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Rearranging the Deck Chairs (Again)

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Last Friday, I attended a presentation in Manhattan given by General Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The talk was billed as a presentation of the new strategy and mission for the Pentagon in the 21st century, focusing on both current and future trouble spots. The general should have called his speech "Same sh*t, Different Place." While complaining about the Pentagon's new fiscal reality by sounding like an investment banker bitching about his bonus being smaller, Gen. Dempsey launched into an endorsement of the same interventionist insanity that has us on the brink of bankruptcy. The only discernible difference was the announcement of a venue change. Now content that they have wasted the appropriate amount of tax dollars to f*ck up the Middle East, it appears that the Pentagon wants to shift its debt and destruction show to the Pacific Rim.

Absent from Gen. Dempsey's remarks was any questioning of our government's policy of involving itself everywhere around the globe. After spending $4.4 trillion and losing nearly 5,000 American lives only to have Iraq run by Iranian puppets and Afghanistan controlled by Islamic fundamentalists, one would think that his first question would be whether or not it is a good idea to keep policing the world. However, in typical Washington fashion, the only debate seems to be "Where we are going to try this next?" -- with the thought that "The next time it will be different." Like Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results."

The primary problem with the last 75 years worth of American military adventurism is that the U.S. is never able to achieve a complete victory. In my opinion, a complete victory means that all of the troops come home and our tax dollars stop flowing out of our country and into the conflict zone. Even though World War II officially ended in 1945, you and I are still paying to maintain 55,000 troops in Germany (at 58 separate bases), 40,000 in Japan, and 10,000 in both Italy and Great Britain. Sixty years after the Korean War, we still pay to keep 30,000 troops there. Even after the first Gulf War, the U.S. kept 12,000 troops in Kuwait and 60,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, which provided Osama bin Laden with his primary motivation for the 9/11 attacks. The only conflict of the last 75 years that we aren't still sending money away to is the Vietnam War -- the one we lost. Even in victory, however, the American taxpayer still loses.

Towards the end of his speech, Gen. Dempsey made some remarks about how the U.S. Department of Defense is one of the most effective and efficient in institutions in the world. Immediately afterwards, however, the general all but contradicted himself when talking about China. When asked about whether or not the Chinese increase in military spending -- which is now about 20 percent of ours -- was a matter for concern, Gen. Dempsey said that the Chinese maintain their military completely within their own borders, and, therefore, it did not constitute a direct threat. What a novel approach -- a nation actually using their defense budget to defend their own citizens. Currently, China defends a population five times larger at one-fifth the cost. Or to put it another way, for what we spend to defend one American, the Chinese military defends 25 of its citizens -- not exactly an endorsement of Pentagon efficiency. In keeping with the current trend in American business, maybe Washington should outsource our defense to the Chinese. It would put $960 billion back in our pockets every year. That's an extra $4,000 for every adult American to spend on something else.

The continuation of our current approach is nothing more than sheer lunacy. The 80,000 troops we keep in Western Europe are supposed to defend against an attack by the Soviet Union, which ceased to exist over 20 years ago. We have 30,000 troops in South Korea to supposedly protect it from North Korea, despite the South having an economy 40 times larger than the North. Arguing that South Korea is incapable of defending itself from North Korea is the equivalent of asserting that the United States would be unable to defend itself against Norway.

No one can credibly call themselves a fiscal conservative and a believer in limited government while still supporting our current approach to defense and foreign policy. I often hear many of my fellow Republicans talk about how government is inefficient and doesn't make good decisions when operating here at home. However, these same individuals believe that the same government magically will turn into a well-oiled machine when it moves halfway around the world to places where it doesn't understand the culture or speak the language. By just thinking a change in location, as opposed to a completely new approach, is what our country needs. Gen. Dempsey is doing little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. As far as Republicans and Democrats go, their differences in foreign policy amount to arguing over the bar tab after you've struck an iceberg. Drink up, it's off to the Pacific. Once again, this round is on the American taxpayer.

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