We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Fred or Ron?

Fred Thompson or Ron Paul? Like Perry and some others, I would rather see a big government Democrat elected than a big government Republican. At least that would bring back some opposition. Republicans in Congress have a much better record of reining in the Democrats’ presidents than their own. And as I explain later, I think that one of these two is the only Republican candidate capable of winning the national election.

Ron Paul answering the What programs? question by naming three cabinet level departments … Wow. Good answer. If there was no rest-of-the-world, he would possibly have my vote.

“Possibly?!” Yes. Possibly. Why? Because good intentions are not enough. Many people have the right ideas. Even if elected, he needs to maneuver his ideas through both the Washington players and the great ambivalent middle of the electorate. He needs to explain and convince massive numbers of mainstream people that what he will bring is better for them personally. How many think Ron Paul is up to that job? I don’t.

Does any small government candidate have a chance both to be elected and a chance of accomplishing a rollback if elected? Fred Thompson. Beyond all doubt he will achieve far more of Ron Paul’s goals than Ron Paul himself has even the slightest hope of achieving.

Reagan was the most recent president that was able to shift the entire national government onto a new course. What unusual skills did he have that made this possible? A big one is that he was an actor before he went into politics. His nickname was ‘The Great Communicator‘. It wasn’t enough to know what he wanted to do, he had to be able to achieve it in an arena where selling the product is everything.

To achieve anything a president must be taken seriously, both as an ally and as an opponent. Power in Washington is popularity, persuasiveness, trust… Gravitas. A president who would roll back government needs to naturally inspire respect and confidence. Rolling back government frightens most people. Even most of us who are determined to see government greatly reduced want to see it done in a planned and controlled way. Particularly in times of external threat, a civil collapse unleashes, not reins in the government. The differences I have with Perry on this topic are because first, I believe the world is entering a far more dangerous time militarily and economically than we have experienced since the height of the cold war. And second, I believe Fred Thompson will actually achieve many of the goals that Ron Paul could only attempt. Unlike Fred, Ron Paul has the gravitas of a helium balloon. And when he gets excited he even sounds like he has been inhaling from one. Sigh. This image certainly did not help.

Fred versus Ron to successfully reduce the size of government? Not even close. Fred.

Libertarians of many stripes are telling us we should be spectators of international affairs. This is a short course to oblivion. We positively cannot stay uninvolved in the rest of the world. To believe we can just allow other nuclear players to ‘have it out’ is as delusional as sitting in the corner of a four man tent watching the other three fighting with hand grenades while stating solemnly “It is their fight, I am not involved.” We are on a small planet full of big weapons. Libertarians who claim we can be uninvolved in other nations’ quarrels are gambling that no nation will ever actually use a nuclear weapon. I reject that assumption. They can and if they can imagine a benefit, they will. This genie is not going back in the bottle. And fall out is no respecter of national borders. Our food production is still at risk no matter how neutral we are.

MAD, mutually assured destruction, is the butt of many dark jokes. The truth however, is that it works well when dealing with a rationally self interested opportunist. For fifty years it has prevented the rational holders of nuclear weapons from using them. But in the case of irrational or potentially irrational nuclear powers, its effect cannot be assumed. With nations like Syria, Iran and any new wannabes, if we have or can create the opportunity, preemptive strikes against nuclear facilities must be kept available as an option. We must also be alert for unstable nuclear states being used as a first-use surrogate by other nuclear powers.

Redeploying back within our borders, Ron Paul’s approach, requires abandoning international trade with any nation that is attacked or even threatened by any other government or terrorist organization. World trade requires the staffing and basing of military forces around the world. To believe we can avoid foreign entanglements and yet still trade internationally is fantasy. It has been tried many times throughout history, the last time we tried it, submarines attacked merchant and passenger shipping. The targets will include air traffic now. Rejecting involvement in foreign entanglements means rejecting foreign trade with all aligned or attacked nations.

Ron Paul is by far the highest profile pure anti-war candidate (Dennis who?) and consequentially he has picked up the majority of the anti-military and quite a bit of the anti-American demographic. While many of his supporters here argue energetically that he is not an isolationist, they have convinced me that if not a deliberate isolationist, he is an accidental one. This is the far worse case as it would mean that he doesn’t understand the role of a strong, prepositioned military in prevention. President Bush eagerly threw the military answer at far too many questions. The answer is not to forfeit those capabilities.

