In what a Washington Post columnist describes as a rout of Rand Paul isolationism, the Senate just voted overwhelmingly to send another $1.5 billion in foreign aid to Egypt.
The House voted 400-20 to impose new sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, two days before Iran’s new president, elected on a pledge to re-engage the West on the nuclear issue, takes his oath.
Do these triumphs of AIPAC and the War Party, of neocons and liberal internationalists, tell us where we are going? Or are they the last hurrahs of the interventionists, as America’s long retreat proceeds apace?
If we take what Richard Nixon called “the long view,” the trend line seems unmistakable. Under President Obama, America has pulled all U.S. forces out of Iraq and has scheduled a full withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
Despite his “red line” in Syria having allegedly been crossed, and the cawing of Hill hawks like Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, Obama seems the very portrait of a reluctant warrior in Syria.
A large majority of Americans, too, want no part of that civil war.
On Iran, the Pentagon seems to concur with Obama, in opposition to a new Mideast war. And as Congress votes new sanctions on Iran and new billions for an Egyptian army that just arrested its elected government, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is laying out scenarios for reducing the size, reach and power of the U.S. military.
“Without the controlling principle that the nation must maintain its objectives and its power in equilibrium, its purposes within its means, and its means equal to its purposes, its commitments related to its resources, and its resources adequate to its commitments, it is impossible to think at all about foreign affairs.” So wrote Walter Lippmann in 1943.
That is our situation today.
During World War II, we were united in defeating Germany and Japan. After the war, we became united on a new foreign policy – containment of communism and a Soviet Empire that had spread from the Elbe River to the Bering Sea. Through great sacrifices we ensured that our resources were adequate to our commitments.
Vietnam shattered the Cold War consensus.
Yet enough of it survived for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to lead the nation and the West to victory.
Bush I then set out to build his “New World Order.” He invaded Panama, drove Iraq out of Kuwait and put U.S. troops into Somalia. The country sent him packing.
After 9/11, Bush II invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and undertook to nation-build in both. The country removed his party from power in both houses of Congress in 2006 and from the presidency in 2008.
George W. was going to “end tyranny in our world.” Enough said.
Obama began the long retreat of American power that proceeds today despite a bellicosity on Capitol Hill redolent of the Cold War.
Today, as government at all levels consumes nearly 40 percent of gross domestic product, as the deficit is growing three times as fast as the GDP, as China continues to grow at four times the U.S. rate, we need to ask ourselves:
What should we fight for? Whom shall we defend? What can we afford in the way of national defense? What must we afford?
Consider America’s alliances, almost all of which date to a Cold War no American under 25 can even remember.
NATO was formed in 1949 to protect Western Europe from a Soviet Bloc and a Soviet Union that disappeared a generation ago.
U.S. treaties with Japan and the Philippines date to the 1950s, when Chairman Mao was exporting communist revolution. Should these treaties now require us to go to war with China to defend disputed islets and rocks in the East and South China Sea?
Our treaty with South Korea dates to a war against the North that ended in a truce 60 years ago. South Korea today has twice the population of the North and 40 times the GDP.
Must we still deploy a U.S. army on the Korean DMZ?
In 1977 we undertook to give $5 billion in annual foreign aid to Israel and Egypt. After 35 years, how long should the United States, whose middle class has not seen a rise in real income since 1977, borrow from China to pay Egyptians and Israelis $5 billion a year not to fight each other?
Through a mindless adherence to policies that date to a long-dead past, America is forfeiting her future.
Through our abandonment of economic patriotism and embrace of globalism, we have run up $10 trillion in trade deficits since Reagan. We have fought two trillion-dollar wars in 12 years.
Every year we go into world financial markets to borrow tens of billions for the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and foreign aid to send to regimes that routinely vote against the us in the United Nations.
Is Rand Paul really the one living in yesterday?