Sunday, October 31, 2010

Demagoguery: David Broder's New Bipartisanship

Perhaps David Broder has Halloween confused with April Fool's Day? Because....
[Given the President's limited ability to affect the business cycle] What else might affect the economy? The answer is obvious, but its implications are frightening. War and peace influence the economy.

Look back at FDR and the Great Depression. What finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II.

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.
First, as David Broder would know if he paid even the slightest attention to the military, the issue with invading Iran has nothing to do with the need for a multi-year, trillion dollar investment in munitions. It may be necessary to restock some weapons due to present military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that would not take long nor would it approach a level of military spending that might stimulate the economy. The problem is the same one we faced in Iraq, but on a much larger scale: We can knock out the government, but the problem is what comes afterward. Why, after Bush's catastrophic performance in Afghanistan and the continuing desperate efforts to stabilize that nation and continuing struggle to transform Iraq into a somewhat stable, somewhat democratic nation, would Broder not recognize the primary cost and burden of the war is not kicking down the door, but comes from the occupation that follows.

If Broder imagines a trillion dollar build-up to the war, though, perhaps he's imagining a reinstitution of the draft, and the training of hundreds of thousands of troops to occupy post-war Iran. But it's difficult to imagine the nation supporting such an endeavor. Given a sufficiently rousing duet of "Bomb Iran" from the President and John McCain, the public might be willing to support a short, easy war, but it's difficult to imagine anything but popular horror at spending additional trillions on another 10+ year war and occupation in the Middle East.

It's also fair to ask, what is the threat posed to the United States by Iran? How does it compare to the danger posed by other nations? As with Iraq, it's fair to ask why we should prioritize a difficult, costly war and occupation against a nation that poses us no direct danger and, all rhetoric to the contrary duly considered, doesn't actually pose a threat to our allies, including Israel. The whole "existential threat" thing is hyperbolic nonsense.

Then, of course, there's the economic aspect. If the government is going to spend a trillion dollars, it could spend that money on infrastructure development in the United States, and should see an economic return from that investment for decades. If the issue is good public policy, isn't it better to do exactly that as opposed to wasting that money on what Broder proposes - a bluff against Iran that could actually turn into a bona fide shooting war (at the cost of additional $trillions)? Is Broder admitting by implication that his calls for bipartisanship have nothing to do with which side has the better ideas, what's better for the country, or which party's approach is better for the nation? Broder could have devoted his column to arguing for honest governance and good public policy, but instead he pushes a giant bluff based upon bad public policy because he imagines the Republicans would get on board. Some kinds of bipartisanship we can do without....

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