Friday, April 09, 2004

Plots Hatched in the Rec Room

Back in the run up to the Second Iraqi War, the loudest voices raised in opposition to our invasion were the usual radicals. ANSWER, et. al., however, were hardly representative of the bulk of the people I met at rallies and marches last year. The really angry people were the moderates. Unlike the eternal left, which has long since grown comfortable playing the algae to the right-wing fungus in the lichen of symbolic politics, we wanted something to actually happen, which is to say, we weren’t calling for an impossible revolution or expecting perpetual peace on Earth. We just wanted our country to act responsibly in world affairs or, if honorable behavior were out of the question, at least to promote our own self-interest in a rational way by avoiding wars we can neither win nor afford. Ideology didn’t have anything to do with it, and the idealism most in play was not very different than what used to be called prudence.

I challenge anybody to question the impurity of my motives. My skin is white, but O my heart is black. For example, like decent Americans everywhere, I have no principled objection to using military force as an instrument of national policy. Indeed, I think it is a very good idea for the United States to maintain its military preponderance for as long as possible. Unfortunately, to manage this trick, which is not going to be easy in any case in view of the inevitable decline in our economic strength relative to the rest of the world, we should be avoiding everything we’re doing now. If we really want to stay strong, we should be keeping our national finances in order instead of running up a huge debt. We should be avoiding operational military expenditures in order to pay for continual technical research and capital military expenditures. Instead of alienating the world, we should be figuring out how to get our allies to foot a large part of the bill for international activities. We should be spending our money on what’s effective and relatively cheap—an unchallengeable navy and air force—and spending as little as possible on what’s ineffective and hugely expensive—large land armies bogged down fighting insurgencies and science fiction fantasies like that golden dildo, missile defense.

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