The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Will Iran nuke limited government?

Photo of Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter
Contributing Editor, Rare

Why is it that the national debt exploded between 2003 and 2007, when Republicans controlled the presidency and both chambers of Congress? Why is it that even when Ronald Reagan, the last real conservative president, sat in the White House, government grew astronomically?

If you asked the average conservative during the Bush years why government continued to grow so rapidly, the typical answer was “We are fighting two wars.” When asked why Reagan did not fulfill his promise to scale back the federal government, conservatives typically reply by either saying that the Democrats did not follow through on their spending-cut pledges or that we were fighting the Cold War.

“Wars cost money,” Franklin Roosevelt once said, and there’s no doubt any nation would pay virtually any cost to counter a real threat. Conservatives almost unanimously supported Reagan’s defense build-up because they believed the Soviet Union was a serious threat. Most conservatives gave Bush a pass on his profligate spending because they considered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be top priorities.

History, math and FDR all tell us that wars cost money — and that war spending grows government. Most Americans accept that any amount of money that goes towards keeping America safe is worth spending — but are there any actual threats on the horizon that warrant what we currently spend on our military adventures?

This year, the United States will spend more on defense than it has at any time since World War II. We will spend more on defense than any other nation on earth and almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.

During the Cold War, America was challenged by a superpower that had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us. But the Cold War is over. What monumental threat to the U.S. exists today that justifies spending more on defense than we spent during the Cold War?

Iran is certainly no such threat. To say that Iran having a nuclear weapon is a potential threat to its neighbors is one thing — to say that it is a threat to the United States is quite another. Yet, too many conservatives continue to confuse the two, or as the former head of the U.S. Central Command, retired Army General John Abizaid, explained in 2007: “I believe the United States, with our great military power, can contain Iran … Let’s face it — we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we’ve lived with a nuclear China, and we’re living with nuclear powers as well …”

Gen. Abizaid then put the notion of a potential nuclear Iran into even clearer context:

Clearly the development of a bomb in Iranian hands will cause other nations in the region to move in a like direction, and in a very unstable region like that, that is not good news… [But the U.S.] can deliver clear messages to the Iranians that makes it clear to them that while they may develop one or two nuclear weapons, they’ll never be able to compete with us in our true military might and power.

Abizaid makes an important and glaring point — no nation can compete with America’s military might, especially not Iran.

Foreign Policy’s Stephen Walt explains:

One of the more remarkable features about the endless drumbeat of alarm about Iran is that it pays virtually no attention to Iran’s actual capabilities, and rests on all sorts of worst case assumptions about Iranian behavior. Consider the following facts … GDP: United States — $13.8 trillion, Iran — $359 billion (U.S. GDP is roughly 38 times greater than Iran’s); Defense spending (2008): U.S. — $692 billion, Iran — $9.6 billion (U.S. defense budget is over 70 times larger than Iran); Military personnel: U.S. — 1,580,255 active; 864,547 reserves (very well trained), Iran — 525,000 active; 350,000 reserves (poorly trained), Combat aircraft: U.S. —  4,090 (includes USAF, USN, USMC and reserves), Iran — 312 (serviceability questionable) …

Most importantly, while the U.S. has almost 9,000 nuclear weapons, Iran has zero.

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  • rmill2k

    Isolationists said the very same sort of things people like the author of this piece
    and Stephen Walt are saying now about Hitler during the 1930′s. Stupidity apparently never goes out of style.

    I suggest interested parties read up on Iran ‘s Twelver sect and the
    Hidden Imam if you’re under the impression that we’re dealing with
    rational actors – which at least the Soviets were.

    The major cost of the admittedly unconstitutional wars we got involved
    in after 9/11 was the Bush Administration’s  addiction to 
    nation building because of the silly idea it would create an ‘Arab
    Democracy’ and  make people like the Iraqi Shi’ites America’s allies. I
    recommend we not do that in the future.

    Regards,

    Rob Miller @ Joshuapundit

  • JoeJ

    Iran has not attacked anyone in hundreds of years.

    America attacking Iran is Zionism 101 – it’s all about Israel. 
     

    • Starving_4_chills

      Iran has only been the Iran it is since the 1979 revolution. Their proxies suchs as hezbolla attack people all the time! Iran has fighters in Iraq attacking us as we speak. They say they want to wipe our ally Israel off the map. These are not nice people.

  • Pingback: Jack Hunter’s blatant lies about defense spending and conservatism « Zbigniew Mazurak's Blog

  • GOP=GrandOleProgressives

    I remember a time when conservatives did not think like the progressives on foreign policy but today there is no difference between Clinton, Bush and Obama on overseas unconstitutional wars. The tea party people I know see the reality that our government is not conservative with military spending military lives and we are way too conservative with VA care. Even RINO McCain voted against increased veteran care but declared 100 years in Iraq? Anyone that supports Endless War Propaganda against Iran or any other tiny country that we could squash in 2 seconds is a progressive RINO and should become a democrat.

  • http://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com Zbigniew Mazurak

    “Odd indeed. There is a debate within the GOP right now between Tea Party members who recognize the need to cut government spending across the board, and Republicans who are willing to cut everything but the military.”

    Garbage. Most Tea Party members OPPOSE defense spending cuts. A recent Gallup poll says that only 27% of Tea Partiers support defense cuts.

    “Realistically, we can’t balance the budget or reduce the national debt without addressing the black hole that is Pentagon spending.”Defense spending is not a “black hole”, it’s a limited, specifically appropriated budget item which is NOT bankrupting America and is NOT the cause of America’s fiscal woes. The Heritage Foundation has proven that even if military spending is eliminated entirely tomorrow, federal spending (and with it, the public debt) will continue to grow quickly every year. So cutting defense spending will NOT solve America’s fiscal problems.