I am sure there will be guffaws of laughter from some Paul supporters when I say “peace through strength”. With his forty years of experience in politics, law and communication (beginning with the Goldwater campaign), Fred Thompson understands both the domestic and legal repercussions of strength diplomacy. Over a decade before first being elected to the Senate, Fred served as special counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Unlike any other candidate, he not only knows the “what?”, he has a strong constitutional and international grasp of the “how?” For those of you who wonder what a ‘Special Counsel’ does, their most visible role is leaning forward and putting words in the politicians’ mouths during public hearings. Fred is able to put the words in his own mouth. Go figure.

More valuable than any other candidate’s security credentials, I think Fred understands the mechanism of strength diplomacy. The choice on foreign affairs goes easily to Fred for anybody that wants to sustain foreign trade even if they mistakenly believe we can hunker down safely in a world of militarized satellites and missiles targeted at us.

Last qualification, electability. Much has been made of Giuliani and Romney being ‘electable’. Riiight. Does anybody seriously believe that a voter wanting an east coast style big government liberal is going to vote for a Liberal Lite big government Republican instead of the real thing? Not even remotely. A big government Republican is not going to draw away any Democrat voters but will drive away many Republicans. Fred does satisfy voters concerned about our safety and about his understanding and capacity to protect it. And he has an almost Churchill like deliberate and imposing persona. Fred is the only Republican candidate that has a serious chance of winning the national election.

Fred will be the first time since Reagan that I actually vote for a presidential candidate instead of against their opponent.

Here is the real shocker. Cynical me, this is also the only time ever that I have donated to a political campaign except for one time I was a candidate for local office. That was a case of putting my money where my mouth is. I guess this is too.

Fred ’08

44 comments to Fred or Ron?

  • Resident Alien

    If Fred wins the nomination I hope that Ron will not run as a third party candidate. If any of the others win then I hope he does run as an third party candidate and that he kicks up as much stink as possible.

  • CFM

    Reagan was also the last candidate I actually voted for. 1984. Long time ago.

    The mad babblers on Air America seem to seriously fear Fred. Here’s hoping Republican voters turn out to be as perceptive.

  • Mid: Thompson seems very capable of winning the national election, but does he have a good chance of winning the candidacy?

  • FRED THOMPSON is the best person to lead this country. He is a true conservative and has been his entire life. All one has to do is check his record to see this.

    During my time in the Army as an Intelligence Analyst, I served under both Presidents Carter and Reagan (as my commanders in chief). Without argument, President Reagan was the best commander-in-chief a military person could ever have served under. Fred Thompson possesses the same qualities and vision as President Reagan in that he is strong on national defense and sees a dire need to secure our borders and control immigration.

    I can think of no better person to lead this country and fix the problems we have. He is the only candidate from either party who has specific and detailed plans on border security and immigration reform; revitalization of America’s armed forces; saving and protecting Social Security; and tax relief and economic growth. These are detailed on his Web site at http://www.fred08.com . I challenge you to find any other candidate who has laid out specific plans to fix anything.

    Fred Thompson has published his first principles, some of which are mentioned above. In addition to those, he strongly believes in individual liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, federalism, traditional American values, the rule of law and is a strong proponent of the Second Amendment — all concepts established during the birth of our country and documented in our Constitution.

    Again, try to find any candidate who has laid out their plans to “fix” this country. You will find they all speak in vague and abstract terms on their plans.

    For those who have heard Fred Thompson speak, you will usually hear him say that the Fred Thompson you see today is the same Fred Thompson you saw yesterday and is the same Fred Thompson you will see tomorrow. He stands by his principles and values and doesn’t shift his positions based on polls or public opinion; in other words, he doesn’t say what the voters want to hear just to get elected, but remains steadfast on his views and convictions.

    During his time in the Senate he focused on three areas: to lower taxes, strengthen national security and expose waste in the federal government. Fred Thompson has foreign policy experience, having served as member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Intelligence committees.

    As chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, he opened the investigation in 1997 on the Chinese government’s attempt to influence American policies and elections, and this investigation identified connections with the Clinton administration (documented in the committee’s report).

