Tag: max boot

Cillizza on Cain and Know-Nothing Foreign Policy

Asked on Meet the Press this weekend whether the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador was an act of war, Herman Cain gave the following response:

After I looked at all of the information provided by the intelligence community, the military, then I could make that decision.  I can’t make that decision because I’m not privy to all of that information… I’m not going to say it was an act of war based upon news reports, with all due respect.  I would hope that the president and all of his advisers are considering all of the factors in determining just how much, how much the Iranians participated in this.

That struck me as a refreshingly reasonable position. Yet the Washington Post’s election handicapper, Chris Cillizza, decided to make that quote the centerpiece of an article on Cain’s “know-nothing foreign policy.” He then presents a poll showing that Republicans don’t care much about foreign policy this year, only to conclude that foreign-policy ignorance could be a fatal handicap for Cain. His evidence for that conclusion is a quote from Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, who specializes in arguing for wars and imperialism. Boot, as it happens, just wrote a blog post for Commentary titled, “Iran Plot Goes Straight to the Top,” where he attacks those willing to question the evidence against Iran’s leaders and vaguely supports attacking them.

Cillizza’s article makes clear that foreign-policy ignorance is far preferable to the Washington Post’s idea of expertise. The worst part is that Cain, who claims not to know what neoconservatives are, seems likely to become one, call Boot for advice, and win the Post’s respect.

Max Boot Grades Own Work, Gives Self ‘A’

Max Boot photo via UPI

Max Boot photo via UPI

Sunday’s Washington Post ran a piece about 9/11 called the “pundit scorecard,” and gave Max Boot the “wishful thinking award” for his “Case for American Empire” piece. As the Post article described:

Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor destroyed American isolationism has a school of foreign policy thought been so discredited as neoconservatism was by the insurgency in Iraq. Yet in the first months after the 9/11 attacks, neoconservative plans to redesign the Middle East found a sympathetic hearing in the White House and among the commentariat. Probably the most romantic neocon was military analyst Max Boot, who believed that the world was desperate for American domination.

“Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets,” Boot wrote in the Weekly Standard on Oct. 15, 2001. Just as the U.S. war in Afghanistan was beginning, Boot was planning other campaigns. “Once we have deposed Saddam, we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul. With American seriousness and credibility thus restored, we will enjoy fruitful cooperation from the region’s many opportunists, who will show a newfound eagerness to be helpful in our larger task of rolling up the international terror network that threatens us.”

Suffice it to say that Boot, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, isn’t happy. In fact, he looks back at the piece and feels pretty good about it. He points out that he had called on Washington to “feed the hungry, tend the sick, and impose the rule of law” in those benighted foreign locales, to at least “allow the people to get back on their feet until a responsible, humane, preferably democratic, government takes over.”

But let’s also recall that in May of 2003 Boot was still pooh-poohing Gen. Eric Shinseki’s admonition that “several hundred thousand” troops would be needed for such an endeavor. Instead, Boot thought that our to-do list in Iraq should include “purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government,” and that

This probably will not require the 200,000 troops suggested by Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki, but it will require a long-term commitment of at least 60,000 to 75,000 soldiers, the number estimated by Joint Staff planners.

Just think about that for a second. In 2003, Max Boot was arguing that 60-75,000 U.S. troops could provide security all across Iraq, while simultaneously “purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government.”

Grade inflation seems to have gotten out of hand at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Max Boot Is Worried about Libya

Now he tells us.

Max Boot, among the loudest proponents of military action against Muammar Qaddafi, reports in today’s NY Times that he “can’t stop worrying about everything that could go wrong.”

Recognizing that Libya is so bitterly divided that it might not be appropriate to call it a country, Boot is suddenly concerned that “a long, seething history of rivalries among 140 tribes and clans,” could erupt into full scale civil war. Even if Boot gets his wish, and Qaddafi is ousted, he frets that “the tribes could fight one another for the spoils of Libya’s oil industry; as in Iraq, some could form alliances with Al Qaeda.”

Boot concedes that Libya “has had an active Islamist movement that has sent many fighters to Iraq,” and warns that “the collapse of Colonel Qaddafi’s police state would mean greater freedom for all Libyans, including jihadists who could try to instigate an insurgency as they did in Iraq.”

So, lots of things could go wrong. But Max Boot isn’t rethinking his earlier support for military operations against Qaddafi. Instead, he wants us to widen the war.

I have commented before on Max Boot’s expansive view of the appropriate uses of U.S. military power. Justin Logan has documented his horrible track record in predicting the future. I’ve lamented why anyone with such a checkered history (excepting his support for war, any war, which is remarkably consistent) would continue to be afforded so exalted a station in America’s mainstream media.

