No, this piece is not about the late columnist and media figure. Rather, I chose the title to set the mood, and take it from an essay by brilliant economist and political historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo.
As William F. Buckley, Jr., the original neocon, declared in 1952, fighting the Cold War meant that “we have got to accept Big Government for the duration,” including “a totalitarian bureaucracy within our own shores” with its “large armies, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards, and the attendant centralization of power in Washington.” How on earth genuine conservatives who favor limited constitutional government came to embrace Buckley as one of their leading spokesmen is a bizarre mystery.
Indeed, Buckley’s rapier wit—that regularly attacked Federal social programs with great aplomb—was AWOL in the wake of pointless military adventures and intelligence extravagances. Why, it must be asked, is it somehow inherently better—nay, completely justified—to spend excessively on these causes, while social program spending is bad? Tax dollars misused are still tax dollars misused, right?
But, there is more here than just overspending, or even decrying dubious foreign adventures. In the case of the Cold War, for example, why was it fought?
The stock answer is that the Ruskies were using their power and influence to dominate the rest of the world, and they had to be stopped or at least controlled. Fair enough, but what intelligence were we getting in those days?
How difficult would it have been to determine that without exception all of the Soviet satellites were in desperate economic shape, antiquated and backward in every way save military prowess? Thus, why not just let the great Soviet experiment implode—as it surely did by 1990? I have little doubt that such intel was coming in, but was suppressed since it didn’t serve the purpose at hand.
The purpose at hand, of course, was to build a giant military/intelligence apparatus, which, irony of ironies, proved utterly useless whenever put to the test. Infamously, it did NOT predict the fall of the Soviet bloc. Yet, as Loren Feldman is wont to say, “It doesn’t mattah.” This apparatus has continued to grow, without a Cold War. In government, nothing succeeds like failure. Please give us more of what didn’t work before.
More than that, the entire Cold War was a complete betrayal of the supposedly sacred cow of American exceptionalism. If America really is the greatest, freest, best, most powerful, etc. country on earth, why should we care about some loser Commies?
Why shouldn’t we focus instead on building our own country, rather than costly “nation building” elsewhere—to the tune of untold billions of dollars? Exactly what is wrong with rational isolationism? Beyond trade and the establishment of some strategic presence, what is the point of “international relations”?
How many wars has diplomacy prevented? Compare that to the number of wars this country was dragged into, supposedly to help our allies, or for the even more vague reason of “national interest.” What was our dog in the fight for World War I? If winning in Vietnam was so important, why were there ruinous rules of engagement that could only lead to a shameful loss?
Sadly, these rules of engagement have only gotten worse. Thus, we have the disastrous double whammy of a lack of mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with rules of engagement that guarantee ineffectiveness. Of course, brave Americans will keep dying—for no reason at all. When was the last time our military was actually defending our direct interests? Except for half-hearted recent efforts against Somali pirates, you probably have to go back more than 100 years.
DiLorenzo and others have noted that deficit spending and central banking assure that citizens will be enslaved, and there is no better way to burn through the national treasure than war.
But changing such institutions may never happen. We can start by voting all the bums out, and questioning the conventional wisdom at every turn.