    As a member of the Finance Committee, he worked tirelessly to enact three major tax-cut bills. Fred Thompson remains steadfast and even though a person may not agree with all his views and he understands some may disagree with him, you can count on him to be consistent and unwavering.

    Don’t be fooled by his laid back approach and what critics call his “laziness.” As a former assistant U.S. attorney, he earned a reputation as a tough prosecutor and he possesses the toughness this country needs in order to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s issues.

    I ask that you take a hard look at what this country needs, then take a hard look at all the other candidates’ views, policies, their records and their track record on consistency. Fred Thompson possesses integrity, loyalty, commitment, energy and decisiveness, all traits of an effective leader, and will emerge as the best person to take this country boldly forward.

    Please help Fred win in Iowa:

  • Ed Thomas

    Good for you, Mid. I’ve been consistently impressed that Thompson has been running as a serious candidate. What he says is always deliberate. The question is whether Iowans and others have the depths to appreciate it, or whether Fred has misjudged his pitch. I don’t think he could do otherwise though, and remain himself. “Two roads diverged in a yellow woods”, and all that.

  • Adam

    The next US president is going to be the Democratic nominee, unfortunately. I highly doubt Thompson could win in 2008 even if he managed to get the Republican nomination. Just hope for Obama instead of Clinton, and hope he doesn’t do too much damage, and that Republicans regain at least one house of Congress in 2010.

    If Paul could win the general election at all, maybe he would be able to win it in 2008, since he can honestly and believably sell himself as not related to the current Republican administration, but the idea of him winning a general election is not very likely with the current electorate. Hopefully a good streak by Paul before getting mathematically eliminated and maybe a 3rd party/independent run for the president can raise the profile of some of his ideas and shift the public debate in their favor.

  • I was discussing this with my wife the other day, and I voiced the opinion that Hillary would get the nomination, and consequently the presidency.

    I hate to say it, and apologise in advance if this offends anyone, but I don’t think the U.S. is ready to elect a black president. A nomination for Obama is more likely to galvanize the far right of the Republican’s support to actually go out and vote, simply to keep him out of office. The Democrats know this and will therefore nominate Hillary as the lesser of two evils.

    After the debacle of the last eight years the Republicans don’t have a hope of getting the presidency this time around, Ron Paul Least of all.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Mid, that is a very nice article; my worry about Paul is that he could quickly be turned into dogfood by a media that will trawl around the unsavory supporters he has. It is such a shame: many of his policy positions are sound apart from aspects of foreign policy. But if he has done something to spread awareness of libertarian ideas, that is good. Fred Thompson comes across as a class act, smart, self-deprecating and well informed.

    I still have this gut fear that Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Eight more years of the Clinton dynasty to replace the Bush one. One might as well bring back the monarchy and do it properly.

  • Andy

    A nomination for Obama is more likely to galvanize the far right of the Republican’s support to actually go out and vote, simply to keep him out of office. The Democrats know this and will therefore nominate Hillary as the lesser of two evils.

    You gotta be kidding right? I can’t see anyone galvanizing the republicans more than Hillary. Even if there really are millions of silent bigots I doubt they would be significantly more thrilled about the prospect of a woman president than a black one.

  • He is a true conservative and has been his entire life. All one has to do is check his record to see this.

    Which is why I am not real enthusiastic about him. He is at best the least-worst choice amongst the true conservatives. So how many government departments is Fred going to abolish?

    He is the only candidate from either party who has specific and detailed plans on border security and immigration reform

    Which is the wrong issue in my view. The problem is not ‘immigration’, it is ‘immigration + a welfare state’. Scale back the welfare state and the immigration ‘problem’ corrects itself.

    revitalization of America’s armed forces

    They seem pretty vital to me. Try halving the number of carrier groups and submarines if the military needs more money. You may have noticed the Cold War is over.

    I find the security issue deeply unconvincing (sorry Mid) as we simply do not face a threat which requires vast military capabilities to face. Oh don’t get me wrong, I am much disliked in some ‘libertarian’ circles because I am a hawk and I have no problem with my tax money getting used to drop bombs on certain people overseas… but the notion we face an even vaguely comparable threat compared to the Cold War era is risible. Security is simply not the paramount concern at this point in history.

    saving and protecting Social Security

    How about abolishing it?

    and tax relief

    Relief? Just lower taxes by shrinking the state drastically. That is what Ron Paul wants to do.

    and economic growth.

