Keep Your Hands Off My Drone

Neoconservatives go ballistic over Obama's sham defense cuts.

Neoconservatives responded to President Obama's recent proposal for sham defense cuts with a major hissy fit. The Weekly Standard even declared them “morally and strategically unsound.”

Their reaction is hardly surprising given that they have been launching pre-emptive strikes against such "cuts" ever since America’s dire fiscal health became a hot political issue. “A weaker, cheaper military will not solve our financial woes,” wrote three doyens of the neoconservative establishment last October in The Wall Street Journal. “It will, however, make the world a more dangerous place, and will impoverish our future.”

To paraphrase author Mary McCarthy, every word in that statement is false, including “and” and “the.”

Despite much bellyaching about debt and deficits, neoconservatives are upset because President Obama wants to cut $400 billion in the Pentagon’s projected spending through 2023. This means that instead of getting automatic increases in its baseline budget and inflation adjustments, Pentagon will now get “only” the latter.

In a sane world this would be considered lame, not radical, especially since the Pentagon’s core budget has doubled since 9/11. Defense spending constitutes 20 percent of the total federal budget and 64 percent of nondiscretionary spending. The world spends $1.5 trillion on defense annually and America alone accounts for $900 billion of this.

But neoconservatives insist that this is not enough because America is the only country that can keep the world safe. Thus even though America no longer faces the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union, defense spending must continue apace.

This would be a bad argument even in good times, but right now it is positively daft.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the outlook for U.S. debt from stable to negative recently because total government debt now exceeds an eye-popping 70 percent of gross domestic product. American households have lost tens of trillions in wealth, thanks to plummeting home values, investment income and retirement assets.

Asking them to foot the bill to play global cop right now is tantamount to asking someone whose own home is in foreclosure to buy a new security system for their neighbor on their credit card. Only in the alternative universe that neoconservatives inhabit could this not “impoverish our future.”

And will spending to preserve American hegemony even make the world safer? No. America’s guarantees to NATO and Asian allies gives them enough security that they don’t have to worry about it. But it is less than what European and Asian nations would likely acquire if they had to actually fend for themselves. Indeed, even if our allies were poor, which they are not, they could afford to spend far more on their own individual security than the U.S. does or could. In effect, then, with America Inc. providing global security, the globe gets less—not more—net security.

If neocons are unfazed by this fact, it’s because ultimately the purpose of their foreign policy is less to counter existential threats and more to provide existential meaning. A robust defense capable of supporting an interventionist foreign policy, they believe, would give Americans a sense of common purpose that a hyper- individualistic liberal society erodes. Their hope is that if America uses its power to remake the world around the ideals of freedom, democracy and apple pie, then Americans will feel a renewed pride in their own values, something that is essential for the long-term health of the polity. As prominent neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan once wrote, “The remoralization of America at home ultimately requires a remoralization of American foreign policy.”

This is a rather bizarre outlook. Indeed, if the cure for the meaninglessness that liberal democracy breeds is turning other countries into liberal democracies, then what are these new liberal democracies going to do when they experience a loss of meaning? Invade other countries? What happens if neocons actually succeed in making every country a liberal democracy? Where will we all look for meaning then? Other planets?

But of course too much success is not America’s problem right now. Nation-building is an extremely difficult task that America is particularly bad at as Afghanistan and Iraq amply prove. If anything, such forays have produced not a boost—but a loss—of national self-confidence.

In the fight over ObamaCare, neoconservatives argued—correctly—against a government takeover of our health-care system because the government can’t run it well. But how can a government that can’t run its own health-care system run entire nations?

The prudent thing to do would be to cut the country’s defense budget as a matter of self-management. Just as it is necessary for an alcoholic to throw out all his beer to avoid temptation, we ought to shrink our arsenal to avoid jumping in when the next intervention opportunity arises.

This doesn’t mean that we have to give up the quest to rally Americans around some common cause. But surely there are better candidates. How about greater American participation in international sports? America’s soccer team could use some love and support. It would certainly be easier to build it up than to build a functioning country—and likely do more to solve our existential crises to boot.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and a columnist at The Daily, America's first iPad newspaper, where this column originally appeared.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Hard to believe that this theater is performed with the full knowledge of both parties that the "debate" is utter bullshit.

