Obama’s “weakness” is really all about. It’s simply a modern day version of the Big Government imperialism that goes all the way back to the power mad expostulations of Teddy Roosevelt.
In fact, most of what the GOP candidates had to say was as pointless as TR's famously staged charge up San Juan Hill. President Obama was just as right about the ISIS enemy this time: it was originally just a JV team of ragheads on the back of Toyota pick-ups.
The Islamic State has been able to conquer the impoverished, dusty villages of the Upper Euphrates and the mostly war demolished remnants of Western Iraq for one reason alone. Namely, after destroying the Iraqi State, Washington foolishly left behind the best 21st century weapons that the Pentagon possessed with "allies" who had altogether different sectarian agendas.
In the end, the debate amounted to one long brawl over who could best implement General Curtis Lemay's injunction to bomb them back to the stone age. But besides the frightful loss of life and treasure implied by their bombast, there is another thing guaranteed.
Will any GOP administration that needs to allocate massive new resources to the bloated $600 billion defense budget we already have in order to carry out their strenuous interventionist objectives abroad be able to repeal Obamacare, balance the budget, reform and curtail the big entitlements or bring the Fed to heel?
Not in this lifetime. Ronald Reagan already proved that much.