One of the things I've always found most curious about the "war on terror" is how obsessed so many Republicans are with al-Qaeda's psychology. During the Bush administration we were regularly told that insufficient stalwartness on the part of Democrats would "embolden" the terrorists, as though their boldness was really an issue. George W. Bush showed a great concern for demonstrating to terrorists that we were strong and resolute. Understanding their psychology is certainly worthwhile, but the people most interested in it seem to have the most cartoonish ideas about what motivates our enemies. Over at Mother Jones, Siddartha Mananta tells us about Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, soon to be chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and his interesting views about war:
A proponent of that conservative '80s-era maxim "peace through power" and an advocate of detaining terror suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, McKeon recently offered a preview of his committee leadership at a Foreign Policy Initiative symposium. There, he lashed out at the Obama administration's strategy of engagement with countries like Syria and North Korea ("which translated to weakness," he said) and reserved particular scorn for advocates of cutting defense spending—which, he warned, is just the first step toward ceding global ascendancy to China. "When you cut back, when you show weakness, that's when you're exposed and that's when you get into wars," he said.
Really? "When you show weakness ... you get into wars"? Is that what gets the United States into wars?
Come on now -- we're the global hegemon, and we get into wars whenever we damn well please. You may think every one of them was necessary, but the fact is that over the past half-century, the U.S. has gotten into wars with regularity, certainly more than any other country on earth. Every president since Ronald Reagan has had a war or two. Go a couple of years without one and we start getting itchy to invade somebody.
So does McKeon actually think that if we "show weakness," say by cutting defense spending, that the Chinese government will say, "This is our chance. The invasion of the U.S. mainland commences at dawn!"? That they have even the slightest interest in getting into a war with us? That if China outpaces us on the global stage, it's going to be because they spend more than us on their military? That it's weakness that has produced our previous and current wars? That only if we had boosted defense spending a bit more, we would never have ended up invading Panama or Grenada or Iraq or Afghanistan?
I fear he does. This new Congress is going to be loads of fun.
-- Paul Waldman