    The best way for any government to help an economy grow is to get the hell out of the way and then do… nothing. Nothing at all.

  • Ian B

    World trade requires the staffing and basing of military forces around the world.

    Wow, the US and the UK can only trade because of the US military bases in the UK. Who knew?

    Britain can’t trade with Ghana because we have no miltary bases there? Really?

  • Midwesterner


    I hope you are right about security. I hope even more we never find out.

    As for Ron Paul’s candidacy, I find him a little less entertaining than Ross Perot. He will probably leave a similar mark on history and the direction of government.

    I agree with the rest of your comment(s) completely.

    I gave my choice a lot of thought and it comes down to one thing only. I see today an extremely rare viable opportunity to shrink our bloated nannying PC government, not just make a statement.

    I see a candidate that expresses an identical position to Ron Paul on confining the National government to its constitutional restraints. But this guy can really do it. I’ll take results over gestures any day.

    If you look at what these two candidates actually intend to do, they are alike on everything but defense. But one of them didn’t cause me to drop the ‘L’ word from my self description. And one doesn’t make me cringe because of his innate ridiculousness.

    I want voters in the early Republican primaries to know that Fred Thompson is the only likely Republican I will vote for in the national election. If they deny me the opportunity then that is the time for gesture politics. I agree 100% with the first two comments in this thread. I will vote against all four of the big government Republican candidates for the reason I named at the beginning of the article.

  • I hope you are right about security. I hope even more we never find out.

    Yup, me too. I am well aware we face threats, it is just a case of ‘what is the biggest threat’… and I would say the biggest threat is the one to our liberty and prosperity posed by our own governments.

  • The next US president is going to be the Democratic nominee, unfortunately. I highly doubt Thompson could win in 2008 even if he managed to get the Republican nomination. Just hope for Obama instead of Clinton, and hope he doesn’t do too much damage, and that Republicans regain at least one house of Congress in 2010.

    Wholeheartedly agree. This is one of the many reasons I’m a Ron Paul supporter. If a Dem win is in the works – as seems likely – then libertarians need to gain visibility by being part of the reason the Republicans lose. Fred Thompson is likely to endorse whoever the Republican nominee ends up being. He is unlikely to break off and run as a third-party candidate. Ron Paul has already been invited to participate in the LP convention in May if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination. Even if he doesn’t run Libertarian, an independent run is not out of the question. The choice is therefore clear: neither Fred Thompson nor Ron Paul is going to be president or even the Republican nominee. But there is a reasonable chance Ron Paul will keep up the good fight and sabotage the Republican Party’s chances in the main election, where I bet Thompson ends up a team player. Ron Paul it is, then.

  • World trade requires the staffing and basing of military forces around the world.

    Yes, I have to say I’m with Ian B on this one, Mid. World trade most certainly does not require US military forces stationed around the world, not even just US trade with the rest of the world, let alone the rest of the world trading with each other.

  • Hank Scorpio

    The entire point of a Paul presidency would be to completely gridlock the system.

    I intend to throw my vote away this time around; if Ron Paul is on the ballot in form or another he gets my vote. If not him, and either Gravel or Kucinich appear on the ballot, they’ll get my vote. Please note that I don’t support the policies of either Gravel or Kucinich, but I know that they’ll be completely ineffective at getting their policies passed anyway and they will have a veto on Congresses other shenanigans.

    At this point we need to grind the system to a halt by throwing in a complete outsider who’ll receive no support from either party. Besides, the Republicans really don’t deserve my vote.

  • Midwesterner

    World trade requires safe passage. If any of you really think that we can continue to trade with nations involved in disputes among themselves without defending merchant shipping, please go back and have another look at history.

    My case (perhaps poorly stated) is that if we pull our military back into our borders, then we will be in a position of saying “don’t make me come up there” in the face of attacks on our neutral air and sea transport. It will make our trade with any nation subject to denial by any other nation with even quite primitive boats or airplanes. By forcing us to accuse and respond to nations instead of securing areas, it will force us to escalate in situations where we might prefer more alternatives of lesser consequence.

    I’ll make up a hypothetical that seems far fetched to us, but maybe not so to some other nations. In some regional dispute, China decides to blockade SK. Do we really want to A, forfeit trade with SK, or B, throw down the gauntlet to China? I say it is our presence in the region that makes the possibility of China doing it vanishingly small. If they knew it would require mobilization and declarations, they might adopt a different decision tree.

