September 9, 2013

The new crop of anti-interventionist right-wingers have begun making a very odd argument in opposition to foreign involvement (be it in Egypt, Libya or Syria or anywhere else). Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wanted to use Egyptian aid to help Detroit. Talk show hosts mouth the platitude that “we must be strong at home – first – to be strong abroad.” Now wait a minute.

Bloomberg
Tax returns. (Bloomberg)

Conservatives don’t believe in Keynesian economics. Spending government money at home, they should know, doesn’t beget economic growth or create jobs. The problems of Detroit and the country at large stem from phenomena entirely separate from military action we could or should take. Tax, education and regulatory reform are what is required, and they involve, for the right, curtailing the intervention of the federal government. This can go on whether there is military action elsewhere or not.

But, but . .  they say . .  what about the debt? Aside from the fact that House Republicans have slowed the bleeding by refusing to spend more, conservatives have been arguing (correctly) that the source of the debt is entitlement spending, which dwarfs defense spending.

The Libyan action cost about $1.1 billion (and Syria likely will involve far fewer resources, if the president is to be believed.) In budget terms, that is pocket change. By contrast, entitlement spending in 2013 will run beyond $2 trillion. Arguing that we can’t afford to defend our national interests in Syria is buying into liberals’ argument that defense spending is not the top priority of the federal government and that we should allow entitlement spending to balloon at the expense of the armed services.

Right-wingers opposed to intervention in Syria are making a lot of specious arguments. But none is more flimsy than the declaration that we can’t afford military strikes or that military action abroad impedes domestic prosperity. It just isn’t so.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.