rethinking a strong national defense


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

33 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Geez Obama got lambasted for only raising the defense budget by 4% this year. He is trying to cut the F-22 and in a massive uphill fight. The American people eat up the strong defense, must buy more weapons stuff. Until the people start to learn our politicians don’t have a chance. Just about everybody loves themselves a defense job, even those who don’t think government can create jobs or stimulus.Report

  2. Avatar ChrisWWW says:

    Good post.

    Shifting to a non-interventionist foreign policy seems impossible because both major political parties agree that the US has a right – if not responsibility – to police the entire planet and now outer space.

    We’ll need curb the influence of military contractors and the power of exceptionalist rhetoric before we can realistically move either political party in the direction you describe. Or we just wait for budget realities to kick in and limit “defense” spending.


    “I’m less sure now that our sticking around will do much good, but it does strike me as altogether unfair to leave before finishing the job.”
    Shouldn’t we respect the opinion of the Iraqis on this question? We would owe it to them to stay, and since they want us gone, we should leave.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to ChrisWWW says:

      I guess it depends on who you ask. I don’t think all Iraqis are so gung-ho about getting the US out. Maybe that will change if Iraqi security forces can actually do the job. I hope so.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to ChrisWWW says:

      Yeah, what is “our” job? They didn’t hire us and want us out a couple years, or more, ago. There are many things we just can’t do. Or if we were to try to do them, and likely fail, we would have to just say we are staying for 50 years and we going to make the country we want.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to greginak says:

        If you go into a restaurant and break all the plates and tip over all the tables and spill paint all over the floor – well, it sure as hell wasn’t because you were “hired” to do so. And that would be a pretty lame excuse not to clean up after yourself.

        That said, I don’t think we have any business building the nation in our image. We need to make sure there is some stability, security, and functioning infrastructure and then get the hell out.Report

        • Avatar ChrisWWW in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          A better analogy would be going into a restaurant, breaking all the plates and killing the owner’s family. I’m pretty sure the owner wouldn’t want you to stick around, even to clean up.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          I’m all for cleaning up after I trash a restaurant, not that I am personally admitting to anything. But when we talk about “our job” some of that is beyond us. We can and should rebuild the stuff we broke and spend some blood and treasure to help remake the place. But building a civil society and functioning democracy is not in our power.Report

        • Avatar AC in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          If the restaurant in question were yours or mine, I bet we’d just tell the brutes to f-off and grant us the dignity of cleaning up the mess ourselves.

          …and then send them a bill, if they’re honestly concerned and responsible.Report

  3. Avatar willybobo says:

    I’ve tried reading more about neoconservative philosophy in attempts to understand it, but I still can’t square why on the one hand government is supposed to be so ineffective at spending on domestic priorities like health care, education, science and technology, and transportation, yet on the other hand can believed to be prudent and efficient with investing equivalent or greater sums in military science and technology, military education, health care for the military, and the infrastructure of other countries.

    If the DoD is so uncommonly wise as an investor, can’t we simply rotate those experts into Treasury and Transportation and HHS and the like so that they can apply their brilliance? Or is it believed that somehow the nature of military investments are of such different type that they are easy to make and administer while other investments of similar scale are hard to make and administer? If that’s the case, what’s the basis of that belief? Where are the economic data and theory that support such a belief?

    If anyone here can clearly outline the reasoning on this (bonus points for persuasively doing so), I’d love that.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    E.D., dude, you’re right about the nastiness of Bush’s wars to “take democracy to the Middle East.” Nutso time!
    However, if His Holiness gets socialized medicine America’s doomed!
    You won’t have to worry about wars for empire!Report

    • Avatar AC in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      Both the health insurance industry and the military-industrial complex forsake human well-being in favor of boosting their bottom line.

      War and sickness are beneficial to our economy, or so the bottom-liners cynically believe, no matter what they espouse publicly. It’s the perversity at the core of our system.

      I, for one, would like to remove the capitalistic incentive from both of those spheres of our society. No one should get rich off OUR sick people, or profit from war-making. The fact that these two industries are among the heaviest hitters on K Street makes me ill.

      Sorry if “socialized” is such a bad word for you to stomach, but the insane wealth being generated as a direct result of the suffering of American families seems a little less than patriotic to me.Report

      • Avatar AC in reply to AC says:

        Please add the growing prison-industrial complex to the nefarious list of things people now make a profit on. If I get a dollar for the each time you are slapped across the face, what incentive do I have to make it stop? Likely my conscience will prevent me from letting you get beat to hell, but I guarantee that will be several slaps too many for you… Better to not get into the face slapping business altogether.Report

  5. Avatar Dave says:

    Did we just write that conservatism is the only alternative to statism?


