« Why Do They Hate Us | Main | Merry Fucking Christmas »

Meaning What You Say

Brad Plumer makes an excellent point over at the Mother Jones blog, regarding recent conservative criticism of Don Rumsfeld and his too-small Army:

The second point is that liberals—and Democrats especially—have said nary a word about the future of the military lately. John Kerry may have been the first to suggest expanding our active-duty forces, but no one's said anything since. So the Democrats not only have fed the perception that they make national security proposals only when they need to look "tough" on the campaign trail, but they've also absented themselves entirely from an important debate.
That's a bit of a problem. To make people take your stances on these things seriously, you need to maintain them with a reasonable degree of consistency. Right now, the Democrats seem to be going through one of their periodic episodes where they abandon the field on national security and hope that the GOP will destroy itself in an orgy of self-immolation. It could happen, but relying on the moderate Republicans to stand up for themselves in the final analysis has never been a good plan. Better to join the battle.

December 20, 2004 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d8345755a269e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Meaning What You Say:

» Republicans and National Security from Political Animal
REPUBLICANS AND NATIONAL SECURITY....Now here's a funny thing. Over at MoJo, Brad Plumer chastises lefties for being AWOL on national security since the election:Liberals — and Democrats especially — have said nary a word about the future of the milita... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 21, 2004 12:06:26 AM

» Attention Deficit Disorder from The Debate Link
A little while back, I wrote a post that argued that Republicans are not the right party to lead us in the War on Terror because their ideological leanings are counterproductive toward defeating the threat we face. Furthermore, the longstanding perce... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 21, 2004 1:47:53 AM

» And Now...Some Good News from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
David Brooks is finding his voice (didn't Safire tell him it would take a year or so?). An excellent op-ed well worth your time. All is not doom and gloom in the Middle East. The President's critics would have... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 21, 2004 7:50:25 AM

» And Now...Some Good News from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
David Brooks is finding his voice (didn't Safire tell him it would take a year or so?). An excellent op-ed well worth your time. All is not doom and gloom in the Middle East. The President's critics would have... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 21, 2004 7:53:41 AM

» And Now...Some Good News from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
David Brooks is finding his voice (didn't Safire tell him it would take a year or so?). An excellent op-ed well worth your time. All is not doom and gloom in the Middle East. The President's critics would have... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 21, 2004 7:57:05 AM

Comments

are the Democrats 'saying a word' about anything ?

Posted by: cleek | Dec 20, 2004 2:56:34 PM

Okay, but the active-duty force is expanding. Read all about it here.

Posted by: praktike | Dec 20, 2004 3:03:24 PM

. . . but no one's said anything since.

Okay. Here's a Democrat saying something about defense. We don't need to expand the army. We just need to quit making them do something stupid like invading countries without provocation or that pose no threat to us.

Otherwise, having the enormous standing army we did during the latter days of the Cold War was nothing but a huge financial drain that provided no strategic advantage.

Posted by: Jeff I | Dec 20, 2004 3:06:52 PM

It's been less than two months since election day, and the military hasn't the topic de jour. An unreasonable complaint.

Posted by: David Weman | Dec 20, 2004 3:17:28 PM

I have no doubt that the military will see largescale increases in funding over the next several years. I have little doubt there will be a draft.

But at what point do People of Intelligence finally recognize and say aloud that this whole debate is fucking insane?

America is borrowing billions of dollars a day to pay for her current domestic and foreign policy commitments. In a few short years, 77 million boomers will begin retiring, and collecting entitlements. The medicare shortfall alone is projected to be at least 50 trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, nearly all of the rest of the world recognizes our foreign policy to be just short of lunatic, and more crucially that America is slowly slouching towards irrelevance. The loud chorus of war-mongering nationalist goons, much like the loud chorus of war-mongering nationalist goons in the closing decades of the British empire, will continue to entangle this country in impossibly expensive neo-imperial adventures while accusing naysaying realists at home of treason, but this will only work for so long...

Al Gore or John Kerry might have delayed, but would not have deterred, the inevitable. Eventually America will have to a) raise taxes by quite a lot b) cut entitlement spending and c) cut military spending. And still America will have a difficult time paying its bills.

