The Tea Party–Are they Finally Supporting Cutting Defense Spending?

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U.S. Defense Spending Trends from 2000-2011

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The Tea Party Movement has energized the Republican party and poured new blood into a party that had become corrupt and bloated with country club Republicans and RINOs. However, like many self-styled “conservatives,” they did not seem interested in cutting defense spending. Yet now there are Tea Party leaders who are saying that defense spending should not be off limits in attempts to bring government spending under control. This is a positive development.

The military became bloated during the 1950s as a result of the Cold War. Instead of combating Communism, which would have eventually collapsed under its own inefficiency in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the Cold War created a vast “military-industrial complex,” to use President Eisenhower‘s words from his 1961 Farewell Address. Not only does a bloated military suck up government spending, it encourages the United States to be involved in unnecessary wars that feed the defense industries with fat profits. Vietnam, the U. S.’s involvement in Bosnia, and Iraq are good examples; some response to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was necessary, but an approach using smaller special forces units and CIA agents, which was the original CIA plan, probably would have worked better than sending over 100,000 American troops. The more the military-industrial complex is fed by war, the more money it demands, and the more money defense-related companies with government contract make.

In addition, a large standing army is a threat to freedom–deep cuts in defense spending could reduce the military’s size and limit the potential threat to both the sovereignty of the states and to individual Americans. Concentrations of power in large organizations, whether those organizations be big government or big business, is dangerous to freedom–and the combination of big defense industries, big government, and a large standing army, is particularly dangerous. More than just “cutting the fat” out of the defense budget is required to bring defense spending under control–and I wonder if any Tea Party leaders want the deep cuts necessary. Hopefully the fact that some Tea Party leaders are at least open to cutting defense spending will lead to a broader discussion of the need for deeper cuts to control the power of the military-industrial complex.

Advice to the Tea Party Movement–Don’t Let the Warmongers Win

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Tea Party Movement/ American People's Protest ...

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There are a growing number of individuals in the Tea Party movement who are moving toward the traditional conservative position of American staying out of foreign entanglements unless such are clearly in the national interest of the United States. But there are two groups who aim to stop this trend.

The first group is a subset of the Tea Party movement–Evangelical Christians who, influenced by Biblical apocalyptic imagery, support every American intervention in the Near East as bringing about a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. As I have argued elsewhere in this blog, their position is based on a flawed interpretation of the Book of Revelation and other apocalyptic Biblical literature. Sarah Palin may have been influenced by this line of thought, as evidenced by her tendency to blindly support Israel. Let’s hope that her common sense kicks in and that she does not move the Tea Party movement into a warmongering direction.

The other group threatens the Tea Party from the outside–the Neoconservatives. These individuals are the ideological descendants of a group of former Trotskyte Marxists who later defected from Marxism to the Democratic Party. These virulent anticommunists teamed up with Hubert Humphrey and Henry “Scoop” Jackson during the 1960s. But in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, culmulating with the Democratic nomination going to George McGovern in 1972, these anticommunist liberals turned against the Democratic Party. They joined the Republican Party in droves and, over time, gained influence in the National Review and other conservative publications. They retained their basic liberal orientation on domestic economic issues, supporting the post-Roosevelt, post-Lyndon Johnson welfare state, although some of them tend to be more conservative on social issues such as abortion. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard is a neoconservative, as are Charles Krauthammer, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Bennett, and to some extent Newt Gingrich. These individuals have supported the free spending of the welfare state, and have also supported the notion of the United States as an empire. They have accepted the Wilsonian view that the United States should spread democracy to the world. Iraq is an example of the disaster that can occur when neoconservative doctrine becomes U.S. policy.

The neoconservatives almost destroyed President Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal, and they succeeded in destroying the administration of George W. Bush. Their destructive doctrine of the “noble lie,” borrowed from Leo Strauss who in turn borrowed it from Plato, states that the ruling elite can lie to the general public so the public will support their “wise” policies. Does this make the lies about “weapons of mass destruction” more understandable?

The neoconservatives have recently attacked the tendency in the Tea Party movement that backs off from the “American Empire” model of U. S. foreign policy. The neocons sharply disagree with the notion that U. S. involvement in foreign wars endanger freedom (witness the “Patriot Act,” a term of doublespeak if there ever was one). Tea Party members are waking up to realize that the biggest threat to their freedom is not the terrorists, but the welfare-warfare state. The Tea Party should, with all its might, resist the attacks of the neoconservatives, who are accusing the Tea Party of “abandoning conservatism.” But the Neoconservatives are the ones who have abandoned conservatism. If the Tea Party truly becomes a party that frowns on unnecessary U. S. military interventions, it will provide a refreshing alternative to neoconservatives in the Republican Party and to Evangelicals who are misled by a faulty theory of Biblical interpretation. But if the Tea Party gives into pressure and supports a warmongering stance, it will not ultimately succeed in transforming the political landscape of the United States, and that would be tragic. The Tea Party may be the last opportunity to forge a genuine conservative, noninterventionist movement in the United States, and I pray it goes that direction.