  • ||

    I'm pretty cool with anybody who wants to handling my drone. Especially if they're hands are well coated with lube. If you play with drones they can go off.
    I'm not hard on whether a cut or uncut drone is better - we should just use our drones as best we can and leave others to use their drones as they see fit.

  • ||

    All good neocons know that once NPR funding is cut off, the deficit will disappear. No need to touch military spending or farm subsidies.

  • Tim||

    I'm looking for Federal funding for my new art piece : "Piss Pistol" a urine submerged Beretta that exemplifies how poorly we treat our defense contractors.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Chock full of win.

  • Realist||

    Hey those drones can be used to dust crops.

  • A Neocon||

    Outrageous! The only sensible thing we should do with the thousands of missiles and planes we got stocked piled is use them for the greater good! Bomb the village to save the village baby!!

  • A Progressive||

    As long as we're bombing the fuck out of Third World countries for humanitarian purposes, I concur with you 100%.

  • Shorter Progressive||

    It's okay when our guy does it.

  • Shortest Progressive||

    Principles? Nah.

  • Kolohe||

    Welcome, Professor Reich.

  • Tim||

    Not only do we need 15 more aircraft carrier battle gruops, they should be ethanol powered.

  • omg||

    The flight deck should be made of solar panels!

  • ||

    Or solar powered.

  • DJF||

    Feed the sailors beans and run it on methane.

  • Algore||

    Five ethanol powered, five solar powered and five wind powered.

  • Devil Inchoate||

    The case could be made that the US is the biggest threat to global security.

  • Entropy||

    I don't know who the target audience is, but you disservice yourself by dragging lame ass soccer into it.

    It's like the sports equivalent of high speed rail fetishes. WTF?

    It's nothing but a distraction and has nothing to do with your overall argument, but it's apt to set off peacenik commie euroweenie radars.

    It may help with arguing against some left wing interventionism (which they're as hot on as neocons, as long as they're in charge), but with Weekly Standard types it's a sort of cultural touchstone that will cause half of them to tune out. On the grounds of what that vision of a 'remoralized', meaningful America should look like - while arguing with their project of demonstrating US exceptionalism by kicking the crap out of 3rd world dirt piles (which doesn't make a lot of sense) you're bringing up one of the hobby horses of the "we need to be more like them" anti-exceptional crowd, which just won't sell.

    Hell, if re-invading Vietnam is the only way to keep America safe from silly european football I'm ready for round 2.

  • omg||

    I played soccer in my youth and coached soccer during high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But man is it boring as paint to watch.

    The worst part about it is everyone taking dives. If anyone takes a dive in any sport, it should get reviewed after the fact by a neutral panel. If they determine the guy was faking he should get an automatic lifetime ban from the game.

  • Sudden||

    Taking dives is pretty much the norm for the pussy Italian leagues, but the northern Euros play a pretty clean game.

  • Sudden||

    Oddly missing from the Neocon rebuttal to this phantom $400bn cut is a recognition that Paul Ryan's budget proposal calls for a smaller defense budget than Obama's a decade hence.

  • OO||

    any defense cut means you hate isreal & love red china...traitorous scum!

  • The Fringe Economist||

    oBOMBa, oBOMBa, oBOMBa...

  • ||

    I think you mean, It's Obama! It's Obama!

  • ||

    The Rs really just want to cut increased spending under the Ds which is why you hear, "return to 2008 levels". They don't really want to cut their own spending or programs they care about. They make waves about going after public employee unions but I haven't heard one willing to go after the police unions.

    Partisan politics, how the hell does it work.

  • ||

    But, the police are different. They need more protection, because they can get shot in the line of duty. The union gives them protection, which means the union will protect cops from being shot.

  • Gregory Psmith||

    I once read that the military was testing seat to put on a toilet. The cost? $200 a seat. See? This is why I hate shitting, it makes no sense!

  • ||

    Is this a spoof?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    War (ungh, good God y'all) what is it good for?

  • ||

    Corporate welfare - say it again.

  • some guy||

    "American households have lost tens of trillions in wealth, thanks to plummeting home values, investment income and retirement assets."