Posted by: Green Dem | Dec 20, 2004 3:42:12 PM

Also, check the LA Times. The first step is to be informed.

Posted by: praktike | Dec 20, 2004 4:02:45 PM

Slightly off topic, but pardon me if I'm far from impressed with the parade of Republicans looking to burnish their reasonable, moderate, truth telling reputations at Rumsfeld's expense now that the election is safely over.

Of course, not a peep from any of them back when it might have made a difference. Too bad JFK is dead or he could bring out a new edition of Profiles in Courage and add another chapter for these brave Republicans.

I'm no fan of Rumsfeld and think he should have been fired a long time ago, but it's pretty hypocritical to back Bush to the hilt and then try and throw Rummsfeld under the bus because of his arrogant, out of touch, high-handed response to problems in Iraq.

Posted by: Doug Turnbull | Dec 20, 2004 4:02:57 PM

People are saying mean things about Rummy because their criticism is really meant for President Bush. They don't feel they can attack the Prez so they go for his minion instead. Rummy won't be fired because he is the perfect poison shield.


BTW- WTF have were you last week Matt? The big buzz was liberal Dem Durbin speaking out on the military. Evan Bayh spoke up, too.

"Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin kept up the pressure on Secretary Rumsfeld, criticizing the shortage of armored vehicles in Iraq. "The Pentagon says the lack of protective equipment is a matter of logistics. No it is not. It is a matter of leadership," he says.

Posted by: bakho | Dec 20, 2004 4:05:31 PM

I wouldn't bet on the GOP self-immolating. But there is also a major risk in the Democratic party optimizing its strategy for the post-9/11 climate of mass hysteria that has so far served Bush so well.

Even if the Democrats could beat the GOP at its own game, the hysteria will eventually dissipate (unless there's another major attack of course). This will leave Democrats in the position of betting on continued crisis. Is that where we want to be? Wouldn't we rather have the GOP on that side?

There is something to be said for manuevering into position as the party of normalcy. This doesn't mean abandoning security, since it is normal for any nation to protect its interests. But it does mean that you can count on a less fearful, more skeptical population.

I think that those who want Democrats to be more hawkish are more likely to develop the strategy for winning 2002 and 2004 than the one we are going to need in 2006.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 20, 2004 4:07:27 PM

What would a democratic stand on the military be like?

Standing for "strong defense" is popular with almost every male who fantasises himself as a great warrior. It's popular with people who aspire to military pay and the possibility of double-dipping. It's popular with people who like the idea of america as the world's only superpower, people who want the USA to do some asskicking. It's popular with people who work for (or own stock in) defense industries.

Any stand which sounds like it isn't maximally in favor of a large well-equipped military will be opposed by those constituencies.

Given that, democrats would do well to start some tangent that would tend to satisfy most of those people without actually creating an incentive for expensive bloody foreign invasions.

When I thought for a very little while about that, I noticed I wanted to bring back the idea of the citizen-soldier. We could for example set up a bunch of military robots of various sorts. Intelligent minefields that dig themselves into place, that have sensors of various types so they can estimate their best strategy to slow down enemy movements. There could be tiny cameras so a distant human being could look at what was about to be blown up and use his judgement. Cheap automated machine gun nests surrounded by sensors. Etc. People could monitor them and reprogram them for the times no one is monitoring. Currently things like that would be heavy on sensors and weapons and weak on mobility -- moving takes a lot of energy that isn't easy to collect again. Unpaid volunteers could learn to monitor and program the various weapons, and feel like they were part of the army. The defense industry could make lots of the weapons.

Also we could get a lot of teams training with multiplayer computer games. They wouldn't learn nearly as well as the real troops do, but it would be incomparably cheaper. And the ones who're good at it could get some real training too; they'd learn faster when they'd already drilled the concepts. They could take phys-ed tests to estimate their actual physical capacity and those numbers would go into the game, and that would give them a strong incentive to get in shape and stay in shape.

