Republicans and Democrats disagree today on many issues, but they are united in their resolve that the United States must remain the world’s greatest military power. This bipartisan commitment to maintaining American supremacy has become a political signature of our times. In its most benign form, the consensus finds expression in extravagant and unremitting displays of affection for those who wear the uniform. Considerably less benign is a pronounced enthusiasm for putting our soldiers to work “keeping America safe.” This tendency finds the United States more or less permanently engaged in hostilities abroad, even as presidents from both parties take turns reiterating the nation’s enduring commitment to peace.The essay concludes with this rather thought-provoking comment:
To be sure, this penchant for military activism attracts its share of critics. Yet dissent does not imply influence. The trivializing din of what passes for news drowns out the antiwar critique. One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party. Nor, during presidential-election cycles, does that landscape accommodate a peace candidate of voter consequence. The campaign now in progress has proved no exception. Candidates calculate that tough talk wins votes. They are no more likely to question the fundamentals of U.S. military policy than to express skepticism about the existence of a deity. Principled opposition to war ranks as a disqualifying condition, akin to having once belonged to the Communist Party or the KKK. The American political scene allows no room for the intellectual progeny of Jane Addams, Eugene V. Debs, Dorothy Day, or Martin Luther King Jr.
So, this November, voters will choose between rival species of hawks. Each of the finalists will insist that freedom’s survival hinges on having in the Oval Office a president ready and willing to employ force, even as each will dodge any substantive assessment of what acting on that impulse has produced of late. In this sense, the outcome of the general election has already been decided. As regards so-called national security, victory is ensured. The status quo will prevail, largely unexamined and almost entirely intact.
Citizens convinced that U.S. national-security policies are generally working well can therefore rest easy. Those not sharing that view, meanwhile, might wonder how it is that military policies that are manifestly defective — the ongoing accumulation of unwon wars providing but one measure — avoid serious scrutiny, with critics of those policies consigned to the political margins...
Nearly a century after Americans hailed the kaiser’s abdication, more than seventy years after they celebrated Hitler’s suicide, and almost thirty years after they cheered the fall of the Berlin Wall, a thoroughly pacified Europe cannot muster the wherewithal to deal even with modest threats such as post-Soviet Russia. For the United States to indulge this European inclination to outsource its own security might make sense if Europe itself still mattered as much as it did when the War for the West began. But it does not. Indeed, having on three occasions over the course of eight decades helped prevent Europe from being dominated by a single hostile power, the United States has more than fulfilled its obligation to defend Western civilization. Europe’s problems need no longer be America’s.I welcome comments from European readers.