Not Being Frank About Defense
Financial Post editor-at-large and newspaper columnist Diane Francis, who can always be counted on to get things wrong, has recently added another plank to the Democratic Party’s platform. Commenting on an interview with the equally problematic Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, she joins the great media chorus for whom America can do no right, at least until the ascension of Barack Obama. What we are observing in this PR union is a typical collaboration between the press and the political left that eerily resembles insider trading. Indeed, a Francis and a Frank are a marriage made in leftist heaven, as is the case with the majority of their likeminded colleagues. But the offspring of this consummation, if it is truly fertile, would be a neonatal nightmare, malnourished and vulnerable.
Francis gives uncritical prominence to Frank’s rather dubious and erratic views. American military spending must be substantially cut and the quotient put in the service of the government’s vast health care “reform” program, which, as the bloviating congressman must be perfectly aware, is nothing less than a massive statist takeover of a significant portion of the American economy. As Francis puts it, Frank has “hammered home the unsustainability of America’s role as policeman of the world” to the detriment of the country’s quality of life and domestic solvency. Strangely enough, the tandem makes no reference to the fact that in just one year, the Democratic administration is well on the way to quadrupling the American deficit. The Bush deficit for 2008 was $457 billion; the Obama deficit for 2010 is projected to top off at $1.5 trillion. (Obama’s protestation in his State of the Union address that he had inherited “a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion” was the typical presidential spandex we have by now grown accustomed to.) But the deficit momentum is inexorable and has absolutely nothing to do with defense spending. Further, neither the journalist nor the politician gives the slightest indication that America might be at war with a relentless jihadist enemy. From this perspective, the Iraq war was a major blunder and the ongoing hostilities in Afghanistan are entirely unnecessary.
With respect to Iraq, there is no recognition of the fact, as Bruce Thornton has written, citing the Iraq Survey Group publication for October 2003, that Saddam had established a number of “WMD-related programs and equipment, laboratories and safe houses concealing equipment from UN monitoring, research on biological weapons, documents and equipment related to uranium enrichment, plans for long-range missiles, and evidence of attempts to acquire long-range missile technologies from North Korea.” Kenneth Timmerman in Shadow Warriors and former Iraqi General Georges Sada in Saddam’s Secrets both present compelling testimony for the transfer of existing WMD by Russian convoy to Syria prior to the American invasion -- precisely as Saddam did with his air force to Iran before the first Gulf War. The hypothesis is certainly a plausible one. The U.S. recently facilitated the removal of 550 metric tons of remnant “yellowcake” uranium, the seed material for nuclear weapons, stockpiled at the Tuwaitha nuclear complex twelve miles south of Baghdad. What, one may be permitted to wonder, was this cache doing there in the first place?
As for Afghanistan, the pair seems to have entered a fantasy world in which the Taliban do not figure, the training camps from which the strikes against the United States were prepared were never there, the 3,000 dead are still alive, and in any event there is no danger of a repeat in the future if we merely pull in our horns and declare our peaceful intentions. Such a roseate worldview could find a home only in the precincts of the media and the pastures of left-wing officialdom. According to Frank, the American interventions “only destabilized the region, encouraged the worst kind of radicalism, and made us hated around the world.” Neither Frank nor his interviewer takes into account that “the region” was already destabilized, that radicalism was already at its fiery apex, and that America will always be hated owing to the ubiquitous envy and resentment of the world’s only superpower and the last bastion of the supine West against Islamic subversion.
Moreover, Frank appears to be either disingenuous or ignorant -- take your pick. Certainly, he is a past master at telling it like it isn’t. America’s fiscal viability is compromised, he informs us, since it is wasting its resources in “defending the Czech Republic and Poland against an Iranian missile attack.” Has Frank forgotten that President Obama reneged on this agreement, thus casting his Czech and Polish allies adrift? He goes on to claim that “there is no external enemy in Iraq.” He is clearly in need of a geopolitical refresher course to remind him of a country called Iran that is waging a highly effective covert campaign against Iraq. We are then advised that China “is decades away from being a military issue.” Is Frank unaware of the precarious position of Taiwan? Does he not know that China has boosted its military budget and is investing heavily in building up its navy and air force, to the evident distress of the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen? The international theater is now a more dangerous place than it ever was and the value of deterrence remains paramount. Nevertheless, Frank serenely insists there is no real threat to the U.S.
“What we face is a debt crisis,” Frank continues, “due to military over-commitments, which has devastated our ability to improve our quality of life through government programs.” One can almost see the complaisant journalist nodding her head in agreement; still, one must beg to differ. What America faces is a debt crisis which began when the Clinton administration instructed the banks to issue subprime mortgage loans, the purpose of which, in the words of a White House press release of December 8, 1993, was “to serve low and moderate geographies” and empower “persons of a low and moderate income.” The economic implosion we are witnessing today is largely the result of this “egalitarian” measure as millions of destitute American homeowners were eventually forced to default on their payments. Since this was a Democratic initiative, one can understand Frank’s aversion to being, well, frank, or Francis’ predictable reluctance to set him straight.
The jury is still out on the social consequences of such extensive legislative projects as Roosevelt’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Johnson’s Great Society, but the scope and intent of Obama’s new measures are profoundly unsettling. What Barney Frank is trying to sell as a spokesman for his party is a statist agenda an order of magnitude greater than anything America has witnessed in the last fifty years. To accomplish his mission he must ensure that he has the media with him and that the American public will believe his earnest prevarications.
Journalists like Diane Francis will help him to achieve his first objective. But the public may no longer be as credulous as he might have wished, and it is to be hoped that a growing number of American voters will come to understand that an incontinent mint, unchecked stimulus packages, and indiscriminate bailouts will only dig the proverbial hole to China -- which is, ironically, precisely what is happening in reality, with China as the United States’ largest creditor, holding as of April 2009 $763.5 billion in Treasury securities. (As Romanian scholar Nicolae Popescu facetiously says, “The U.S. goes socialist to save capitalism; China goes capitalist to save socialism” -- personal communication. But the U.S. may well fail where China will succeed.)
Moreover, the gradual appropriation of much of the manufacturing industry and banking sector by a supervisory bureaucratic apparatus does not bode well for the prosperity of the country. Senator Charles Grassley sensibly argues that governments “consume wealth; they don’t create wealth. Too many people are in the wagon. We need more people pulling the wagon.” There is little doubt, however, that the current administration is busy circling the wagon.
Perhaps the American electorate will come to see that the MSM has become the cadet branch of a distinctly liberal-left administration. Perhaps it will detect that a government monopoly on national life -- Frank’s “government programs” -- is the clandestine purpose behind the ostensible solicitude for an improved “quality of life.” And realize, too, that defense spending remains the rock on which American security is erected. Francis is dead wrong when she writes that “Frank is correct” about U.S. military expenditure standing in the way of social amelioration. On the contrary, a robust military budget is what guarantees American survival in the Hobbesian jungle of international affairs, a condition of perpetual competition and aggression which Hobbes defined in Leviathan as the “natural condition of mankind.” For America is surrounded by enemies and false friends who would not shed a tear to see it go under, and one cannot enjoy “quality of life” if there is no life to enjoy the quality of.