The result is a large pool of second-rate special forces, very very cheap. Make equipment for them in case you need it. A whole lot of people get to play soldier and it's almost for-real, and it doesn't cost much. Each team plays whenever they can schedule the spare time. And there could even be a private side-market, they could go play the equivalent of paintball or laser tag with real equipment (but not live ammo) on private playgrounds, at a price.

There's the problem that many important specialties are not that exciting. Truck repair, etc. But if we had good computer-game engine repair tools, we could get somewhere with it. And there would be a market for cars and trucks whose engines fit the standard model well enough; with lots of people learning how to fix that model they'd want engines that fit their skills....

I don't know how well something like that would work if we actually had to fight. But it would fulfill the fantasies of a whole lot of voters a whole lot better than just paying for a bigger army....

Posted by: J Thomas | Dec 20, 2004 4:07:34 PM

I'd say Rumsfeld is a good SOD - considering any alternative I can imagine.

Yes, he's the devil you know. Y'all will realize it as soon as the replacement is announced.

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 20, 2004 4:13:08 PM

Yes, he's the devil you know. Y'all will realize it as soon as the replacement is announced.Posted by: abb1

Wrong. It won't just be Rumsfeld that is replaced, but Wolfowitz and Feith will be gone as well. It will be a house cleaning. These two are his people. No one else inside the administration has any interest or loyalty to them.

Posted by: Jeff I | Dec 20, 2004 4:23:47 PM

So, who do you think is going to replace him - Charlie Rangel?

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 20, 2004 4:29:23 PM

So, who do you think is going to replace him - Charlie Rangel?
Posted by: abb1

No. He has even worse hair. I mean, not even Jame Brown wears a process anymore.

Posted by: Jeff I | Dec 20, 2004 4:37:27 PM

"So, who do you think is going to replace him - Charlie Rangel?"

Bolton or Boykin

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 20, 2004 5:44:00 PM

Right now, the Democrats seem to be going through one of their periodic episodes where they abandon the field on national security and hope that the GOP will destroy itself in an orgy of self-immolation.

It could be the Democrats are going through an internal leadership crisis and direction search after the election and are unlikely to have a coherent message on anything until that is somewhat more resolved.

Posted by: cmdicely | Dec 20, 2004 6:21:08 PM

I think Democrats should be asking what is wrong with the moral values in Republican states like Kansas. People in blue states are not strangling pregnant women and cutting out their unborn babies.

Posted by: bakho | Dec 20, 2004 8:23:39 PM

Bakho,
I think we should pass on your suggestion. There are a lot of crazys everywhere and in the same proportion so big blue states will produce more. We lose in this kind of race.

Posted by: dilbert dogbert | Dec 20, 2004 10:25:59 PM

Here's one liberal's prescription for a robust national security platform for Democrats:

Unlike the GOP, the next Democratic president must create the conditions to prosecute and win a global struggle on Al Qaeda with all the military, diplomatic, and economic assets at our disposal. Central to the effort is asking Americans to sacrifice.

1. Maintain Defense Spending Levels.
The new realities of American security will require high levels of defense spending for the foreseeable future. Democrats must resist the temptation to trim a Pentagon budget that has reached roughly $400 billion. This will be necessary in part to fund the Army expansion described below.

2. Expand the Standing Army.
As described above, U.S. forces and the families that support them are being stretched to the breaking point. John Kerry’s proposal to boost the U.S. Army by at least two divisions is a good place to start.

3. National Service: Create a “Civil Defense Force.”
As we’ve elaborated in “The New American Bargain”, there is no better way to raise the needed forces in a democracy, substantively and symbolically, than through national service. Clearly, there is no political support in either party for conscription for our wars abroad. The same cannot be said of domestic security at home. The Federal government should create a Civil Defense Force, drafting at least 250,000 Americans between the ages of 19 and 22 for homeland defense. Funded and managed by the Department of Homeland Security and assigned to relevant federal and state agencies (such as the Coast Guard, Transportation Safety Administration, Immigration, and Border Patrol), the members of the CDF would police borders, guard ports, staff airport checkpoints (replacing the TSA personnel), and monitor major events, energy facilities and transportation hubs.

