From the folks who brought us the spurious decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are now hearing the same jingoistic arguments goading us to go to war with Iran. Each of the Republican candidates for president has made statements which portend aggressive action should they be elected. Romney recently stated: “As president… I will be just as ready to engage our military might”. Santorum promised to place "multiple aircraft carriers and warships at Iran's door."
Gingrich was the most vocal. In an interview on Fox News' Hannity program, Gingrich said the Israeli's shouldn't give the U.S. prior notice should they decide to conduct a military strike against Iran. "If I were the Israelis, I wouldn't give this administration one minute's notice, because someone will leak it”. The former House speaker also criticized President Obama for his foreign policy decisions in the Middle East, implying that the president practices a policy of “appeasement and softness”. Possibly, all three are just playing to their base, but America cannot rely on their judgments for several reasons.
First among these is the fact that none of the candidates has had any foreign policy experience whatsoever; and an even more telling fact is that none –not one of the candidates ever served in the military. They all managed to assiduously avoid a draft and/or military service despite being eligible during several wars. Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, (all these except Ron Paul) have been aggressively hawkish, but failed to serve. Moreover, equally vocal are Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner; and right wing talk show hosts ( Hannity, Limbaugh, and O’Reilly) – again none of whom had military service. As a further stroke of irony, the only one who did serve (Ron Paul was a Flight Surgeon), is also the only one urging caution on going to war.
Again, from the folks that brought us Iraq and Afghanistan, there is absolutely no discussion on how we would pay for another war. These are the same politicians excoriating Obama for the deficits they created, and now would blithely lead us into another conflict without any plan for paying. The Iraq war cost us about $140 Billion per year; and Afghanistan is still costing us a similar amount. No wonder we are now facing a massive deficit – the Bush administration rang up these huge expenditures while at the same time cutting taxes. Never, in the history of our nation has such a dichotomy taken place. Indeed, during WWII, the top tax rate for the highest income tier ($200,000) was a whopping 94%, and capital gains taxes were 25%. Amazingly, few complained.
The fact that those urging us to war have no military or foreign policy experience is an irony. The fact that they have also not provided us with a plan to pay for such a war, is fiscal irresponsibility. But the most egregious failure of the hawks is the human one: who will fight these wars?
Since we invaded Iraq, and entered Afghanistan, it is estimated that 1.6 million troops have served in these two wars – literally ½ of 1% of our nation’s population have carried this entire burden. Most of us are only casually or even remotely involved, merely clucking sadly when reading about the young soldiers who died, in the Obituary Pages. Indeed, this tiny group has not only carried virtually all the pain and suffering; but sadly, thousands have returned for multiple tours, much to the destruction of their families and civilian careers. This small minority of Americans has registered over 4,400 dead, 32,000 severely wounded; and more than 100,000 suffering from serious health problems related to post traumatic stress syndrome. It has to be recognized that these are the very same people we would send back again to fight any conflict with Iran!
The Obama administration has not taken military action (or any options) off the table; but the strategy clearly is diplomacy first – with the sanctions now gaining traction and widespread international agreement. As regards Israel, I believe Obama is unflinchingly supportive and protective of Israel; but he will not permit a third party to lead us into actions antithetical America’s interests. He is employing Teddy Roosevelt’s premise of “talk softly and carry a big stick”. The Republican hawks have reversed that: “talk loudly and later we will see if we have a stick to back our threats”. If we do have one, it will almost certainly not be paid for with a Republican president; and the stick will have to be carried by that small number of Americans already exhausted by 10 years of fighting in the region.
Given all this, no wonder conservatives retain their appetite for war. They don’t fight in them. They (the loudest voices) have not volunteered to participate in them. They have not discussed who would have to fight them. And they don’t even make provisions to pay for them! That is the real “dark side” of jingoistic proclamations about a preemptive war with Iran. And it is a dark side that needs rational dialog instead of sound bites, before we wage more war.