What's This "Bush Administration" of Which You Speak?

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I theorized last month that Mitt Romney's presidential campaign appealed to conservatives who wanted to forget the Bush administration ever happened and replace this imploding president with an improved version of GWB. Here comes Romney to prove me right:

After President Bush left office in 1993, the Clinton administration began to dismantle our military, in what some called a peace dividend. They took the dividend, but didn't get the peace. It seems that we had come to believe that war and threats and evil men were gone forever. As Charles Krauthammer observed: we took a holiday from history.

Yes, that's the problem with our modern military: The administration that left town six years ago. Also, not listening enough to Charles Krauthammer. Romney's suggestions:

I propose that we sharply increase our investment in national defense. I want to see at least 100,000 more troops. I want to see us finally make the long overdue investment in equipment, armament, weapon systems, and strategic defense.

He said all this at the George (HW) Bush Presidential Library… George HW Bush being the president who, arms locked with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, started decreasing military expenditures. (Although it took Clinton to drive them below 4 percent of GDP.) George W Bush has a plan to add 60,000 troops, but Romney doesn't mention that. There are some decent proposals buried in the speech, but the idea of growing the army to pre-1993 levels to fight a permanent Terror War deserves a little skepticism.

NEXT: Newt Gingrich = Al Gore?

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  1. As Charles Krauthammer observed: we took a holiday from history.

    Damn. That’s some kind of meta-stupid.

  2. Yeah, and the sad thing is that we would have been better off staying on our holiday.

    9/11 changed everything only because we allowed it to.

  3. There are some decent proposals buried in the speech

    I look forward to reading your forthcoming posts about them.

  4. Wow. A post on HnR in favor of decreased military spending. Now I have to stop saying that there is never a post like that here. Now there is one.

  5. I want to see at least 100,000 more troops.

    Where, pray tell, will we recruit them from?

    I want to see us finally make the long overdue investment in equipment, armament, weapon systems, and strategic defense.

    Didn’t Clinton go on a spending spree for weapons near the end of his term? Hasn’t Bush spent obscene amounts on weapons.

    Oh, fuck it. Let’s just give the defense contractors 10% of GDP and drop the pretense that this is actually about national defense.

  6. How many posts have you noticed that were clamoring for increased military spending?

  7. We’re so used to talking about the Republicans in terms of the war and the Religious Right, we forgot about somebody: Big Business.

    Mitt Romney’s fundraising total was corporate America’s way of saying, “I want my party back.”

  8. poor Romney.

  9. thoreau, jack up pay, though that’s already pretty good with housing benefits.

  10. How many posts have you noticed that were clamoring for increased military spending?

    1. I would no more want a libertarian place to fail to suggest cutting the military from time to time, than I would want it to fail to suggest cutting Social Security from time to time.

    2. And:

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/119504.html

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/118595.html

    (there are more, these were just the first 2 I came across)

  11. I see money making opportunities here. If we can incorporate a green environment into the military and declare War on Global Warming, as Jesus would have done, that should satisfy just about everyone and subsidies to any business affected with either a positive or negative growth outcome.

  12. The pentagon, contractors and most politicians do not want more people in the military. They want more machines. Money in the pockets of troops is of little use to them. They want money going to Grumman, Lockheed and friends. Pork for the politicians and future jobs for the pentagon folks. Over a billion dollars a day on defense and we can’t field an army of 200,000 in Iraq. Republicans are no more interested in national defense than Dems. It is all about the pork and tough talk to the base.

  13. Dave,

    Neither of those even mentions increasing the military budget, and Radley’s post has nothing to do with it at all.

  14. Dave:

    Is this like the fnords? Are there secret statements hidden in those articles that say, “Increase military spending”? Because as far as I can tell, both simply state that the military has a purpose. To a minarchist, the military is the canonical example of appropriate government. I support us having a military; I don’t support us having an extensive retirement welfare system. I support cuts in spending on both as the most realistic outcome (though most military cuts should come from smarter spending, IMO).

