Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Its a shrivelled, selfish dream

'The founders envisioned a federal government constitutionally limited to defending our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For that to happen, we must have at least one political party that strongly advocates limiting the power of government. For much of the 19th century, that party was the Democrats. For the early part of the 20th century and from the early 1960s through 1988, that party was the Republicans.'

So far, so Tea Party.

'Today, it is difficult to find noninterventionists in either party.' Here an ambivalance starts to emerge. What kind of non-intervention are we talking about? Non-intervention in American lives, or non-intervention in the lives of say, Iraqis?

'The Democrats demonstrate a disdain for capitalism, free trade and the validity of contracts. They cheer the restriction of certain types of speech on campus and in federal law, and think nation-building is our moral obligation, even when there is no discernible U.S. interest involved.'

So we're ticking along, pointing out the obviously true, and then we get to the last point, about nation-building. Democrats are for nation-building? Overseas? Outside US borders? Where is a single piece of evidence to support that? The Clinton era was notable for its almost complete lack of interest in the world outside US borders. Rwandans sought intervention in vain, as did a series of Balkans and Kosovans (until it was too late and then without ground troops). Somalia had a teeny tiny intervention which disappeared as soon as there was a bit of cordite smoke. Africa was by and large left to itself. George W Bush sent ten times as much development aid to Africa as Clinton. Ask Bono or Bob Geldof.

At this point, I have to wonder why this critique would pursue such an odd (and counter-factual) line of argument.

'Lately, the Democrats have been popularly associated with principled opposition to waging war in far-flung corners of the globe. But evidence on the ground today tells a somewhat different tale.'

Principled opposition? At the beginning, from 2002 until well into 2004, 99% of Democrat politicians, especially the senior ones, were on the record as supporting the intervention. Principled opposition my arse. But what is interesting here is that first Mr Crane accuses the Democrats of being blanket nation-builders, refusing to only build only those nations which are in Americas selfish interest. And then he goes on to imply that Iraq was NOT a war in American self-interest. Really? Strategic middle-eastern country with bags of oil, which America needs...

'As for the GOP, it has outwardly abandoned the limited-government principles of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Little other evidence is needed than the Medicare prescription drug benefit -- with its $13-trillion unfunded liability -- passed with a strong-arm campaign by the Bush White House and a Republican congressional majority.'

Yeah, I thought that was stupid and un-conservative too.

'What happened to the Republicans? Well, the two Bush presidencies didn't help. Neither did the supply-side movement, focused on tax cuts and economic growth. Supporters of those ideas didn't talk about spending cuts, much less the proper role of government. They had the effect of replacing "liberty" as the motivating force behind the GOP with "growth," a somewhat less-inspiring ideal.'

'But perhaps most pernicious has been the role played by the neoconservatives. The late William F. Buckley used his conservative flagship publication, National Review, to make anti-communism the litmus test for joining the conservative movement. Dealing with the Soviets during the Cold War was clearly an important task, but it should not have opened the door of the limited-government movement to the neoconservatives, who are now -- and always have been -- advocates of big government. With the neocon foot in the policymaking door after the Cold War ended, the drumbeat for war in Iraq began in earnest a decade before 9/11.'

I hope this guy is kidding. A decade before 9/11 a huge US/UK/International army was swanning around in southern Iraq. Or had he forgotten? It wasn't just some backroom drumbeat! And then because George Bush the first and Colin Powell were temperamentally non-inteventionists (exactly the opposite of the point this chap is making) they decided that rather than eliminate Saddam Hussein they would leave him in power as a lame duck. That worked out well.

There is a name for the political view advanced by Mr Crane- splendid isolationism. America would sit unmoved and impervious behind its massively fortified borders and glower at the rest of the world, daring it to make its move. All I can say about it, is that I'm happy that there are such a tiny number of Americans with that opinion. It is shrivelled and myopic and unworthy of a great and free nation.

There is absolutely nothing contradictory about wanting small government and maximum liberty for Americans at home, and working to free other peoples around the world from criminal and tyrannical governments or oligarchies so they can have the same liberties. To my knowledge, there is no prescription for a particular American foreign policy in the founding documents of the United States. If an American Presidential candidate campaigns to pursue a foreign policy committed to freeing peoples from dictatorial government, and is elected, there is nothing in the constitution preventing him or her from doing that.

'Republicans should take this opportunity to return to their traditional noninterventionist roots and throw their neoconservative wing under the bus. The Republicans have a chance at this moment to reclaim the mantle of the party of nonintervention -- in your healthcare, in your wallet and in the affairs of other nations.'

An America which did not intervene in the affairs of other nations would today be looking out on a world dominated by murderous fascist empires. If you think thats fine, join Mr Crane and his Cato institute. If you think that defeating evil regimes is both necessary and morally right, you'll just have to ignore him.,0,277258.story

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