Friday, November 25, 2011

Perpetual War

Peter Beinart listened to the Republican candidates talk about war this weekend, and he did not like what he heard:
Within the first few minutes of the GOP debate, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum had all declared the United States at war while answering a question about the Patriot Act. In making this assertion, none of them mentioned Afghanistan or Iraq, the two countries where large numbers of U.S. troops have in recent years actually been fighting. No, for the Republican presidential candidates, talking about Iraq and Afghanistan is thinking small. They were talking about America’s “war against terror,” a war they believe should define the way the U.S. government approaches civil liberties, and spends money, for, in Gingrich’s words, “the rest of our lives.” . . .

Do we look like a nation at war? The small segment of the American population that serves in the military is still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the rest of the nation has utterly lost interest. And when those two wars mercifully end—as they likely will no matter who is president in the next few years—America will be a peacetime nation again. At some level, the leading Republican presidential candidates understand that. They would never dream of suggesting that America’s “war on terror” requires higher taxes, a draft or anything else that would burden the ordinary American. And yet they keep using the language of war to insulate America’s defense budget from serious scrutiny and to suggest that people accused of terrorism don’t deserve basic protections under the law.

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