  15. Couldn’t we actually make do with 100,000 less troops (and have more money for better defensive weapons) if we told Nato, Japan and Korea to provide for their own defense?

  16. creech,

    If China or North Korea start wars against Japan or South Korea because we left, and there is now rough parity instead of overwhelming American dominance, it’s going to get very expensive for us very quickly.

    Keeping the peace is cheaper than winning a war.

  17. Frankly, military spending is the only government spending I actually agree with – because there’s no feasible way to do it in the private sector. Fighting a war in two different nations and conducting a bunch of Military Operations Other Than War in other nations without an increase in military spending seems completely bizarre to me.

    While I’m open to arguments against whether the U.S. should be doing all of those things all over the planet, I have yet to be convinced that it can be done better or with more regard for human rights by any other nation… Despite what the Chomsky-ites of the world believe.

  18. Yeah, I thought today was going to be weird. I find myself nodding at what joe just posted!

  19. Creech, probably not, being we have accepted (as a country) the “protect the world” doctrine. For you to be correct we would have to abandon that doctrine. That will not happen. Our government want’s to influence the world, by force if necessary. So Romney is on the right track.

  20. Joe, surely you aren’t in favor of having U.S. troops all over the world serving as trip-wires to involve the U.S. in conflicts? I understand you are talking about deterence but who elected us World Cop? Surely, telling South Korea, Japan, and Germany – wealthy countries all – that they have to ramp up their own defenses over, say, the next four years is preferable to having our Legions everywhere?

  21. I propose that we sharply increase our investment in national defense. I want to see at least 100,000 more troops.

    I will not be voting for this man.

  22. creech,

    “Joe, surely you aren’t in favor of having U.S. troops all over the world serving as trip-wires to involve the U.S. in conflicts?”

    Name for me a single example, since we became a global superpower, of a country starting a war when there was a large American military garrison in the area. Has Japan been invaded? Have the Norks crossed the line? Did East Germany try to unify the country by force? Our troops aren’t tripwires, they’re deterrants.

    “Surely, telling South Korea, Japan, and Germany – wealthy countries all – that they have to ramp up their own defenses over, say, the next four years is preferable to having our Legions everywhere?” First of all, we aren’t defending Germany. We’re using it as a staging area. But on the question you’re asking, it would be wonderful if those countries would put up the money necessary to maintain the military superiority our presence provides.

    Nah. Guh. Happen.

  23. The pentagon, contractors and most politicians do not want more people in the military. They want more machines.

    “Wars in the future will be fought by robots – in space, or perhaps on the tops of tall mountains. Your jobs will be clear: to build and maintain those robots.”

  24. I find it indicative that Libertarians are for the gov’t doing a military but not welfare.

    And anyone who thinks that a military can’t be done by the private sector should be hit over the head with any history of the Italian Renaissance.

  25. Having been on active duty since 1984, I’ve paid attention to how well we’re truly “supported” by our civilian leadership. If reduced budgets and reductions in end-strength personnel numbers constitutes “dismantl(ing) our military”, then it started well before Clinton took office — as early as the end of the Reagan administration under SecDef Carlucci, and definitely under SecDef Cheney and Bush I.

  26. I find myself nodding at what joe just posted!

    Its the Weekly Agreement With Joe!

  27. And anyone who thinks that a military can’t be done by the private sector should be hit over the head with any history of the Italian Renaissance.

    Umm, that period of time illustrates why the military shouldn’t be a private sector endeavor.

  28. Military spending at current levels is the least defensible item in the government budget. Pure waste would be an improvement.

  29. Grumpy,

    Not all libertarians are war-socialists

  30. anyone who thinks that a military can’t be done by the private sector should be hit over the head with any history of the Italian Renaissance.

    that’s a hoot

  31. Tripwires are deterents. The presence of U.S. troops, in mass quantities, usually works to deter violence but not always (see Iraq).

    The big question again is: where should the U.S. place large numbers of troops to act as a deterent? Everywhere, like say 100,000 in Darfur? No where, like bring them all back to the U.S. and possessions? What should be the U.S.’s foreign policy and what military resources should be used to back it up?