    Since we are not going to be throwing any gauntlets to China, Ron Paul’s policy effectively means forfeiting trade with SK at China’s discretion, not our own.

  • Paul Marks

    “the problem is ‘immigration + a Welfare State’.”

    So I take it you will not be supporting Mike Huckabee then Perry – I know I am truly gifted to work that one out.

    Of course former Governor Huckabee gave all sorts of taxpayer financed benefits to illegals (even more than the Democrats in his State wanted to give).

    Ron Paul.

    Everyone tells me he is against the Welfare State – but in the debates I have not heard him mention the “e word” entitlements.

    Fred Thompson presents detailed plans for dealing with them.

    So I suppose I had better write that Fred Thompson posting I promised yesterday.

  • Ian B

    I say it is our presence in the region that makes the possibility of China doing it vanishingly small

    Doubtful. All China need to know that is that if they attacked American shipping, they’d face reprisals, and they already know that. So long as nations know that you’re prepared to respond, it makes no odds if it takes a carrier group a couple of weeks to get there.

    There are few nations with the will or ability to threaten US trade interests, not least because of the threat of ensuing escalation and reprisals, which they’d be guaranted to come off badly from should push come to shove. In terms of trader protection for instance, it’s unlikely that US bases in the UK are the only thing dissuading hordes of wild eyed, red bearded Scots pirates descending piratically on shipping, nor are they they actually preventing American businessmen having flaming sheep flung at them by hordes of French farmers.

    Simply put, a Chinese blockade of South Korea would be a major diplomatic crisis which would involve a lot of rattling and even drawing of sabres. Having an actual permanently manned military base in the region makes little difference in that regard.

    Different point, just to be a tidge inflammatory; although I’m hawkish myself, I’ll look at it from a perspective of what a Paul presidency might mean in the Middle East. Well, the removal of US intervention and patronage may, we suspect, lead Iran to go full tilt for nuclear weapons. We can then safely predict that Israel would take preemptive action before the peril became too great. Israel has nukes.

    It may thus be that USUK involvement and transnationalist limitations on what nations states can do under internationalist oversight is leading to a lack of political resolution in that area, prolonging this strange coldish war we’re now all so worried about. Leaving them alone might end up with the Dar Al Islam getting its bottom well and truly kicked which, dare I say, is probably going to have to happen some day anyway. Maybe it’d all work out for the best.

  • Midwesterner

    if it takes a carrier group a couple of weeks to get there.

    Pull them off of the Mexican border? 🙂

    Seriously, remember the shipping shutdown of 2002? Well ships (and planes) don’t move without insurance. And insurance companies to not cover damage inflicted by military. It really doesn’t take much action at all to shut down trade. It is a lot more fragile than anybody seems to realize.

    “Simply put” a Chinese blockade of SK will simply not happen if we have a base there. I do not really want to see a lot of congressionally approved saber rattling responding to other nation’s saber rattling. That is what strength diplomacy is for.

    As for your Israel remark, I truly am astonished. I have often said that the US benefits from Israeli defensive actions. But to rely on it! That alone suggests how absurd this whole line of thought has become. BTW, doesn’t Paul want to withdraw most of our support for Israel?

  • Alice

    There is an interesting feature of US Presidential elections since Watergate. Forget the usual media thing of percentages and swings — simply look at actual vote totals.

    The number of votes cast for the Democrat candidate over the last three decades has increased steadily at about the rate of population growth — completely independent of the candidate. That is why wooden Al Gore actually got more votes than supreme politician Bill Clinton ever did — and running joke John Kerry got even more votes than Al Gore.

    On the other side, the number of votes cast for the Republican candidate fluctuate tremendously — high for a Reagan, low for a Dole. The obvious conclusion — there is a big pool of “contingent voters”, people who will never vote for the Democrat candidate but might vote for a suitable Republican candidate or a 3rd party guy like Perot. Otherwise, they simply won’t vote at all.

    If the Republicans nominate someone who can attract the contingent voters, R wins. Otherwise, D wins. And the D candidate has almost no influence on the process.

