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The Warfare State

Toward Militarism, War, Empire, Caskets, and Bankruptcy

by JACOB G. HORNBERGER

When U.S. intelligence agencies recently surprised the nation with their National Intelligence Estimate announcement that Iran had ceased its nuclear-weapons program several years ago, many people, including ardent supporters of the president, felt that the announcement put to rest any chance of a war against Iran.

Not so fast! After all, did the disintegration of the WMD rationale for invading Iraq dissuade the interventionists from continuing their invasion of Iraq and occupying the country and continuing to kill Iraqis for several years after that?

The incident in the Gulf of Tonkin – excuse me, Gulf of Hormuz – this past week confirms how easy it is for an American ruler to send the entire nation into war, especially given that he is now permitted to ignore the constitutional provision requiring a congressional declaration of war. If the captains of those U.S. battleships and destroyers had blown those Iranian speedboats out of the water, one can already hear Bush and Cheney proclaiming, "We’ve been attacked! We’ve been attacked! The Department of Defense is responding by defending our nation from this attack by bombing Iran. Support the troops. God bless America!"

Question: If China, Iran, and Venezuela sent a fleet of destroyers and battleships into the Gulf of Mexico for joint war games, how would U.S. officials respond? Wouldn’t they go ape?

Question: What’s the point of sending a fleet of warships into the Middle East if it’s not to poke hornets’ nests? Surely, U.S. officials aren’t claiming the Muslims are getting ready to board millions of troops onto tens of thousands of Muslim naval vessels in preparation for an imminent invasion of the United States.

Of course, in the old days, when the president was expected to comply with the Constitution, the president would have to go to Congress, which would decide whether such an incident warranted going to war against a nation. Today, the Decider decides whether to declare war, no matter what the Constitution says. Poking hornets’ nests can play an important role in that process.

Amidst all the political fanfare about "change," if anyone was hoping for a change away from the machismo, militarism, and empire that has held our nation in its grip, last night’s Republican presidential debate confirmed that change isn’t going to come from that direction (Ron Paul excepted, of course).

What was fascinating was watching how conflicted these people are within their own minds. They first point out that yes, America is faced with economic problems. They then point out that it’s all because Washington, D.C., is "broken" and that each of them is the man who can finally fix the nation’s capital. They then say that the U.S. should continue expanding its overseas empire, especially in the Middle East. Of course, no department or agency of the federal government should be abolished.

It’s all just a mishmash of thinking that boils down to this: "Give the power of the welfare-warfare state to me. Put your faith in me."

They just don’t get it – or maybe they do. The problem is not that Washington, D.C., is broken. It’s that their beloved welfare-warfare philosophy is broken and bankrupt in every sense of the term – morally, financially, and economically. The dollar, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, Iraq, immigration, trade, foreign policy, housing, drug war – all broken and bankrupt. After decades of welfare-warfare failure and catastrophe, the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

And all these people can do is summon the ghost of Ronald Reagan and call for "tax cuts," no matter how much the Federal Reserve must continue to debase the dollar to finance the ever-increasing debt to pay the ever-increasing expenses of this federal monstrosity.

One of the weirdest parts of the debate came when they were praising Ronald Reagan’s "defense" buildup, which, they said, brought down the Soviet Union. Yeah, never mind that it was out-of-control government spending that brought down the Soviet Union. That just can’t happen to the U.S. Empire. After all, we’ll just continue borrowing the money from the Chinese communists!

One amusing moment in the debate was when Paul pointed out (I’m paraphrasing): "Let me see if I understand this correctly. You people want to go out and borrow millions of dollars from the Chinese communists in order to give the money to the unelected dictator of Pakistan while you’re continuing to kill people in Iraq for the sake of democracy."

What was amazing was that you could tell from the faces of the other candidates that they didn’t see anything odd about any of that.

If America continues to move in the same direction of militarism, interventionism, war, and welfarism and if all this pushes our nation into a perfect storm of financial, monetary, and economic crises, combined with lots of caskets containing the remains of U.S. soldiers as well as victims of terrorist blowback, Americans will be left with a sad lament: "If only we had listened to the libertarians rather than the welfare-warfare statists who took us down this road."

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.