Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's Conservative About War?

Ronald Reagan is said to have unified the three branches of conservatives: social, fiscal, and national security. At the core of conservatism is the philosophy is that human beings, when left alone, are quite capable of achieving greatness and handling their own problems. Conservative philosophy states each individual can and should make decisions for themselves, particularly regarding their own beliefs and behaviors. Pursuant to this end, conservative activism acts on behalf of ideas and causes that perpetuate long-term success and happiness of society, such as individual choice, strong families, thrift, and government non-intervention.

Social conservatism is rooted in the idea that many traditions are good and foster happy and stable society. Studies upon studies show the value of being raised in and living in a traditional family and the devastating effects of not in areas ranging from mental health, life longevity, crime, to economics. As anyone who pays attention to the news at all knows, the benefits of being fiscally conservative and the pitfalls of being otherwise are stunningly apparent. Without delving into the details of the nation's financial problems to illustrate this point, think of the people you know and even have seen on TV. Financial success is not about income - Mike Tyson earned hundreds of millions in his career and yet is broke. A retired couple with whom I'm familiar, the Bowens, have made a nice life for themselves: they own two homes outright and have plenty of money to travel at their leisure. The husband worked for the phone company and the wife worked as a nurse after the kids left home. Being conservative with money, which can be boiled down to earning interest and not paying it, has obvious positive effects.

But what of the so-called national-security conservatism? Advocates of this belief system, sometimes known as hawks, call for huge military expenditures with vast personnel requirements, incredibly expensive equipment payouts, and involvement of our troops in countless conflicts abroad which may or may not have anything to do with us. Defense consumes a third of our national "budget", but does this number include the actual amount spent in "discretionary spending" and "supplementary funding"? Can one reasonably simultaneously call for fiscal restraint and yet conduct two trillion-dollar wars which are being paid for in the form of debt, especially to an increasingly suspect country like China?

The most recent Iraq invasion was disingenuously called "Operation Iraqi Freedom," the blackest of black comedy. CIA was in full CYA mode after September 11th, providing even more bad intelligence. But the main intelligence failure belonged to the Bush administration and Congress (including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton). Everyone acknowledged that any sort of nuclear threat was not viable, though President Bush did reference it in his bill of goods. So the question remained: even if the Iraqis actually did have WMDs, how would it actually affect us? Rumsfeld's own report in 1998 detailed that Hussein had no long-range missile capabilities and extremely weak mid-range missile capabilities. As far as the logic of "what if the chemical and other weapons were put in the hands of the terrorists," one could question the necessity of it. Which weapons were used on 9/11? Box-cutters. What more damage could a terrorist do with serin gas than he could with an 18-wheeler? If the purpose of the Iraq war was actually about "liberating the Iraqi people," is this not forcing our beliefs and political systems on other people? How is that conservative? And if Iraq, why not Cuba 90 miles south of us, where our soldiers could be home by dinner time? There is nothing conservative in pre-emptively invading a sovereign nation, not to "free" it, not to force a political system on it, and certainly not to pursue spurious intelligence which wouldn't have mattered even if it was true.

The only true conservative war is one of defense, defense of our territory, people, and allies. Spending trillions of dollars the country doesn't have and racking up a debt to our potential enemies not only completely contradicts fiscal conservatism, it undermines our national security, the supposed motivation for these engagements.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lost the Battle, Winning the War?

The New York Times is mortgaging its own building to the tune of $250 million after trimming their workforce. The Seattle Times just implemented its own round of cuts. NPR just laid off workers. Air America was bankrupt but was bailed out by investors. The LA Times and Chicago Tribune just both filed bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Glenn Beck just signed huge and lucrative deals for his radio show and a new TV show on Fox News. Led by Fox News, News Corp's cable revenues increased 31% over the last quarter. And finally, Rush Limbaugh just signed a $400 million contract extension.

Is there a pattern discernible here?