George Will has a brilliant little riff in the Post today. He has been climbing off the hard-line bandwagon for some time now—he of the one-time French-mocking, Saddam-mongering right-wing standard line; but to his credit, he sees the world as it has become, and doesn’t quite understand why our defense posture remains locked in place. But more than that, Will seems flabbergasted that, after ten years of exhausting and sometimes pointless war, the Republican Party seems determined to throw more national treasure and military might into yet new foolish adventures.
“The U.S. defense budget,” Will explains,
is about 43 percent of the world’s total military spending — more than the combined defense spending of the next 17 nations, many of which are U.S. allies. Are Republicans really going to warn voters that America will be imperiled if the defense budget is cut 8 percent from projections over the next decade? In 2017, defense spending would still be more than that of the next 10 countries combined. Do Republicans think it is premature to withdraw as many as 7,000 troops from Europe two decades after the Soviet Union’s death? About 73,000 will remain, most of them in prosperous, pacific, largely unarmed and utterly unthreatened Germany. Why do so many remain? Since 2001, the United States has waged war in three nations, and some Republicans appear ready to bring the total to five, adding Iran and Syria.
These are excellent questions—not only for Republicans, but also for the present administration. But at least things today remain in some rough sort of balance, even if one wishes for a bolder step away from Bush-era habits. The rhetoric from the GOP now risks going completely out of touch with reality, of committing the United States to a defense posture and a foreign and defense policy that would place it even more at odds with world trends and opinion than the Bush administration. At least then the world could write strategic blunders like Iraq off as unfortunate but understandable overreactions to the attacks of 9/11. Another spate of adventurism won’t be forgiven so easily, and the sober questions of observers like Will need to be put to people who would lead the country more insistently than they have been so far.