But this latest op-ed might take the cake for its combination of faux concern and seemingly prudent policy recommendations.

We are now told that a campaign from the air and sea is not enough. Boot informs us that we must ally with his preferred Libyan opposition group, the National Transitional Council, that we must put special operations forces on the ground to train the Libyan opposition, and that we must work to install a peacekeeping force to prevent the worst-case scenario from unfolding. These steps would require the amending of the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, which explicitly precluded a “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” No matter. We must do all of these additional things, Boot says, or else things could go horribly wrong.

Of course, we wouldn’t be required to contemplate any of these things if Barack Obama had refused to intervene. Much as I might like to pin the blame for this mess on Max Boot and his friends at The Weekly Standard and the Foreign Policy Initiative, the President of the United States could have ignored the calls for war. He could have listened to those who advised against launching yet another military campaign, including his Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser, and senior military officers. Instead, the president’s seemingly sensible instincts to avoid foreign military entanglements have once again given way to the urgent pleas from the liberal interventionists in his own administration, especially Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice (aka the Valkyries).

I can bemoan the fact that President Obama chose to commit U.S. prestige, spend American treasure, and risk the lives of American military personnel, on a dubious and unnecessary mission, but such hand-wringing serves no purpose.

So let me just say that I share Ben Friedman’s concerns about the obvious mismatch between stated ends, and UN Security Council Resolution 1973 allowable means. I agree that restrictive rules of engagement could prolong a civil war, and expose U.S. military personnel to needless risk. I hope that this operation is concluded swiftly, and that U.S. taxpayers will not be on the hook to pay for a long-term military operation that, we were once told, would be “no problem.” Most of all I pray that our brave U.S. military personnel in harm’s way will safely return to their ships and bases…and to their families here at home.

The Tetchy Imperialist

Max Boot is thinking about US military personnel training the Afghan security forces and feeling irritated:

What irritates me about the whole situation is that it is the U.S. that has to pick up the tab. Our troops are already doing the bulk of the fighting. Why don’t our rich allies — e.g., Japan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, Italy, Germany, Britain — pay for more of the cost of training? Some of those countries have made sizable troop contributions; others haven’t. But the U.S. has done more than any of them in terms of fighting the Taliban directly. Why do we have to do so much more than the rest of them in financing the Afghan Security Forces too?

I should note that their failure to ante up should not be an excuse for us to walk away. This is not an act of altruism; it is very much in America’s national-security interest to have a functional and effective security force in Afghanistan to prevent a Taliban/al-Qaeda takeover. Our security perimeter runs right through the Hindu Kush.

A few points.  First, is this the same guy who asserted in 2001 that “the most realistic response to terrorism is for America to embrace its imperial role” and that “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets?”  I mean, say what you will about the English or the Romans, at least they didn’t whine about others not doing their dirty work for them.

More importantly, it’s uninformed.  As I have been incessantly howling at the moon pointing out in other contexts, when we state that we have a vital interest in something, as the US Government has and as Boot reiterates above, smaller, weaker allies have every reason to free ride on Uncle Sucker even if they believe they share that interest.

Finally, Boot asserted the other day that we are “locked in an existential struggle against Islamist extremists,” and here he expands on the theme by asserting that America’s “security perimeter runs right through the Hindu Kush.”  This is extreme hyperbole.  Existential? As in, our existence is at stake?  I thought we were over this sort of thing, but I guess not at Commentary.

Moreover, depending on what Boot is trying to convey with the phrase “security perimeter,” it’s far from clear why it stops at the Hindu Kush.  There are all sorts of things going on on the other side of the Hindu Kush that could bear much more heavily on our security than what’s going on just to the West.

I give up.

Gates’s ‘Cuts’ and the Neocons’ Lament

As I discussed last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s latest attempt to “cut” the Pentagon’s budget are phony. The Secretary would ideally like to see the $78 billion over five years in savings filtered elsewhere into the budget; meanwhile, the 2012 budget will actually grow.

This hasn’t stopped uber-hawk Max Boot and a cadre of neocons from attempting to spin the Secretary’s announcement as the latest example of military downsizing that will make our services less prepared to deal with any conflict or international issue around the globe. I rebut Boot’s claims over at The Skeptics:

In his latest offering at The Weekly Standard, Boot wails that the personnel cuts “will bring the Army’s active duty strength down to 517,000—still larger than it was in 2001 but far smaller than it was in 1991, and not big enough to meet all of the contingencies for which it must prepare.”