  32. And anyone who thinks that a military can’t be done by the private sector should be hit over the head with any history of the Italian Renaissance.

    Riiight, back when every well-to-do family, every petty-ante city-state, or worse, the church could buy their own little army to loot, pillage, and settle scores.

    I may be libertarian, but even I’m not that nuts.

  33. It’s a mistake to start from the assumption that Repubublicans are upset with Bush. Polling still shows very solid majorities approve of his performance. It’s the independents and Dems that he’s lost.

  34. Anyone who thinks our military budget isn’t big enough is an idiot. It’s between 35-45%* of global military spending, more than six times larger than #2 and more than #2-20 combined. If we can’t get by with that, then we’re fucking up. Like all government agencies, the military needs to reduce their costs and increase effectiveness.

    * Depending on source and what’s included in the US budget

  35. “Where, pray tell, will we recruit them from?”

    Recruit?

  36. joe, is that you or someone posting under your name? You’ve gone all… sane.

    When you say this, I nod along: “Name for me a single example, since we became a global superpower, of a country starting a war when there was a large American military garrison in the area. Has Japan been invaded? Have the Norks crossed the line? Did East Germany try to unify the country by force? Our troops aren’t tripwires, they’re deterrants.”

    Then when creech responds with Iraq as an example, I can honestly respond to him that Operations Northern & Southern Watch were nothing like an actual deterrent (really more a stop-gap measure during a temporary cessation of ongoing hostilities) than an actual garrison intended to maintain an ongoing peace.

    Actual deterrents don’t find themselves being fired upon and generally dicked with on a regular basis. Under-manned outposts with too big a mission and ONLY the threat of air power or vice versa, ground forces without the support of air power, often get jumped on in this fashion with regularity. That’s usually the result of not having enough firepower to overawe the enemy.

    BTW, I love the Italian Renaissance-era proposed as an example of how to carry out a private-sector military. It gives me a case of the galloping guffaws like few I can remember.

    In response to the link to Hoppe’s private security treatise… I agree with much of his sentiment regarding the drawbacks of collective defense organized as nations. But I find the weakest of his argument to be the bit where attempts the positive argument for defense as a form of insurance…

    It’s just plain weak, with unsupported assumptions (such as the assumption that by some magic there will evolve an insurance company able to provide for defense as effectively as the US military) not to mention that you’ll hardly gain the benefits of an all-volunteer force under the Geico banner!

    In other words, collective national defense strikes me as the most effective of bad solutions. It has galled me for a VERY long time that I can’t come up with a better way, given my politics, but I certainly don’t think Hoppe has come up with a better solution.

    That may make me a “war socialist” in the eyes of some ideological purists, but until they can come up with a sensible solution (and insurance companies aren’t going to cut it), I’ll stick with the system that has produced the most powerful military force in the history of the world, thankyouverymuch.

  37. “Anyone who thinks our military budget isn’t big enough is an idiot.”

    Wow, I guess that applies to me then.

    “It’s between 35-45%* of global military spending, more than six times larger than #2 and more than #2-20 combined. If we can’t get by with that, then we’re fucking up.”

    As a percentage of GDP, though, it’s much smaller than most nations. Funny, that… Wonder why other nations are so frantic to pump more percentage-wise into their militaries? I guess they’re just idiots…

    “Like all government agencies, the military needs to reduce their costs and increase effectiveness.”

    Yeah, that downsizing corporate strategy really works great in the short-term, doesn’t it? But for the long-term it often sucks the corporation into bankruptcy. Why is that, I wonder?

  38. “”Where, pray tell, will we recruit them from?””

    Delta Tau Chi house, Faber College chapter. We just got word from the Dean that they’re eligible.

  39. There’s absolutely nothing the federal government needs to increase spending on. Period.

  40. rob,
    Actually the reason the percent of GDP is higher in other countries is because our per capita GDP is so much higher. The countries we rank higher than are, for the most part, poor nations.* Even if you go on a per capita basis, we’re still the largest in the world. On a per capita basis we’re still 14% higher than Israel which has to worry about being invaded by its neighbors.