    Because the media & academia are basically in the left-wing camp, there has been very little interest in the “contingent voter”. My guess is that the contingent voters totally reject big government Democrats and are unimpressed with ‘almost as big government’ Republicans. If the Republicans nominate an outsider who looks like he will shake up the Establishment, he can get the contingent voters and win. Indeed, it is the only way a Republican can win.

    Is Fred Thompson that kind of man? I hope so. Certainly, there is no-one else in the race who might get the contingent voters.

  • World trade requires safe passage. If any of you really think that we can continue to trade with nations involved in disputes among themselves without defending merchant shipping, please go back and have another look at history.

    Such as? I was not aware that Al Qaeda had u-boats or that China, a massive beneficiary of global trade, was threatening to sink ships in the straits of Malacca. Where is this threat?

  • Midwesterner


    The US is presently acting as the world’s policeman. Key word here, look at history. Look throughout history for nations that did not have the defense of shipping in place and tried to trade with nations that were engaged, either by choice or being attacked, in a conflict.

    From the Barbary ‘pirates’ to the German wolf packs, free trade is only safe where military forces are present in and near the shipping routes. Germany decided that we must not sell certain categories of products (darn near everything) to the UK.

    Do you and other people here genuinely believe that we can resort to congressionally approved long distance threats, saber rattling and eventually mobilization for retaliation to protect shipping?

    I absolutely do not. Anything close to our present levels of international trade will not last a decade with our military reduced to protecting our sovereign territory. Unless you have a very non-Paulian definition of what protecting sovereign territory means.

    If it is the intent to live without this trade, then proponents of that should admit it openly.

  • Ian B


    1) The US aren’t “policing” the world in any meaningful sense. Even if we accept your military bases argument, that’s not “policing”. The US is taking military actions for its own benefit, which sometimes have a spinoff benefit for other nations, but that clearly isn’t “policing”. It’s not necessarily wrong either, indeed I’m very glad of much of it personally, but the US aren’t the world’s “police”.

    I wonder how you’d feel if Putin’s Russia decided to start “policing” the world. Would an American level of Russian international military deployment and regime intervention look like “policing” to you, or would it look like something a bit scarier? I don’t remember the USA being very thrilled that time the Soviets built a “police station” in Cuba.

    2) Are China really itching to destroy their booming economy by wrecking trade? I’d like some evidence of that. It’s much like somebody saying we need a border fence and a line of nukes pointing at Scotland to stop them invading. The obvious question would be, “do the Scots really wish to invade England?” rather than just leaping to spending all that money and effort on the fence and nukes in case they might do it.

  • Paul Marks

    As Ian B. says there is nothing wrong with the United States using its armed forces to fight back against people who have attacked Americans.

    Jefferson did it and it is the same in Afghanistan (as even Ron Paul agreed at the time – whatever his more Rothbardian supporters may think).

    Of course the interpretation of Islam (both among some of those among the Sunni and some of those among the Shia) that hold that all nonMuslims and moderate Muslims must be exterminated or enslaved is a danger to ALL of the West – not just the United States.

    Which is why in fighting these radicals in Afghanistan and (now – not in 2003) in Iraq the United States is defending the West, not just itself.

    And this is why other nations, such as Britain, should support the United States.

    As for the current-capital problem in military affairs.

    It is a problem that was seen in Vietnam – current operations were financed, in part, by undermining long term programs.

    I remain convinced that proper cost control was never applied to the Iraq war – but what is done is done.

    Although demanding free health care (and so on) for everyone in oil rich Iraq at the expense of American taxpayers (who do not get “free” health care themselves) is barking mad.

    As well as leaving things open to the attack “if the people of Iraq can have X, Y, Z, why not people in the United States?”

    One does not have to be a Ludwig Von Mises institute man to think that neocon “nation building” is barmy.

    And all this at a time when the U.S. Navy has lost the F14 (with no real replacement – so everything depends on the F18 which would have gone as well had not been for Jim Talent when he was still Senator of Missouri). Carriers now take so long to get into service that the old ones (like the John F. Kennedy) are out of servive before the new ones are in service.

    And, with the rise of China, it DOES matter.

    Small ships used to be built IN A DAY (during world war two) and major ships were in service in a month or two.

    Now (from ordering to battle ready) can take a DECADE – it is insane.

    Meanwhile the United States Air Force relies on aircraft like the F15.