Boot doesn’t define the “contingencies” that he wants the military to prepare for, but it seems pretty clear that he disagrees with Robert Gates’s assessment that “The United States is unlikely to repeat a mission on the scale of those in Afghanistan or Iraq anytime soon – that is, forced regime change followed by nation building under fire.”

One can only imagine how hysterical [the neocons] would be if Gates had actually proposed to reduce the amount of money going to the military every year. As it is, the DoD budget is slated to grow. Gates explained at last week’s press conference that his goal was “a steady, sustainable and predictable rate of growth” without explaining why the Pentagon should simply expect to see more money every year while the rest of the country is supposed to be cutting back.

My word of advice to anyone who wants to know what Gates has actually proposed: look at the facts, not the neocons’ interpretation of them.

British Military Cuts, Conservatives, and Neocons

Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced Britain’s biggest defense cuts since World War II. The cuts affect the British military across the board.

The Army will shed 7,000 troops; the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will each lose 5,000 personnel; the total workforce in the Ministry of Defence, including civilians, will contract by 42,000. The Navy’s destroyer fleet will shrink from 23 to 19. Two aircraft carriers – already under construction – will be completed, but one of the two will be either mothballed or sold within a few years. Whether the one remaining flattop in the British fleet will actually deploy with an operational fixed-wing aircraft is an open question. They’ve decided to jettison their Harriers; a technological marvel when it was first introduced, it has a limited range and a poor safety record. In its place, the Brits still intend to purchase Joint Strike Fighters, but not the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) version.

And right on cue, Max Boot argues in today’s Wall Street Journal, following the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano’s example, that fiscal conservatives should not use these cuts as an example of how to reign in deficits. According to Boot and Carafano, military spending is off-limits. Period.

But as I note at The Skeptics, most Americans do not buy into this argument:

In Boot’s telling, Cameron’s decision inevitably places a heavier burden on the shoulders of American taxpayers and American troops.

But why should Americans perform a function for other governments that they are obligated by tradition, law and reason to perform for themselves? Defense is, as Boot notes, “one of the core responsibilities of government.” I would go one better: defense is one of the only legitimate responsibilities for government. So why does Max Boot think that Americans should simply resign themselves to take on this burden, doing for others what they should do for themselves?

I suspect that he fears that most Americans are not comfortable with the role that he and his neoconservative allies have preached for nearly two decades, hence his preemptive shot across the bow of the incoming congressional class that will have been elected on a platform of reducing the burden of government. True, the public is easily swayed, and not inclined to vote on foreign policy matters, in general, but as I noted here on Monday, it seems unlikely that the same Tea Partiers who want the U.S. government to do less in the United States are anxious to do more everywhere else. And, indeed, such sentiments are not confined to conservatives and constitutionalists who are keenly aware of government’s inherent limitations. Recent surveys by the Chicago Council of on Global Affairs (.pdf) and the Pew Research Center (here) definitively demonstrate that the public writ large is anxious to shed the role of global policeman.

Click here to read the entire post.

Globocop vs. Nanny State

Max Boot opines in today’s WSJ that ObamaCare is a threat to U.S. global military power, and, by extension, a threat to global security. I disagree. Because we should be seeking to offload some of the costs of policing the world, I hope that our current fiscal difficulties will force an ultimately worthwhile trade-off.

To be clear, I share Boot’s disdain for this massive expansion of federal power. Similarly, I don’t dispute Boot’s characterization of the health care legislation as likely to impose a huge net cost. Rather, the central flaw in the piece is his unwillingness to think clearly about our government’s obligations to our citizens, and of other governments to theirs.

The rationale whereby the U.S. government defends other countries, and U.S. taxpayers pay for it, is flawed. Under our Constitution, the American people grant to the federal government explicit powers to protect and defend the security of the United States. Treaties negotiated during the course of the Cold War effectively equated the defense of other countries with that of our own so that today the U.S. government provides “public goods” for people who are not now, and have never been, parties to our unique social contract.

As such, today’s U.S. military chiefly fights other people’s wars, and builds other people’s nations. The primary role of the U.S. Department of Defense is the defense of others.

These commitments have been sustained since the end of the Cold War under the premise that the costs are both low and sustainable over the long term. But it is becoming harder and harder to maintain these pretenses. By seeking to provide global public goods for all of humanity, we are saddling our children and grandchildren with huge costs.

Fiscal pressures have the potential to cause the American people to scrutinize military spending, and this scrutiny could ultimately force Washington to revise some of the core assumptions that have driven force planning for a generation. If that happens, we might finally shift the burdens of defense spending back onto those who benefit from such spending.