  6. Avatar mike farmer says:

    Put me down a as a proponent of non-intervention, and, to go a step further, we need to close, over a period of time where country’s can adjust to the change, all oversea’s military bases. We should build a strong national defense, then mind our business. If a country is in dire need of assistance because of genocide, or some such violent problem, then, if it’s neighbors or the UN can’t help, perhaps private armies could be contracted to help the countries. We are too toxic in the world, so we should remove our military presence and allow private industry to concentrate on free trade — if attacked we should respond with appropriate force, if we know who to attack, but make it clear, that we will not linger and build after the attack.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to mike farmer says:

      Hmmm. I’m with you to a degree – I’m not sure about 100% of our bases though. And I’m definitely wary of mercenaries. That sort of thing has a way of getting way out of hand. Privatizing (and making profitable) war is a bad idea.Report

  7. Avatar mike farmer says:

    More of a bad idea that countires going to war and defense contractors can make billions? I still haven’t gotten oven my anger at the military/industrial complex from the 60s. As soon as we add “private”, it becomes evil — why is that?Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to mike farmer says:

      So you gather from my position on foreign policy that it wasn’t until we added the word “private” that such operations became wrong? I think I’m pretty explicitly against private and government military actions of the non-defensive kind. And I hardly see how privately contracted mercenaries wouldn’t be a part of said military/industrial complex….Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to mike farmer says:

      When things are done for profit, there is a strong incentive to do more of those things that create profit. War isn’t good for people and we are better off without another motive for it.Report

      • Avatar mike farmer in reply to greginak says:

        So, you think a private military force that could be contracted to help protect groups from being wiped out help in third world countries would go around starting wars so they could get paid? I’m thinking of some type of NGO that also helps with food aid and development and such, with small armed force division to help in situations like I mentioned — the UN could contrat with them to keep countries like the US from getting politically involved.Report

        • I butchered that, but hopefully it can be understood.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to mike farmer says:

          If the UN is paying and ordering then you have all the big countries pushing it or at least going along. That injects the politics right there. If you are talking about some guards to protect food shipments that might work although there would be huge questions about accountability, discipline and follow through. A force big enough to stop a genocide, like in Rwanda, is going to be in the thousands and need armor, transpo and air support. But if it is just guards then that does not seem like a big deal.Report

        • Avatar angulimala in reply to mike farmer says:

          A private military force that had the power to protect groups would also have the power to prey on those same groups.

          I think we should respect the fact that predatory behavior is the NORM with private military forces and non-predatory behavior is the rare exception.Report

  8. Avatar mike farmer says:

    I also don’t know why we need to have military bases in countries that should be defending themselves. The “threat” to the US from overseas is greatly exaggerated. What country is a threat? I’m not talking an isolated attack, but a threat to the existence of the US.Report

  9. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    E.D. you are wrongwrongwrong.
    Please watch this and then write something intelligent.
    By definition, “intelligent ” means leave the words Mark Levin and RS McCain OUT of it.Report

  10. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    When I watched that….I was horrified by what Dr. Kilcullen said about the Iraqi civilian population sustaining a 9/11 every week. They have a tenth of our population.
    Even less now I guess.

  11. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Dr. Kilcullen talks about a moral imperative, a moral obligation.
    Where do the neocons stand on that?Report

  12. Avatar Kyle says:

    As I continue catch up day, this is really interesting.

    I think there’s a point at which Western pro-activeness is supremely counter-productive to shaping the world in which we want to live. For lack of a better expression, I think we really need to just let some countries go. Figure things out at their own pace, discover liberalism within their own traditions.

    Then again, we can’t exist in a bubble. Our existence, our media, our technological capabilities give new tools to the powerful, entrenched interests. (see China & Iran) America was created as something revolutionary and new. Democratic Africa was created in the mold of something alien, and in many places, simply didn’t take.

    (thinking aloud here) So where can we find balance? What should we do or not do to better effect positive change not just in the world today but down the road.

    These are the questions we needed to discuss and ask before Iraq. They’re even more important now.

    A final consideration, our country, indeed Western civilization itself is surprisingly fragile and I have no doubt in my mind that we’re not attacked more often, we don’t have violent episodes more often, not because we don’t have enemies but because those who protect us are secretly pro-active.

    Some of the cities that have made such strides in crime prevention and lowering crime rates are the ones that really do pro-actively look to stop crime before it happens, rather than simply responding to it after fact. So, I’m reticent to fully support shrinking our global military footprint on the basis that it might very well lead to more attacks and not just on Americans.Report

  13. Avatar matt says:

    …I find myself truly befuddled by the apparent twin-personalities of the man who is Mark Levin…

    This might be too snarky/cynical, but I imagine a significant reason is that writing wonky articles for the American Thinker probably doesn’t pay the billz as well as being a crazy talk radio guy.Report