    When not just the design is decades old – THE INDIVIDUAL AIRCRAFT ARE DECADES OLD.

    It is a wonder they can fly at all.

  • Ian B

    Ha. We (UK) have decided to have two new carriers. This was thought about in 1998. The second comes is scheduled to come into service in 2016. That’s time for 3 World War IIs. Lucky we’re not in a hurry, and there’s no threats or nuthin like that.

    They only cost about £2 billion each. I’d have ordered half a dozen, off the shelf from Newport News (who build the Nimitz Class). Easily affordable even for the UK (who just gave £30 billion to a failed bank, no questions asked).

    But that’s just me.

  • Midwesterner

    Are China really itching to destroy their booming economy by wrecking trade? I’d like some evidence of that.

    Ian, I have no answer for you. It is not the only question that I have no answer for.

    Why did a prosperous industrialized nation decide to bomb Pearl Harbor? Why? What reason that would be shared with people here could they have possibly had to do that?

    Why did one of the most industrial and scientifically advanced nations in history decide to industriously murder millions of its most productive and valuable members? People who had done more than any other to bring that nation to its great power? What possible reason would have justified that expectation?

    Why did they decide to invade the Soviet Union? Why? What could they have possibly been thinking? What possible justification existed then that does not exist somehow, somewhere now?

    For that matter, Britain. Why on earth attack the nation of Neville Chamberlain? Give me a reason powerful enough that you would accept it somewhere in the world now.

    I imagine Paul Marks could continue in this vein until the pages stop loading. Why do nations do the things they do?

    The truth is, I don’t know. In the 1930s you would have had difficulty seeing any economic or even military justification for most of what followed soon after. At least if you confined yourself to the values you are stipulating now to justify any preparation. What did anybody have to gain? I don’t know what you would have been saying in the ’30s, but the refrain would have come from the songbooks of Neville Chamberlain and Henry Ford and all the others who couldn’t imagine a good answer to ‘why would they?’ or ‘why should we?‘.

    What are the Sudetenlands of the future? Do we have to wait for one to believe it can ever happen again? Should we ignore it when it does? After all, we aren’t fill in the blank. Nobody is actually going to ever attack us again. It seems to me a lot of things were never going to happen again.

    Perhaps it was a mistake for me to try to imagine an possible example. Because the truth is, I have no idea when or where the next problem will arise. But I know it will. And I know it will arise exactly when we are certain it won’t. And that isn’t a coincidence.

  • The interesting thing is that both Obama and Hillary would be weak candidates – candidates suffering some a major weakness.
    It’s an opportunity that a strong Republican might make good use of. I can’t say which Rep. would be the strongest candidate. Don’t count out McCain, maybe his voting record is only 86% conservative, but he seems the grown up among the lot. Not that I like him particularly.

  • Kevin B

    Why would China attack anyone, thus wrecking their trade and economy?

    Well Taiwan is the last outpost of the opposition in a Civil War. Civil wars are notorious for producing long-lasting resentments and, if the likelyhood was that the US would just make a lot of noise in the UN and impose a few sanctions, then the temptation for some in China’s ruling class to finish old business would be quite strong.

    After all, can you think of any overwhelming economic or strategic reasons for China’s policies in Tibet? They seem to be riding out the storm of international protest that that little adventure has provoked.

    Then there is NoKo and Soko. Another unfinished civil war. And the whole region has a bone to pick with Japan.

    The presence of US forces in the region is very much a way of saying; “If you attack them, then you attack us”, just as the presence of US troops in Europe during the cold war sent the same message. Many didn’t like it then, just as many don’t like it now, but I’m not sure all of them are opposed for libertarian reasons.

    By all means withdraw US forces into US territory, but don’t imagine this action will have no consequences.

  • Cynic

    Reagan was the most recent president that was able to shift the entire national government onto a new course.

    Rubbish. Check how much government spending was at the end of Reagan’s second term with what it was at the end of the Carter administration.

  • Britt

    The United States Navy does guarantee the safe passage of trade all over the world, just as the Royal Navy did from Trafalgar until about the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales by Japanese aircraft early in WWII. Pulling that protection back is asking for trouble. The lion tamer turns his back on his lions, but his lions are tame. The lions of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist organizations worldwide are not tame, and so they need to be watched, and if necessary struck against in the interests of preserving the peace of the world.