    We still spend more as a percentage of GDP than the vast majority of countries. Reducing waste is hardly going to destroy our military. I have a number of former military friends that said simply changing defense contracts from cost plus to simple bids would greatly reduce costs. If we spend multiples over our potential enemy, we don’t need to worry what percentage of our coffers we’re spending, we should already be well ahead of them and maintaining our lead. That’s what the military is for, to defend us and our interests, if it’s sufficient to do that, then we don’t need to increase spending. The military isn’t a dick waving contest based on what percentage of our wealth we use.

    Actually, cost reduction doesn’t make companies bankrupt. Corporations from GE to Walmart and Microsoft make it a goal to reduce costs as a percentage of revenue. Greater efficiency and maintaining price means increased bottom line growth. Perhaps you’re thinking of companies going down the tubes already that are forced to reduce costs to survive. Of course a disproportionate number will go out of business, they already were. Throwing good money after bad isn’t a winning strategy either, ever hear of a money pit?

    * With the exception of a couple oil rich nations and Israel.

  41. Well, it seems to me that the city-state structure of the Italian Renaissance is what a purely libertarian society would want, correct? After all, it was “civitas sibi princeps”–the “city that governs itself”….isn’t self-government what libertarianism all about?

  42. Maybe a big military is just another Big Government luxury that we can afford, like Medicare and the EPA.

  43. Well, it seems to me that the city-state structure of the Italian Renaissance is what a purely libertarian society would want, correct? After all, it was “civitas sibi princeps”–the “city that governs itself”….isn’t self-government what libertarianism all about?

    Try doing a little research on what libertarians and classical liberals in general mean by “self-government”.

  44. Looks as though this thread has played out, but I’ll post this anyway.

    As a percent of our GDP, US spending on our military is down to about 4%, the lowest it’s been since … ever.
    After the revelations about the $500 toilet seats and $30 washers, the military cleaned up its wasteful ways. Since then, we’ve been marginally funded to the point where we have to leave important programs unfunded so we can fly the planes, float the boats and drive the tanks to ensure we’re trained and ready to meet the next foe. Heck, this year, the AF Chief of Staff is cutting 40,000 Airmen so we can modernize and recapitalize the force. Congress wouldn’t provide the funding needed, so he decided we’d pay for the F-22 with personnel cuts. Sounds Draconian, but what choice is he left with?

  45. Putting the current state of the military at the feet of the Clinton administration is a stupid argument. Saying that we ignored a lot of stuff that we shouldn’t have ignored during the Clinton years is not.

  46. Joe’s point is correct (can’t believe I said it).
    Having the US in place changes the stakes immediately. The gamble is no longer whether the US will become involved, it will be involved the moment they (North Korea/East Germany/the USSR being good Cold War examples) act.Saddam would not have gone into Kuwait had we already had a presence there. He gambled that we wouldn’t do anything about it.

    Now, someone please parody my argument by saying that I’m advocating American soldiers in every nation on the planet, which will then prevent anything from ever happening.

  47. Military alliances can be a source of instability as well as stability, by esclating minor conflicts into major ones. That’s basically the story of WWI. And it could happen again – consider the possible consequences of a commitment to defend Taiwan, for example.

  48. I don’t buy the “tripwire” argument for US troops in N Korea, Japan.

    We don’t need to be garrisoned in countries for us to get involved. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait proved that.

    ROK, Japan won’t be overrun without us there.

  49. Maybe a big military is just another Big Government luxury that we can afford, like Medicare and the EPA.

    RCD wins the thd. You let us keep our military, we’ll let you keep your social spending. You let us keep our social spending, we will let you keep your military. That is why federal spending always goes up no matter which party is in charge. This is the dynamic that too many libertarians succumb to and it kills any real hope of shrinking the government.

    The libertarian dynamic is that the military and social spending both need to be taken. Not every last bit, but for the most part.

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