It’s traditional at this point for non-Paulites to say that, while broadly sympathetic to his views on individual liberty, they deplore his neo-isolationism on foreign policy. But deploring it is an inadequate response to a faction that is likely to emerge with the second-highest number of delegates at the GOP convention. In the end, Newt represents Newt and Huntsman represents Huntsman, but Ron Paul represents a view of America’s role in the world, and one for which there are more and more takers after a decade of expensive but inconclusive war. President Obama has called for cuts of half a trillion dollars from the military budget. In response, too many of my friends on the right are demanding business as usual — that the Pentagon’s way of doing things must continue in perpetuity. It cannot.
Steyn goes on to talk about why we are not getting enough bang for the buck when it comes to the military and sugguest that it has to do with the idea that, ..."not unreasonably, serving soldiers are weary of unwon wars — of going to war with everything except war aims and strategic clarity."
What can be said of a military superpower who, after a decade of "expensive but inconclusive war" has not much to show for it? Iraq is unraveling before our eyes after our hasty departure; and there is little reason to believe that Afghanistan will do better when we get the hell out of there. Our tails won't be between our legs, but they might as well be.
And this record of "inconclusiveness" hardly began in the last decade (remember the first war in Iraq? Remember the handwringing and mea culpas; the anguishing about civilian casualties; as well as the daily televising of any US military dead? Remember Abu Ghraib (where, incidentally no one was killed--but these days humiliating the enemy and treating them sans dignity is considered far worse than actually killing them)?
I would hazard that the recent video of U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses is a coarser comment on the same psychosis, and the folly of fighting a determined and murderous enemy by distributing to your officers bulk orders of that charlatan’s bestseller Three Cups of Tea. There is a logical progression from three cups of sweet tea to those acts of micturition that the Pentagon would do well to ponder.
I submit that it is this record of "inconclusiveness" and attempting to wage politically correct war that has so many people, including those in the military, who support Ron Paul's candidacy.
Why in the hell do we bother going to war these days if we don't intend to win decisively? Why have all this military might and be afraid of killing the enemy and bringing them to their knees?
I'm not even in the military, yet the rules of engagement that our servicemen and women have to work under; the worry that they have to be so politically correct and nice to those who would ruthlessly cut off their heads or publically humiliate them without a moment's thought, is rather oppressive and completely unreasonable.
Instead our troops are expected to have tea with the Taliban and show some respect to Al Qaeda.
Victor Davis Hanson writing about the micturition outrage, picks up the many paradoxes of the current preferred manner of waging war in these glorious days of progressive enlightment:
The incident, though, reminds us of the contradictions of the American experience since 9/11, warped by both technology and politics. Abu Ghraib, where a few guards humiliated Iraqi prisoners (most of them terrorists with blood on their hands), was rightly condemned as both immoral and harmful to our mission. But it was a product of poor officer command and control at the prison, and no more a reflection of George Bush’s supposedly aberrant ideology than are urinating Marines of Barack Obama’s Afghan policy — and yet Abu Ghraib was often portrayed in the media as the touchstone to the Bush follies and crimes. One of the advantages of Obama as commander-in-chief (one at least) is that we will not see the Taliban corpses on posters throughout Europe and on American campuses as conveying some existential “truth” as we did the Abu Ghraib photos.
We are in an Orwellian situation when the media seems to think that the unfortunate but common dark side of war is somehow a carry-over from the Bush administration, one that now burdens Laureate Obama with responsibilities not of his own making. We’ve seen that assumption repeatedly over the last three years, when war critic Obama campaigned on blasting the Bush anti-terrorism protocols, then decided as president that they were useful and so adopted or expanded them, and then never quite explained to the American people the turn-around, but most certainly felt he was not a fair target for the anti-war fury he had a bit earlier helped to create but which mysteriously vanished in late January 2009.
One final example of the paradox: While we must ensure that urinating on enemy dead is an isolated and one-time occurrence, it seems to me, in terms of flesh and bone, as morally ambiguous or unambiguous as sending a Predator targeted assassination drone — its use expanded sevenfold by Barack Obama — as judge, jury, and executioner, to take out suspected terrorists — and everyone in their general vicinity, in a foreign country that we are not formally at war with. Selective outrage is a dangerous thing....
But selective outrage is one of the hallmarks of our current Administration and its media sycophants. If war is Hell; then unwon wars, like the politically correct kind we have been waging since 9/11 are endless Purgatory.
We all know the cost of war in terms of lives and treasure. But as we are beginning to see, the cost of wars unwon go on and on and on as this last decade has shown us. The slow attrition of human life; the inordinate cost of waging a PC war and the "nation building" that makes our professional soldiers perform all sorts of duties other than soldiering; the lack of accountability by a Congress and several Administrations that won't formally declare war and be done with it; and finally, the lack of ability of the American public to sustain interest in, or committment to, a half-hearted "overseas contingency operation" where "winning" is considered shameful to our PC politicians.
Ron Paul is entirely correct in this, at least: such decisions should be made based on our national interest and for our defense; and if we decide to get in it, then we should be doing our damnded to win it--no apologies.
The cost of wars unwon is far to high in terms of American lives and treasure, to do otherwise.
UPDATE: More from The Corner:
After Vietnam, our politicians demanded that our armed forces be trained to wield the most lethal weapons ever made, with the moral and cultural sensitivity of Peace Corps volunteers. To anyone who knows history, our troops have met this challenge with overwhelming and unprecedented success — as our real record in Iraq and Afghanistan attests.
But it has left our military trapped in a strange double bind, one reflected in the furor over this video. If Somalis drag our dead through the streets or Iraqi insurgents dismember captured Marines or the Taliban gang-rape and mutilate women to enforce their vicious version of sharia law, the media treat it as irrelevant to understanding who we are fighting, or why. They even suppress those stories and images — such as the beheadings of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg. Their grounds for that censorship is that such reporting might “inflame hatred” — in other words, make us fight harder.
On the other hand, if an American warrior oversteps civilized bounds, his behavior becomes proof that our mission is a moral failure and no longer deserving of support.