The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
I campaigned for and voted for George McGovern in 1972 when I was 19. His op-ed in the WSJ today shows that he hasn't changed much over the years. Fortunately, I have. His column is a revealing look inside the head of a far left liberal. In it, McGovern has some advice for President Obama.
Here are his primary points with my comments following.
First, he wants all U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by Thanksgiving.
We now spend $12 billion a month on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- two mistaken invasions that have increased violence and terrorism in the Middle East. For a fraction of what we are spending on these badly conceived interventions, we could fund a new GI Bill with full medical care for the tens of thousands of veterans who have lost legs or arms or suffered lasting nerve or brain damage.
Yes, violence and terrorism increased - these are wars. The Civil War and World War 2 were historical events of great violence but they were ultimately determined to have been necessary and successful. Rarely is the cost of not invading Iraq and Afghanistan ever considered or discussed.
The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were not mistakes. We've deposed a despotic, terrorist, war making regime in Iraq. The only regime in recent times besides the Soviet Union to have deployed WMDs. Deployed against its neighbor and against its own people. A regime that was responsible for more than one million deaths, mostly Muslim, over the course of its existence. We can never know what would have happened had we not liberated Iraq. But imagine Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, bitter enemies vying for supremacy in the Middle East. Both armed with nuclear weapons, ready to be used against each other and Israel, with a nuclear armed Israel determined to defend itself. A plausible scenario. Instead, there's now a burgeoning democracy in Iraq, an American ally and a country committed to fighting terrorism. And Iraq has been shown to be a positive model for other Arab/Muslim countries struggling to democratize. This is exemplified by recent elections in Morrocco and Kuwait, where for the first time women, four of them, were elected to parliament. Despite premature rumors of its demise, the Bush Doctrine is alive and well.
In Afghanistan we've displaced al-Queda and their Taliban hosts. Rather than having control of a sovereign nation and the sanctuary and security that comes with it, these groups have been reduced to launching attacks from caves and mountains. By degrading al-Queda in this way, we've crippled its ability to terrorize the U.S. and elsewhere. What's left to do - a well planned, sustained military offensive combined with political outreach will destroy the insurgency, much as it has in Iraq.
But even if you think the liberations of Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn't have been undertaken and weren't worth their cost, wouldn't walking away from either, or both, now be catastrophic? Thanks to the surge, we're in a position to gradually reduce our presence in Iraq. A precipitous withdrawal would allow destabilizing forces to erupt again, resulting in the eventual breakup of the country and chaos. Thankfully, Obama is doing what Bush would have done.
The correct approach to Afghanistan is, again, the Bush approach. An increased committment (surge), and if Obama's able and willing to stay the course, it will lead to the dismantling of the terrorists last safe haven.
The second part of McGovern's prescription for Iraq and Afghanistan shows that he looks at our military as just another receptacle for government largesse. He can't wait to get the soldiers back home to throw some money at them. By all means, let's take care of our veterans but at least wait until they successfully complete their missions.
There is the terrorist danger, but this is not a military problem. Terrorism is a by-product of military weakness. The terrorist has no battleships, bombers, missiles, tanks, organized armies or heavy artillery.
The only significant terrorist attack on the U.S., on Sept. 11, 2001, was carried out by 19 young men from Saudi Arabia and Egypt armed only with boxcutters. They used these devices to intimidate the crews of four airplanes into surrendering control of their planes. The terrorists then suicidally flew the planes into buildings.
This event, which took place nearly a decade ago, dramatized the limitation of a huge military budget in assuring national security.
Modern terrorists don't need the customary weapons of war to inflict catastrophic damage. A successful nuclear, biological, chemical or e-bomb (electromagnetic pulse) attack(s) could cause great devastation. McGovern's is the attitude that gave us 9/11. In NRO, Andrew McCarthy has an excellent piece detailing just how the non-military approach to terrorism failed in the 90s and resulted in disaster. Our military needs (at least) two components - a large traditional one to deter expansionist, powerful nations (China, Russia) and to also to win small wars quickly against lesser nations (Iraq, Afghanistan). We also require smaller, flexible forces to battle insurgencies and conduct guerilla operations. Both the large and small military components are essential to combatting terrorism. As McCarthy relates, treating terrorism as a criminal activity has a bad track record. McGovern gets one thing right. There have been no attacks since 9/11/01, nearly a decade ago. A period in which we've treated acts of terrorism as acts of war.
In his second term, Ronald Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who proposed that the two countries end the Cold War and the arms race. Reagan agreed, and the danger of war between the two nuclear giants has since subsided.
