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What an incredible miscalculation on the part of the PNAC to assume that a strong United States would be forged from preemptive military strikes, and that military might is the main component for sustained world power in the 21st century. Perhaps the PNAC was working off of the mythology that a strong military built up the United States in the 20th century; however, it was not primarily military power, but economic power, that fueled–and then cemented–the position of the United States as a world power. From overtaking Britain and Germany in manufacturing at the turn of the 20th century to the birth of the mass production industry with Ford and his ilk through World War II, the all-important Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods, and post-war developments through the Cold War and the technological miracle of the end of the century, economics has been the main component of American success. In an increasingly Internet-based world where the word “innovation” is thrown around almost as often as the pejorative “Obamacare”, it is imperative that the US remain an engine of economic growth. The financial crisis has created a climate in which depressing statistic after depressing statistic is ubiquitous and a feeling of hopelessness pervasive.
What is especially frightening is the theme among many Republicans that a supersized military and preemptive strikes against Iran are not to be questioned. According to this view, no “patriotic American” would want to risk the country’s safety and security in such a dangerous world. Never mind that this mentality is akin to a wrecking ball. Ron Paul, the sole dissenter of this view, in the remaining field of Republican presidential contenders, claims that the Russian foray into Afghanistan bankrupted the Soviet Union and helped lead to the USSR’s demise. What he fails to mention, however, is the amount of money Russia spent on excessive military technology and the unsustainable empire it built in an age when colonialism was dying out everywhere else in the world. At this time, the US could better afford to engage in an arms race with the Soviet Union.
If our country is to live up to its credo of “the shining city upon a hill”–another phrase seemingly every Republican contender has invoked since the beginning of the race–then our strategy should be to take meaningful steps to mitigate humanitarian crises around the world. We can start with Syria. Libya provided a good example of how lives can be saved when the world intervenes. The no-fly zone proved indispensable to the Libyan rebels. Now, when Syrian rebels are calling for a no-fly zone, stricter UN action, and a credible set of observers, the US should take these pleas seriously. Without Russian and Chinese support, the UN Security Council is rendered impotent. Does that mean the US should do nothing more than what it already has? No, it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, probably very little will be done in Syria or anywhere else in the next year because it’s a presidential election year. When President Obama is criticized on every aspect of his foreign policy in repeated right wing talking points (even though Obama has been “strong” on most foreign policy initiatives), it is highly unlikely that the White House will do much anywhere else. And the Congress? Congress can’t even pass the simplest of routine domestic bills.
It is disingenuous and dangerous for Republicans to talk about “living within our means”, spending cuts, not nurturing a “dependency society”, and promising things like “bringing foreign aid down to zero”, when the same people will not provide direct assistance to the citizens suffering at home and insist on growing military and all kinds of national security expenditures. The Project for a New American Century model has failed, and has helped bankrupt the United States, aiding in the depletion of one of our country’s greatest assets: our economic success. And this money is not a vague, detached concept. It is due to the hard work and cooperation of generations of Americans, the same people Republicans would like to bleed while insisting on tax cuts for the wealthiest and building up, as Romney terms it, “a military so strong that no one will think to mess with us” (or some rhetoric to that effect). This is all proudly proclaimed and echoed by others not on the stages at debates while claiming that people in genuine need of help–whether that be around the world–or in their own backyards, are not “our problem” and these people (who include the vast majority of American citizens) should take care of themselves.
The United States can adapt right now, and need not succumb to naysayers’ insistence that the golden age of America is over. At the same time, spending exorbitant amounts of money on an aggressive foreign policy and unchecked defense spending while not taking care of US citizens is not a viable–or ethical–path forward. If for no other reason, voting for a Republican for president (and, yes, that includes Ron Paul, who lives in a fantasy world where everyone takes care of the sick by collecting money at church, never mind the fact that not everyone goes to church and even fewer people are either that giving or have the means to care for their neighbors), is an irresponsible and ignorant decision. Imagine a better world.