    Can't really call it "lost" wealth when really it never existed at all. I mean, believing my house is worth 500 kilodollars doesn't make it so.

  • Realist||

    Unless you borrowed against it.

  • ||

    Isn't non-Dod Discretionary spending only like 10% of the overall budget? Will the real fiscal conservatives/limited government advocates please stand up?

  • ||

    Given modern strategic weapons and American tradition, we're always going to need a relatively large standing air force/C3I setup and a navy that can fight basically any other navy and win.

    But ground-pounders? Tactical aviation? Shit-can it in the reserves and have only an act of Congress allow the President to mobilize those assets. The Army kind of 'loses' at the budget table that way, but Army would get tactical air (where it should be anyways).

  • OO||

    the reserves & guard already contain most combat manpower

  • ||

    the reserves & guard already contain most combat manpower

    To Presidential power in current legal context, they may as well be full-timers.

    An idealized American military - in my mind anyways - would be something not unlike the interwar Wiemar German army. They were limited in manpower to I think 100k personnel tops by Versailles Treaty, and in such a Darwinian environment (professionally-speaking) they ended up distilling themselves to the best officer and non-comm corps of WWII for any army. In tactics, weapons, foresight, that bunch was the best; and inadvertently laid a foundation for the Nazis to build their devastating war machine in the future.

    Having a vast and legally-hard-to mobilize cache of non-active personnel and weapons, but with a rapid-deployable, small, very professional and elite Wiemar-type of front-end for active duty would be ideal setup for United States ground-power IMO.

  • ||

    Thank goodness there will be no layoffs of any of the 700,000 civilian federal employees in the DOD! I was worried.

  • ||

    The military, the F.B.I., the CIA and the NSA are all dedicated to keeping us safe, supposedly.

    I have yet to see a real debate on overall security spending and redundancies

    Drone stat analyzers don't agree on what percentage of those killed are innocent, but they all seem to admit that the numbers are fairly high.

  • ||

    Drone stat analyzers

    Robert McNamara would be proud.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    But neoconservatives insist that this is not enough because America is the only country that can keep the world safe. Thus even though America no longer faces the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union, defense spending must continue apace.

    America must be prepared to protect itself from The British Empire Spanish Empire Germans Austrians Japanese Fascists Nazis Soviets Red Chinese Arab Horde!

    Why do you hate America and support our latest enemy du jour?

  • ||

    Having a vast and legally-hard-to mobilize cache of non-active personnel and weapons, but with a rapid-deployable, small, very professional and elite Wiemar-type of front-end for active duty would be ideal setup for United States ground-power IMO.

    That would be President Dean's diktat to the Armed Services.

  • ||

    But how can a government that can’t run its own health-care system run entire nations?

    Including this one.

  • ||

    We can't run entire nations, but we can sure as hell ruin them.

    I agree with some of the earlier commenters: that soccer-gap tangent is going to put a lot of people off the main idea.

  • Saro||

    Proposed alt-text: You look . . . tasty.

  • ||

    The real problem: Trident missile engineer Bob because the Pentagon aims to achieve a disarming first strike capability and wrote First Strike! The Pentagon´s Strategy For Nuclear War and Nuclear Empire (ch. 9 on anti-submarine warfare). Bob Aldridge wrote on the missiles to be deployed on ships in the Black Sea in Bulgaria and in Romania and Poland by 2015: "Whether they are on ships or land, they are still a necessary component for an unanswerable first strike". Minuteman-3 and Trident-2 can hit within 30 meters of the target and that´s enough to destroy a missile silo. According to Professor Paul Rogers the warheads on Minuteman-3 and Trident-2 are designed to minimize nuclear winter effects when used against missile silos. The Russian countermove will be Launch On Warning and Nuclear War may happen because the Pentagon aims to achieve an unanswerable first strike capability.

  • جات العراق||


  • شات العراق||


  • RanDomino||

    If only Libertarians and Progressives could put aside their other disagreements just long enough to go after military funding...

  • oil paintings||

    so good, i like it!!

  • منتديات عرب||

    thnx u man

  • العراق||


  • nike shox||

    is good

  • دردشة العراق||

    thank you


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