The Return of the Smear Brigadefinal stages, and conservatives begin to question the costs of imperialism, the neoconservative counterattack is going into overdrive. When prominent conservatives rose to say, “Cuts in the defense budget are not ‘off the table,’” the neocons began to worry that their formerly iron grip on the “conservative” brand is beginning to slip. As more Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail began sounding like the staunchly anti-interventionist Ron Paul, the neocons went on offense: Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin decreed that such proposals “are not an option,” and various members of the Kagan clan went on to point out that cutting back on a “defense” budget nearly equal to that of all other nations on earth combined would seriously imperil the nation’s very survival.
This attempt to prevent the USS Perpetual War from sinking into the ocean of government debt is not succeeding, in part because of the weak arguments advanced by the spend-more-on-defense crowd – do they really expect that conservative Republicans are going to agree with Robert Kagan that “it doesn’t make fiscal sense to cut the defense budget when everyone is scrambling for measures to stimulate the economy”? A generally unstated but important part is because of who is making these arguments.
After all, these are the same people who, in the 1990s, invented something called “National Greatness Conservatism,” which held up wars, the building of gigantic national monuments, and other costly pyramid-building schemes as the ne plus ultra of conservative thought. More recently, they claimed the Iraq war would be a “cakewalk” that would “pay for itself” – and dreamed of a large-scale military/social engineering project in the Middle East that would “drain the swamp” and lead to a “global democratic revolution” led by George W. Bush. And we all know how that turned out.
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