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Monday, August 13, 2012

A Deplorable Compromise: The Price of Obama's Reforms

When many on the left voted in 2008, they did so under the auspice of decreased warfare in the Middle East. The Democratic nominee offered to meet these demands with an Iraq drawdown, which he (eventually) did. But since becoming President, he has increased other parts of the “War on Terror” and his supporters pledge their allegiance anyway.

by Christopher Zimny
"Tell me straight out, I call on you—answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, that same child who was beating her chest with her little fist, and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tearswould you agree to be the architect on such conditions? Tell me the truth."
Fyodor Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov

One might be tempted to take one facet of the general "progressive" ideology at face value: their generally antiwar sentiment. A lack of a warfare state means a more prosperous economy and significantly less blowback than that state might otherwise see. In some cases, wars may be justified; when they are not, the ugly deaths or injuries suffered should be seen as having been needless, and immediately followed by an examination of the leaders, policies, and morality that went into making such a decision. The corollary to this, of course, is that the leader of the aggressing state ought to be held accountable for his actions. Why, then, after continuing and stepping up activity resulting from the Bush era conflicts, does the left venerate President Obama on the one hand, and with the other wave off his deadly deeds as if they were irrelevant?

Progressives are no doubt to some degree proud of the President's fiscal agenda; some wish he would do more. Some deplore, too, his military activity in the Middle East and elsewhere, rightly admonishing him for resources unduly spent, money unwisely spent, and the tragic consequences of it all. But for whatever reason one might give, they nevertheless hold true to him. Though his fiscal (and monetary) policies are unsound to a terrible degree, my contention here is with the left’s tacit support of Mr. Obama's war doctrine.

Transforming President Bush's "War on Terror" into perhaps a slightly more precision-oriented one, the military activities of the U.S. under Mr. Obama include placement of troops in Uganda, large drone campaigns in Yemen and Somalia, "leading from behind" in Libya, troop increases in Afghanistan and Iraq (and a later "shifting of resources" from the latter to the former), troop operation and drone strikes in Pakistan, and more, including foreign aid given to, but not limited to, any of these countries for purposes of military conflict.

There are consequences to these conflicts, of which those that have followed them are undoubtedly aware. These include an untold number of people who have had their life's work of making a better life for themselves or for their family obliterated. For whatever reasontheir homes destroyed, their place of living having been engulfed by violence, etc.many casualties of war are refugees who find themselves torn away from regular life, and are then subject to destitution. Deaths from violence number in the hundreds of thousands, civilian and combatant casualties included, which is not to mention the many more that have been injured that would have otherwise been in healthy shape had the wars not taken place. These are the natural results of war. The point to impress upon the reader is that these casualties of war are real. They may be thousands of miles from your front yard, but these people really are dead or injured or thrown into destitution, and despite one's best efforts to put these people out of sight and out of mind, they are still casualties resulting from U.S. actions, whether one chooses to acknowledge them or not.

The actual amount spent by Mr. Obama's administration on his military ventures is immaterial, at least for our purpose here, because we are looking at a matter of principle. So let us assume a conservative arbitrary estimate for the total amount of the President's spending on conflicts overseas: $1 million. (We might assume that the war contractors, weapons manufacturers, plus all the rest were feeling generous since 2008.) This wealth, rather than being used for purposes of war, might have been funding put into Medicare or Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, subsidies for green energy that provide or will provide employment, bailouts for companies going under that would preserve employment, and much more.

To make a clearer example of this principle, let us reduce the figure of refugees from war to a mere 100 people. Say this figure is an aggregate of all the countries the long arm of the U.S. has touched, which undesirably produced this result. What can be made of it? To begin with, the money used to make the location of these peoples' homes so hazardous might have been used to put 100 U.S. citizens in homes, and both the people affected by U.S. foreign policy and citizens of the U.S. would have had a better life. At the cost of displacing civilians elsewhere, we put up with continued homelessness here.

There exists a laundry list of government responsibilities that progressives have drawn up, and spending on any one of those items would be money better spent than on destruction in war. It might even be excusable if this sort of spending wasn’t expressly commissioned repeatedly by Democrats in the Congress or the White Housealas it has been. The declaration of a wish for war expenditures means precisely that the elected leaders of the United States prefer to use our $1 million figure on death and destruction than on the domestic needs of the poor or restructuring our economy for the better.

But setting the consequences of war spending aside, let's even grant that it is indeed possible to continue with war expenditures and simultaneously make in the United States a better economy through rightly placed spending or inflation. Say our leader can do both, as he is presently purporting to do. Your author's point is that even if one could have both, many, in practice, prefer to have a leader that does bothfor whatever reasonbecause it means having domestic social or economic “reforms” resulting in Americans leading better lives. Said in more direct words, supporters of Mr. Obama will have thousands put into poverty, thousands needlessly killed, and billions spent on these operations, in order that they might have this same administration institute progressive restructuration for a better society in the United States.

How grotesque could any voter be? Perhaps it is not truly purposeful behavior, but ignorance or apathy, or a light-minded pragmatic decision that results in a vote of this kind. In any case, any person on the left that espouses antiwar ideology and continues to support Mr. Obama must thoroughly examine their own principles if he or she is to vote with a clear conscience come November.

This article was originally published by The Libertarian Review.

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