Ooohhh, so that's how the cold war ended. Of all the inanities in his column (and there are several), this is the inaniest. It's what a left wing propagandist (like McGovern) would write for a grade school history text. Gorbachev tells Reagan that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. really should be friends. Reagan says hey, that's a gosh darn good idea, lets. And friends they become. Reagan's massive increases in defense spending, his decision to deploy Pershing intermediate nuclear missiles in Europe, his insistence on developing the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), his labeling the Soviet Union an evil empire, emboldening human rights activists behind the iron curtain, these had nothing to do with Gorbachev's acquiescence.
McGovern also ignores anything that's happened during the past two decades. Russia's imperialist designs on the Baltic states and Eastern (and Western?) Europe have resurfaced. It remains a dangerous, expansionist nuclear power.
As for China, no one any longer fears war with this most-populous, fast-developing country to which we have extended "most favored nation" trading status. It would seem that no nation now threatens us.
China is not our friend. In 2000, China's military budget was $14.6 billion U.S. dollars. In 2009 it's estimated to be over $70 billion. That's a 3800% increase in 9 years. China's been looking to project its military presence in the Pacific. It's been carrying out research into cyber attacks. There are recent allegations that China has been hacking into sensitive government computer systems in the United States and Europe including the Pentagon. The old weather satellite that China destroyed with a missile two years ago was an indirect threat to the the U.S. which is increasingly dependent on GPS satellite technology for military and other purposes. To the extent that China is not yet a major threat to us can be credited to our large defense allotment.
Russia and China have both worked to stymie our efforts at imposing even mild economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea to deter their aggressive nuclear ambitions. McGovern blithely ignores the dangerous game these superpower wannabes are playing.
There are nations that are threats to us and to global peace and stability. Even countries (e.g. - Iran, North Korea, Venezuela) that don't pose existential threats to us, can and do cause economic upheaval, aid terrorists and create instability in their sphere of influence.
...our military budget is higher than ever -- $515 billion annually, not including the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan.
This figure is greater than the combined military budgets of the rest of the world.
Of course it is. We protect the world. We're the only nation able and willing to assume the responsibility to counterbalance tyranny and oppression. If Obama really wants to change the world and if his persuasive powers are half of what they're cracked up to be, he'll convince the Europeans to pull their own weight. They won't because they can't. Their welfare state economies and institutional lethargy prevent them. This is what McGovern proposes that we emulate.
We could defend ourselves with an arms budget half that size ($515 billion). If we directed the $250 billion we could save annually into national health care, improved education, a better environment and restoring our infrastructure, the nation would be more secure, better employed and have a higher standard of life. Or the savings might be used for annual reductions in the national debt.
I don't know if McGovern really believes ths stuff or he's just trying to provoke outrage from the WSJ readership. (I expect a robust response from that sensible cohort). How does he know that halving our defense budget won't seriously hamper our ability to protect ourselves and deter our enemies? Did he perform a thorough analysis? Why half? Why not one-third? Or two-thirds? And eviscerating our military will make us more secure? I don't think so. To be truthful, McGovern doesn't care much about our defense capability. He just wants the money diverted to his laundry list of liberal special interests - health care (price controls on doctors, hospitals, drugs), education (maintain the teacher's unions monopoly), energy (tribute to the environmental lobby) and infrastructure projects (a good idea if the pork could be taken out). This is what attracted me when I was young, naive, ignorant and unthinking. (I still retain three of those qualities but to a somewhat lesser extent, I hope). Money for health care, education, clean air, it just seems like the right thing to do - as long as intentions and not results are the measure of success.
And then, since we haven't yet gotten into the tens of trillions of dollars in government expenditures, McGovern proposes that,
Finally, I would like to see America build the fastest, safest and cleanest-powered railway system in the world. This nationwide system of passenger and freight rail service should be integrated with equally superior public transit facilities in our cities.
Cleanest-powered. You don't mean nuclear do you George? I didn't think so. Blown by the wind perhaps. Sorry George, this is one you're not going to get. The one limitation to the otherwise limitless liberal need to spend other people's money comes when spending hurts a favored constituency. In this case, the Teamsters Union and their trucking industry.
Fortunately, McGovern ran out of space at this point. He could have gone on for pages listing programs that he and his fellow know-it-all comrades insist we need and would like to impose on us.
McGovern has come out surprisingly and forcefully against the union friendly "Employee Free Choice" Act. Good for him. It shows that he has the capacity for sensible thinking. Unfortunately when it comes to prioritizing our foreign policy and domestic needs McGovern reverts to stale leftist dogma. An ideology that is both wasteful and dangerous.
Radical Islamists, dictators, anarchists, communists or any other group seeking global destabilization, war, terrorism, or economic chaos to advance the collapse of Western Civilization could not devise a more effective means to do it than by doing what George McGovern recommends, weakening the one entity - the U.S. military - that deters them.