Libya vs. the Deficit


    There are two discussions going on in Washington right now, which by all appearances have nothing to do with one another.  One is about how our government is supposedly “broke” and thus we need to slash spending and make massive sacrifices to eliminate the deficit and start paying down the debt.

    The other is about how we need to send our military to a distant land once again, to bomb a country we’ve barely ever had anything to do with, and probably start our third concurrent war in a Muslim land.

    No, these discussions seem to have nothing to do with each other, and yet I’m starting to have a little cognitive dissonance here. If our budget situation is so dire that we have to lay off USDA meat inspectors, stop enforcing the Clean Air Act, eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public workers, kill Amtrak and public broadcasting, etc., etc. — then tell me why it is we still have unlimited money to invade any country we choose, at will?  

    I’ve lost track of how much the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars will end up costing us — is it 1 or 2 trillion dollars at this point? — but this magically seems to have no impact on the deficit. So why not start one or two more wars, since by Washington standards, it’s free?

    Yes, I know, we’re “just” talking about a little no-fly zone, no biggie. (As White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley put it, “Lots of people throw around phrases like no-fly zone. They talk about it as though it’s just a video game.”)  But look back at the history of warfare, and note how many of the longest, bitterest conflicts were supposed to have been short, sweet, easy engagements planned to end quickly.  War is the ultimate demonstration of chaos theory — don’t believe anybody who talks about “surgical” military manuevers.

    It is ironic, if not outright remarkable, how many of precisely the same people are making both the argument about how desperately we need to reduce government spending, and simultaneously, how we need to spend billions — maybe hundreds of billions, maybe trillions, who knows? — invading yet another sovereign nation. I truly wonder if the likes of Mitch McConnell even realizes the contradiction.  (Granted, these guys get gazillions in campaign contributions from defense contractors to help them fail to realize the contradiction…)

    (I have not even gotten into the more profound kind of deficit caused by these “wars of choice” — the deficit of a family where Daddy won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving — or ever — because some politicians wanted to demonstrate their toughness through a so-called “muscular” foreign policy.  These are the deficits that can never be paid off.)

    Everyone talks about starting a mature or “adult” conversation about the deficit, but as long as the entire military establishment is exempt from the discussion, we’re still just burbling baby talk. Look, you want to talk about a tea party, let’s talk about not bankrupting ourselves with yet another major military adventure.  Let’s stick with the more affordable and sustainable approaches of diplomacy, and allow someone else to take the lead on anything that goes boom — the Arab League, the African Union, or the European contingent of NATO — all of whom have more business being in Libya than we do. But keep my tax dollars and our sons and daughters out of it.  

    • normanva

      you could just blame this insanity on some bad acid.  Does anyone even know who the rebels are? These limited escalations can turn into big wars, remember Vietnam, which started as a small war.  America is either in an economic crisis or not in an economic crisis.  If we are in an economic crisis, it is nuts to subsidize the rich by not ending the bush tax cuts for them.  It is nuts to subsidize big companies like Exxon Mobil that are making record profits and paying little to no US taxes. You are so so right Kindler. It is nuts to start more wars.  I have read that we could save 1 trillion over 10 years if we just ended to the 2 wars that we have going on and brought the troops back home.  

    • pontoon

      No more wars and we need to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afhganistan.

    • … but we’ve had a little something to do with them and it’s a bit disrespectful to say we haven’t.

    • …on a number of levels.

      First off, I don’t think that budgetary considerations should be first and foremost when it comes to national security questions. If something’s in our vital national security interest, we should do something about it, and if we need to raise the revenues to pay for it, we should do so transparently through a tax increase. Just like we’ve done in many (most?) of our wars in the past.

      Second, I definitely wouldn’t say that any of the entities you mentioned intrinsically have any more “business being in Libya than we do.” Anyway, the issue isn’t whose “business” it is, the issues are what are U.S. national security – and other, including moral – considerations, and what are the various parties’ capabilities to act if desired.

      Finally, the fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were never paid for should be a lesson we learn from, that if we’re going to engage in military conflicts, they need to be paid for up front and on a continuous basis, that war requires shared sacrifice by the American people, not irresponsible comments about how we should all just “go shopping,” as Bush told the country after 9/11.