    Stephen Walt is an anti-Semitic, pro-Iranian leftist liar. He’s also lying about military spending. America’s total FY2008 military budget was not $692 bn. Not even close. The base budget was $523 bn and there was a GWOT supplemental. All of that amounted to much less than $692 bn.

    Iran IS a threat to the US, although indeed not nearly of the same magnitude as the Soviet Union, Putinist Russia, or Communist China. It’s a regional player, not a global one. Still, it does threaten US interests abroad, IS working on nuclear weapons, does have BMs capable of reaching every European capital (including Lisbon, Dublin, and London), and has perpetrated aggression against the US. Claiming that it’s not a threat to the US at all is ridiculous. Only an isolationist loon like Hunter or a leftist professor like Stephen Walt would say something like that.

    • Anonymous

      You’re either twisting words, or not comprehending…. Hunter citing “tea party members” holding a particular view is not the same as saying the entire Tea Party subscribes to a particular view. Mainstream Republicans certainly don’t have the spine or imagination to consider cutting military spending…hopefully we can agree on that.

      You pretend military dollars aren’t a significant portion of federal spending? Again, either you’re ignorant or dishonest.. All that technology and all those explosives and all those fully manned bases are an investment with zero, zero, zero returns. Do you get that???? And meanwhile, after generations of it, 9/11 happens….we have the biggest, most expensive military anyone’s ever heard of, and some losers with box cutters can make our whole country go straight to hell. What’s that tell you about whether or not the dollars are spent productively?

      You say, “Stephen Walt is an anti-Semitic, pro-Iranian leftist liar.” This is a refutation of his statements? Congratulations on your seamless transition from straw man to ad hominem.

      But in the end you admit that Iran is a smalltime operation, and by doing so, you give the argument to Hunter.

      Any country can attack any other country, and plenty of countries, that don’t have very civilized governments, have nukes. Why do they not attack other nations constantly, (or ever), with their full capabilities? Obviously because they fear counter-attack. They are held in check by common sense, unlike yourself.

  • http://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com Zbigniew Mazurak

    Utter garbage, just like everything that this utterly discredited, biased, pro-Ron-Paul, isolationist kook writes. His entire article is a litany of lies.

    Here’s just a sample:

    “This year, the United States will spend more on defense than it has at any time since World War II. We will spend more on defense than any other nation on earth and almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined. What monumental threat to the U.S. exists today that justifies spending more on defense than we spent during the Cold War?”

    Those are blatant lies. The current defense budget (the FY2011 budget) is $528.9 bn. The defense budgets for FY1985, FY1986, FY1987, FY1988 and FY1989 were all MUCH LARGER in real terms (i.e. in inflation-adjusted dollars). If spending on Iraq and Afghanistan is counted, the military budget is indeed larger in raw dollars than it was during the Cold War, but:

    1) spending on Iraq and Afghanistan has nothing to do with defense, it’s nationbuilding project spending; and
    2) as a %age of GDP, as a proportion of the total federal budget, and as a proportion of discretionary spending, the US STILL spends MUCH LESS on its military (including on the GWOT) than it did during the entire Cold War, except the late 1940s (the period of post-WW2 military mobilization). You see, raw dollars (whether inflation-adjusted or not) are irrelevant for long-term comparisons. Inflation erodes the dollar’s value, and prices of things change dramatically over time, due to many factors.

    Hunter also lied that the US spends almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined. According to the SIPRI, America’s total military budget for FY2010 (the last year for which SIPRI has data) accounted for only ca. 43% of the global total. Moreover, Hunter’s complaints about America’s share and about its defense budget being larger than that of any country combined are irrelevant. The size of the US defense budget should be determined by America’s defense needs, which are large (remember, the US military has to defend over 9 million sq kms of territory and a population of 300 mn people, and to keep the world’s sealanes and airspace open, otherwise America’s economy – totally dependent on global trade – will be choked). Thus, how much other countries spend on their militaries is totally irrelevant regarding how much the US should spend on defense.

    Hunter’s claim that:

    “Abizaid makes an important and glaring point — no nation can compete with America’s military might, especially not Iran.”

    is false. Russia (whose military has been rebuilt by Vladimir Putin) and China can compete and are competing with America’s military might.

    Jack Hunter, like his idol Ron Paul, is once again peddling the popular libertarian lie that a strong defense or robust funding for defense constitute “Big Government” and are antithetical to the principle of “limited government.” This is a blatant lie. We conservatives believe in LIMITED GOVERNMENT, not NO GOVERNMENT AT ALL. We believe that the federal government should be limited to just a few functions, but that it does have a few legitimate functions and that one of them is defense. Hunter and Paul, on the other hand, believe that robust funding for government is “militarism” and “a Big Government policy”.

    Hunter also lied that:

    “Why is it that even when Ronald Reagan, the last real conservative president, sat in the White House, government grew astronomically?”

    Except that it DIDN’T. Government spending grew was halted and the size of the federal government, as a percentage of GDP, SHRANK, despite Reagan’s massive military buildup.

    “If you asked the average conservative during the Bush years why government continued to grow so rapidly, the typical answer was “We are fighting two wars.”But actually, less than 10% (ca. 8%, actually) of the Bush Spending Splurge went to defense accounts, and the rest was spent on civilian programs – the ED, farm subsidies, the 2005 highway bill, the DHS, the prescription drug benefit, bailouts, the stimulus, the TARP, etc. Bush, not Obama, started all of these programs. Obama has merely doubled down on them. The military received less than 10% of the FY2001-FY2009 Bush budgetary hike.