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Chapter 30: National Security & U.S. Military Might

August 29, 2012

“The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty—not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people.” —U.S. Representative Ron Paul

 “A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.” —Texas Guinan, American saloon keeper and actress

 What’s wrong with our

national security policies

  • The world is becoming more dangerous. While we hope for—and should continue to work toward—world peace, we should remember that the world has always suffered from conflict. We have always had ignorance, religious and racial intolerance, and ruthless dictators. Now we also have frighteningly powerful and sophisticated weaponry—and it appears unlikely that we will be able to keep these weapons out of the hands of terrorists and other maniacs. This is especially true because our own energy dependence results in us providing funding for many of those terrorist groups. Cyber-terrorism may be the next huge threat.
  • Policing the entire world? For too long, America has tried to serve as the world’s policeman. We once were known for “speaking softly but carrying a big stick,” but our voice has become shrill, we have become far too quick to use our military might, and we’ve tried to use foreign aid to buy friends or prop up dictators. In too much of the world, we are feared, distrusted, and played for the fool rather than respected.
  • Military aggression. The service of our military forces has always been a source of pride. Our noble history was that we didn’t start wars, but we would rise to the occasion if attacked. In recent years, we’ve been far too willing to be the aggressor in the hope that we can proactively eliminate real or perceived threats. This has come at great cost in loss of lives, casualties for families, diminished prestige around the world, and the financial burden on taxpayers.
  • Either/or thinking. The military-industrial complex has too often dismissed as unpatriotic any effort to restrain military spending: in their minds you are either a “hawk” or you are un-American. This is nonsense. We can and must make intelligent choices that will keep us strong without funding every military request—and our military leaders are entirely capable of making the right choices.
  • Terrorism vs. liberty. The fear of terrorism has caused us to forfeit too many individual liberties at home, to grant far too much power to the government, and to burden our economy with far too much regulation and spending. Because terrorists have occasionally used airplanes, we have made commercial airline travel almost intolerable. Yet even though most terrorists are Arabs, our political correctness prevents us from the racial profiling that could actually make airplane travel far safer—and do it far more efficiently.

How to fix America’s

national security policies

  • Keep a strong military. It is vital that we retain sufficient military power to deter attacks on ourselves and our friends. The concept of “mutually assured destruction” prevented outright war during our standoff with the Soviet Union: each country knew that the other had the power to blow them off the face of the earth. For the foreseeable future, the fear of mutually assured destruction may be the world’s best chance for peace.
  • Make it a tactical military. We can and must make intelligent tactical choices that will keep us strong without funding every request from the Pentagon and its military contractors. If national defense is our mission, it doesn’t mean that we must maintain superiority in every possible weapon. And it wouldn’t be unpatriotic to stop the waste and fraud that claim billions of our tax dollars every year and instead invest some of it in developing the capacity to defend ourselves against the cyber-terrorism attacks that surely lie ahead. If we challenge our military leaders to live within a sensible budget, they are entirely capable of making good choices.
  • Use our technology, not our troops. It’s dumb for us to be fighting wars in the twenty-first century essentially the same way we did in previous centuries. Given our mastery of military technology, there should never again be a need for us to send American ground troops to fight wars outside our own borders. When we feel compelled to help people in another country, we can provide technical support and let them provide the ground troops. Send in the drones, but not the troops!
  • Stop policing the entire world. Even if we could be successful at it, we simply can’t continue to police the entire world. The cost is just too high in terms of human lives and the impact on our struggling economy. America should always do its share, but that shouldn’t include us keeping American troops in over 120 countries.
  • Phase out foreign aid. The best way we can influence the rest of the world is by providing a great example of how freedom, tolerance, and limited government can lead to prosperity. No country spends as much on foreign aid and gets so little in return. We often cause harm by propping up dictators around the world. We can’t pay our own bills. Our addiction to deficit spending is destroying our economy. (See also the “Economics,” “Freedom,” and “Poverty” chapters.)
  • Stop funding terrorism. As explained in the “Energy” chapter, government regulations have made the United States dangerously dependent on foreign oil and vulnerable to foreign governments that don’t share our values. It also means that we are providing funding to terrorists who wish to do us harm, as well as undermining our own economy.
  • Stop our irrational fear of terrorism. Acts of terrorism get a lot of attention because they are so dramatic and so deplorable. The attacks of 9/11 were tragic, but too many Americans—and especially our government—have overreacted. You are more likely to die in an auto accident or from old age than you are from an act of terrorism. So let’s take practical steps to minimize terrorism—including doing a much better job of defending ourselves from cyber terrorism attacks—but let’s not sacrifice our liberty and undermine our economy.
  • Promote liberty worldwide. The United States must promote the importance of individual rights and the separation of church and state—not just democracy—to the rest of the world. This means equal rights for every person but no special privileges for anyone. The best influence we could have on other nations would be to set a good example here at home. (See the “Freedom,” “Democracy,” and “Religion” chapters for more about this point.)

“Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.”—American economist Douglas Casey 

 “Terrorism is the war of the poor. War is the terrorism of the rich.” —American novelist Leon Uris

 “The average taxpayer in Germany or Japan pays less for the defense of his country than the average taxpayer in America pays for the defense of Germany or Japan.” —1984 Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. President David Bergland

 “We need to get out of Afghanistan—even if it entails risks—because we can’t afford to spend $190 million a day to bring its corrupt warlords from the 15th to the 19th century.” —Columnist and author Thomas Friedman

  1. Mike Ruddell permalink

    Fiscally we definitely cannot afford to be the mall cops for the world. There does seem to be a double standard concerning this in the left leaning main stream media. Bush was constantly accused of nation building in the middle east. I cannot argue this a bit, but I have not heard the same outcry when Obama began meddling in Egypt, Libya, etc. The peaceniks at the downtown Prescott square now protest the war, but have no mention of Obama in their protests as the did of Bush during his years (30,000 troop surge authorization under his watch). The hypocrisy is part of the problem, both sides has bankrupted our nation by misusing our military as a security force for corrupt 3rd world countries.


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