Empire or Solvency? The choice before us
(AntiWar.com) -- by Justin Raimondo --
You know something is up when Republicans start taking the lead in questioning our decade-long war in Afghanistan, and, indeed, something is up: a propitious confluence of circumstances and events, the most dramatic of which is the assassination of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces. In hearings held the other day, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) said he thinks the Afghan occupation is no longer justified:
"With al Qaeda largely displaced from the country, but franchised in other locations, Afghanistan does not carry a strategic value that justifies 100,000 American troops and a $100 billion per year cost, especially given current fiscal restraints."
Now that the iconic leader of the jihadists has been put out of commission – and, perhaps just as significantly, a huge treasure trove of material confiscated from his hideaway has been seized — the pressure to fundamentally change our conception of this allegedly "generational" conflict is well nigh irresistible. Sen. Lugar is the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, and has long been the GOP’s point man on overseas matters: for him to make a near-unequivocal case for rapid withdrawal is a sign of the sea change that has occurred in conservative thinking on foreign policy, a shift that has already happened at the grassroots level and is now percolating up through the ranks of the GOP congressional caucus. The death of bin Laden has triggered a turning pointing on the right. Here‘s Larry Kudlow – formerly a reliable neocon, who nonetheless knows something about economics (unlike most of his comrades) – on why we need to get out:
"With the killing of Osama, is the Afghan mission complete? The original post-9/11 goal was to kill bin Laden and wipe out al-Qaeda. Now that we’ve killed bin Laden and dismantled so much of al-Qaeda., do we really need to trudge through an even longer war in Afghanistan? …
"I am no military or foreign-policy expert. But I do know the cost of supporting a corrupt regime like Hamid Karzai’s in terms of blood and treasure. The cost is steep. I speak here as a hawk, not a dove. …
"Thus far, nearly 1,600 U.S. troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan. To me, this is the most tragic part. Of course, I wholeheartedly support our troops. But is this blood really necessary? Are the projected future costs really necessary?
"Again, I ask myself: All this to support Karzai? Isn’t this the sort of nation-building that the late William F. Buckley Jr. opposed? Are American national-security interests really tied up in Afghanistan? Is now not the time to contemplate a much more rapid troop withdrawal from Afghanistan?" [Hat tip: Lewis McCrary]
To answer Kudlow’s last question: not if your military goal is only peripherally and incidentally concerned with fighting "terrorism," and is actually focused on subduing and colonizing [.pdf] the Middle East.
It was, you’ll recall, Team Bush that sunk us deep in the Middle Eastern mire, and Afghanistan wasn’t their first target: Iraq bore the brunt of America’s post-9/11 fury because the neoconservative agenda is focused not on defense but on conquest as the proper goal of US foreign policy: what Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan characterized as "benevolent global hegemony" in their famous foreign policy manifesto. If our own territory should be attacked in the course of this protracted war of conquest, well then, Rome, too, was besieged many times in the early years of the Empire, and them’s the breaks on the road to glory.
Kudlow is an economist with some understanding of the fiscal crisis we face: he sees the choice between empire and solvency and the necessity of making it sooner rather than later. As this sense of urgency gains traction and spreads, from the libertarian and "paleoconservative" precincts in which it has previously flourished, the GOP establishment will be forced to deal with the rising insurgency in their own ranks. A recent CNN poll shows that of the declared Republican candidates for President, Ron Paul – an anti-interventionist of a sort who often makes me look moderate – unveils the new political reality:
"Who does best against Obama? Paul. The congressman from Texas, who also ran as a libertarian candidate for president in 1988 and who is well liked by many in the tea party movement, trails the president by only seven points (52 to 45 percent) in a hypothetical general election showdown. Huckabee trails by eight points, with Romney down 11 points to Obama."
Paul appeals to both hardcore Tea Party types and independents who viscerally distrust the GOP, and this is in large part due to his emphasis – even when he’s talking about economic matters – on the foreign policy factor, what he calls "the Empire" with a quintessentially American hint of disdain for all things imperial. He has spent the last decade or so telling Americans we’re a bankrupt empire, and now that the reality of this has dawned Paul is getting a Strange New Respect. The neocons and professional Paul-haters (or do I repeat myself?) will no doubt focus on the Strangeness aspect of this, but they are living in the past...MORE...LINK