A One Plank Platform, Please!

 by G. Murphy Donovan (January 2012)

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

Making promises that can not possibly be kept may be the fatal flaw of all social democracies. America is no exception. Continuing to fund programs, at home and abroad, that clearly have failed, is a subordinate defect. Rational nations can not finance social salvation and foreign policy fiascos for very long.

If the pundits are to be believed, the next American presidential election will provide an opportunity for a national course correction. Such a change has two imperatives; starting to live within means and ending federal and international programs that do not work. This challenge may fall to the Republican Party. Unfortunately, if recent behavior provides any evidence, the policy space between Republicans and Democrats may be a difference without a distinction.


Many prominent Republicans argue that Department of Defense spending, for example, should be fencedthe party primary is the election. Neighboring Maryland is the most liberal state in the union. And affluent Northern Virginia, to the south, is as “progressive” as Beverly Hills.

The Pentagon may be trusted with a big slice of national security, but there should be no illusions about employee political or fiscal predispositions. Given the opportunity, DOD spends like a sailor on liberty – or better still, like a social democrat. Corporals don’t get to be generals by cutting programs. The apparatchik vote at the federal level is true blue – where bigger is always better.

Pentagon tour guides used to offer a shopworn joke for tourists. When asked how many people worked in the “world’s largest office building,” the punch line was: “Oh, about half of them.” The DOD has, not only the world’s most populous HQ, but there are a hundred satellite bureaucracies in all those liberal urban suburbs.

A single change might reform the Defense Department overnight: Make war zone deployments mandatory for DOD civilians. Such a change would pay off immediately; the deadbeats would soon find another line of work and combatants could be relieved from social work – like school and “nation building.” If soldiers and Marines are needed for the war against global ignorance, they might logically begin across the Potomac River in the District of Columbia, at once America’s worst and most expensive school system.

Republicans should not harbor any illusions either about flag officers or Intelligence bureaucrats inside the beltway, the folks who define national security threats and associated spending priorities. The tradition of an apolitical brass and objective Intelligence officers walked the plank after 9/11. Take the recent politically correct apologetics of the Army Chief of Staff, the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, the Director of CIA, and the Director of Central Intelligence. Atop the Intelligence Community, Jim Clapper, still sees the primary threat to America as Russia or China.

None of these senior players, starting with White House national security advisors, can bring themselves to use words like Islamist or Muslim – as if global depredations in the name of Allah are unrelated to Islamic dogma or propaganda. The next administration might think about sequestering the Intelligence Community and Pentagon budgets pending a lucid and detailed assessment of this viral phenomenon. If we are to spend all that treasure, the “why” should be crystal clear. Habitués of the Pentagon can not abide quaint notions like “victory” anymore because they can’t bring themselves to name the enemy anymore.

The NATO military presence in the Muslim world is a symptom of foreign policy promises that can’t be kept; policies like stabilization, “nation building,” and the neutralization of faith based terror tactics come to mind. After two decades, there is little evidence to suggest that an indefinite NATO presence has ameliorated any of these problems for the long run. Indeed, if Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Egypt are harbingers; the Muslim masses are clearly marching in a kind of theocratic lockstep – backwards. And if you are an Israeli, the threat from Islam is as bad today as it has been for 60 years. The fate of Israel is further complicated by a bloom of Anti-Israeli (nee anti-Semitic) sentiment among left leaning politicians and academics in the West.

The Euro/American strategy of using carrots and sticks in the Muslim world has been an expensive bi-partisan failure. Indeed, if there is any truth to the “Eurabia” paradigm, the great game has already been won by Islam in Europe – with passive irredentism and active terror.

If the West truly believes in democracy, independence, and national sovereignty; maybe its time to let Muslims, especially Arabs, solve their own problems. Islam can not be saved from itself. Democracy is a bottom-up, not top-down phenomenon. And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, democracy is haaram for the zealots. If the Ummah has not been able to repair its racial, tribal, and religious fissures in 1,400 years, English speaking apostates and naïve infidels are unlikely to make a difference that matters.

Yes, a change in policy might help the Islamists to prevail in several or more Muslim states. And that now prophetic “clash of civilizations” may become “kinetic.” So be it! Such a clash may be inevitable anyway and state-to-state conflict simplifies the targeting problem. Israel, Europe, and America know how to fight conventional wars; no nations have had more practice. We need to gift the war on terror to that celebrated “moderate” Muslim majority – with a caveat; solve the problem – or else!

To date, the West has been waging numerous small wars by Islamists rules. Experience with the Soviets and West Europeans has led the bombers, and Muslim state co-conspirators, to believe that infidel nations can be bled with a thousand cuts. It’s time to change the rules; and hold the Muslim passive aggressors responsible for the behavior of their citizens – at home and abroad. Arabs, Persians, and Pakistanis have been working both sides of the street for decades.

The Taliban survive today because our erstwhile ally, Pakistan, plays “cake and eat it” with known terrorists by providing sanctuary.  Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Somalia, Yemen, and Egypt make al Qaeda possible by providing propaganda, financial, and moral support to Muslim hate mongers. Even Islamist sentiment among American Muslims is significant in spite of efforts to soft-pedal the problem. These dynamics need to change.

Instead of spending a king’s ransom on palaces and polygamy, the oil autocrats need to fund a religious reform movement for the Ummah. Indeed, and assume responsibility for the global war against terror and jihad, both now a near universal export. Why should Americans and Europeans die to save Muslims from Islamists? If the West is willing to sell the latest weapons to Arabia, we ought to insist that they use those weapons to fight the insurgent wars that plague co-religionists.

The great challenge for all politicians is to do the right thing and still get elected. If the American Republican Party is to be taken seriously, they should consider running on a single platform plank in 2012: No more “pie in the sky,” no more promises that can not be kept.

The plank might have two spikes. Domestically, there should be a commitment not to start any new social initiatives, until existing programs are out of arrears.  Ending domestic social and foreign aid programs that do not work would be a first step that would go a long way towards balancing the books.

Internationally, we might leave the Muslim world to the fate it has earned with 60 years of inertia and double dealing. Paternalism isn’t a remedy for dysfunctional cultures. America and Europe can’t afford to fund failure at home and abroad anymore. Surely, the rafters will ring with charges of “isolationism,” but just as surely, being alone is better than being bankrupt – or dead.


G. Murphy Donovan is a former Intelligence officer who writes frequently about politics and national security.

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