4. Set Energy Independence by 2020 as a National Goal.
The Democratic president should implement a national security energy policy; call it the USA Energy Act. A USA Energy Act would focus on energy independence to both limit the U.S. vulnerability to economic dislocations due to OPEC action and provide greater freedom of action in foreign policy in the Middle East. This would include subsidies and a venture fund for alternative fuel sources. Just as important, it would include critical conservation measures, including conservation tax credits for businesses, a fuel price floor, and a fuel consumption surcharge on purchases of new, low efficiency vehicles.

5. Rollback the Bush Tax Plan.
The Bush tax cuts are fiscally irresponsible, perverse subsidies to the wealthy that are morally unacceptable, especially in wartime. The next Democratic president should rollback the Bush tax cuts for households with incomes over $200,000. At the same time, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) should be increased, perhaps as high as $50,000.

For more, see:

- "The Opt Out Society: The GOP Threat to National Unity and the American Social Contract"

- "The War President?"

- "Are We More Secure Than Four Years Ago?"

Posted by: Jon | Dec 21, 2004 12:02:36 AM

Hi -

From what I've read here, either the Democrats are going to slink back to a rejectionist "we don't need no stinking military" or want to call for the draft.

Both will guarantee that the Democrats will continue to have no voice in any debate about military affairs.

Where's the modern-day Sam Nunn? As far as I can tell, that's the last Democrat of stature that actually *knew* anything about what he was talking about, and knew it well.

And I agree with cndnicely: the Democrats won't be getting all that much coherent out on any topic until they figure out what the hell they are doing wrong.

And are willing to do something about it.

The way it looks to me, the Democrats are more interested in pandering to their special interests than they are in getting elected. Reminds me of the Republican party in the 1970s.

So, best of luck in, what, 2016?

John

Posted by: John F. Opie | Dec 21, 2004 4:11:06 AM

Jon, I pretty much DID figure that all that Democratic talk about Bush bringing back the draft if he was reelected was just projection. LOL Right in keeping with Democratic proposals to conscript our youth for other purposes, in the guise of "national service".

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Dec 21, 2004 6:20:08 AM

If the Democrats have single brain between them, they will take the issue of making the Bush tax cuts permanent and tie that with bonds of steel to current shortages in the US military. They could sponsor a tax bill which refused to rollback some or all of the cuts and made it plain that the first call on the money would go to things like uparmoured Humvees, higher pay for grunts, issuing M4s to the USMC, etc, and call it the 'Patriotic Taxpayer Act'.

Posted by: Dan Hardie | Dec 21, 2004 9:07:09 AM

Now I come to think of it, 'Patriotic Taxpayer Act' is dreck. But 'Support Our Troops Act' sounds pretty damn cool to me. Just think, Democrats- you take Humvee armour, you take proper healthcare and pensions for all troops, including National Guardsmen, you take on the fact that the US Marines are still running around with big clumsy M16s- and you say 'no permanent tax cuts, spend the money on our troops'. What have you got to lose?

Posted by: Dan Hardie | Dec 21, 2004 9:20:31 AM

Ok, since when is it so awful to be in favor of peace?

Seriously.

If the democratic party was not already the party of 'we try to use diplomacy as much as possible before ever even considering using force', I would find another party to belong to.

Posted by: Chance the Gardener | Dec 21, 2004 10:25:51 AM

1. Maintain Defense Spending Levels.
The new realities of American security will require high levels of defense spending for the foreseeable future. Democrats must resist the temptation to trim a Pentagon budget that has reached roughly $400 billion. This will be necessary in part to fund the Army expansion described below.

Nonsene. Terrorist threats are not a military problem or even a problem for the military. Buying more Abrams tanks and crappy Blackhawk helicopters does not make the nation safer against terrorism. These, and most of what our military relies on, are the implements of wars not likely to ever be fought again.

3. National Service: Create a “Civil Defense Force.”

We already have this, it's called the National Guard.

Posted by: Jeff I | Dec 21, 2004 11:05:57 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.