Balanced budget or empire? You can’t have both.

The defense of an annual $1.2 trillion bloated national security budget mounted by Jamie Fly and Robert Zarate (9/29/11) was reminiscent of a dog walking on its hind legs. It was not done well; but it was surprising to see it done at all.

The two do not dispute the $1.2 trillion waste. Nor do they deny that the sum equals or exceeds the collective military spending of the rest of the world, accounts for approximately one-third of federal government expenditures and equals the current federal budget deficit. Fly and Zarate also accept that the military spending of China and Russia are a tiny fraction of the United States’ national security extravagance, and they do not question that al Qaida perpetrated the 9/11 abominations on a shoestring budget.

But the duo absurdly argues that since unsustainable entitlement programs should be slashed, then squandering staggering sums under the false banner of national security is fiscally harmless. Even Winnie the Pooh with very little brain would recognize the compatibility of dramatically downsizing both entitlement programs and a bloated national security edifice. Ron Paul would transition quickly to ending all entitlement programs. But he would also cease wasting trillions of dollars annually on maintaining and expanding an American Empire. The perpetual and global warfare keenly relished by Fly and Zarate is making Americans less safe by creating more enemies than are destroyed and by employing American soldiers in quixotic efforts to plant democracy in foreign countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in lieu of defending Americans and individual liberty at home.

The genuine gripe of Fly and Zarate does not concern fiscal responsibility, but pivots on Ron Paul’s creed that echoes the Founding Fathers, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for Empire.” Then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams captured Paul’s national security thinking perfectly in a July 4, 1821 address to Congress:

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force … She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit ….

John Quincy Adams was a student of James Madison, father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, chief author of The Federalist Papers, and president of the United States. Unlike Fly and Zarate, Madison understood that contrived dangers from abroad are chronically brandished to destroy liberty at home. He explained:

The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

Aping the Romans, Fly and Zarate inflate danger from abroad logarithmically to justify permanent global warfare, crippling individual liberties and the right to be left alone. They condone spending $1.2 trillion annually to subsidize the military-industrial complex denounced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower — a national security version of TARP. The two deliriously insinuate that a handful of al Qaida associates in South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa would commence war against the United States if all our troops and weapons abroad were re-deployed to defend our borders and were equipped and pledged to incinerate any aggressor. They hysterically suggest that North Korea, Iran and Syria would launch military attacks against the United States if the American Empire were abandoned in favor of an American Republic fiercely committed to defending American lives in lieu of the lives of Afghans, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis and others who have no allegiance to the United States. They preposterously suggest that Russia and China are strong candidates for invading and overthrowing the Government of the United States.