The Cost of the Club

I was reading Glenn Greenwald’s article in The Intercept today, and he makes an interesting point about how support for wars of adventure in the United States do not line up along any principled lines. The lines they tend to track are political party lines.

I have long thought that the fundamental disconnect in the worldview of the United States conservative is trying to square the circle of having both “small government” with “low taxes”, however defined, and a global war-fighting capability. You obviously cannot have both.

But, I realized today that this is also a criticism that could be levied against the United States liberal as well. If you believe that it is the responsibility of the state to provide education, healthcare and so forth, you have to prioritize those things above global war-fighting. The “Third Way”, “Blue Dog” and other, so called “centrists” of the Democratic Party don’t. It’s only on the fringe “far left” where conversation of limiting our military involvements around the world gets some play, and often very little there.

Spending trillions of dollars fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and proxy wars around the globe means that you have to tax to pay for those conflicts. It also means you cannot use that money to provide services to your population.

Fighting wars abroad is a project with bi-partisan support in the United States. Obama started with the rhetoric of getting out and then reversed himself once he got into office. Trump’s declaration that he was going to pull troops from Syria is another example. He made this announcement, and now, it is being walked back by the establishment.

Without a doubt, pulling troops from the Middle East, Africa and Asia lessens the influence of the United States in these countries. It also has real consequences for people living there, such as the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. But, the question is rarely asked about whether the amounts we are spending on global security are appropriate to the goals we aim to achieve.

Often, there are no goals. When a rare stated objective is in the mix, it is never subject to rigorous, open debate factoring in competing values. Instead, it comes down to party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans support their party’s politicians. The only thing they can seem to agree on is war, and the wars, with their spending, continue. Reducing government/taxes or increasing services to the population be damned.

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