    I’ve said this many times: the one thing that keeps me from fully joining the Libertarian Party is their stance on foreign policy. The formulated policy of Libertarians in their interactions with the world is rooted in the idea that every nation and non state actor in the world is also following this policy. In short, the policy of a Libertarian state would work only in a world where all states were Libertarian. Which is of course not the case.

    Another thing about non interventionists is that they assume that the consequences of non-intervention are less then then the consequences of intervention. I would argue that historically speaking , intervention can bring good things along with bad things, but that non intervention only ever leaves to bad. Indeed, non intervention can buy you nothing but time. This is alluring but misleading, and can be illustrated with a historical example.

    In 1938 Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich with an agreement. The RAF continued building fighter aircraft, and work continued on the Chain Home radar stations. In 1940 the Battle of France was won, and the Battle of Britain began. Chamberlain’s defenders would assert that Munich had bought time, that the RAF had needed the year to build up defenses. This is specious. If the Western powers had reacted to Germnay’s bullying of Czechoslovakia in 1938, they would have been able to win the war with ease. The panzers which rolled across France in 1940 did not exist in 1938. The Me-109s and Stukas which would rule the skies over France and battle the RAF in 1940 did not exist in 1938. The Polish Army still existed in 1938. The Soviet Union was not allied with the Nazis in 1938. In short, if in 1938 the Allies had added to their list of battles something along the lines of Stuttgart and Nuremberg, in order to strike the German armies massing at the Czech border, then there would have been no Dunkirk, No Coventry, no Blitz, no Tobruk, No El Alamein, no Crete, no Singapore, no Imphal, no Monte Cassino, no D-Day, no Market-Garden. Yet Chamberlain, in the fear of what war now would bring, allowed the war of tomorrow to consume his country, and the whole world.

    If you stick your head in the sand, someone will slit your throat sooner or later. Better to be vigilant then to close your eyes and not even see the blow that descends upon your head.

  • They seem pretty vital to me. Try halving the number of carrier groups and submarines if the military needs more money. You may have noticed the Cold War is over.

    Come again? The United States Navy is the branch of the military that needs to be at Cold War strength above the rest, in order to hopefully ensure a future where no European or Asian hostile power can get to the Americas and establish a foothold. If there is any branch due for a budget cut, it is the Air Force.

  • Ian B

    Britt: I entirely agree with you about the need for a proactive and if necessary preemptive military policy, and with your statement about the cost of the delay before WWII which makes the point very well.

    I do however question the assertion that America is keeping the world’s trade routes open, or that that is the primary purpose of most of the US military bases, since most are in places where trade routes are not conceivably threatened. Are the US navy really policing the seas, or is it more a case that most nations either have no desire to interfere with trade, or are well aware that if they did they’d suffer reprisals (especially in our modern politically joined-up world)?

    I don’t agree with libertarian isolationism either. I think it’s just plain naive. But to be fair to Paul, he isn’t an isolationist. He simply doesn’t want America to “world police” nor get involved in entanglements. He’d still use the armed forces where necessary, ISTM.

    It may be however (and I’m not saying that the following is my POV, but it’s something I’m idly musing about) that perhaps we need to question the issue of what use foreign policy is. Most libertarians/small governmentists recognise that state planning of society is fundamentally impossible. The government cannot collect enough information to base a good plan on; the information itself is too complex, and the consequences of any plan can never be adequately forecast; the “Law Of Unintended Consequences”. The basis of planning is “if we do this, then they (the people) will react thusly…” but it never works out that way.

    Well doesn’t the same flaw apply to foreign policy? A state makes some choice or plan, attempting to predict what other states will do. But again, there are too many unknowns. Nobody negotiating the Treaty Of Versaille could have conceived that a new ideology called fascism would arise, for instance. The best laid plans of mice and me gang agley, and the same is true for the plans of states. Whatever interventions are undertaken, the result will almost always be different (“we’ll depose Saddam and then Iraq will become a shining beacon of democracy in the region”, for instance).

    That suggests that on the foreign policy front, any plans should be very simple and short term, rather than the hopelessness of trying to plan on a grander scale. One can argue that that is how nations and empires used to behave, with simple basic objectives such as “that neighbouring land is a threat. We’ll invade them and totally crush their military capability, kill the men, rape the livestock, then leave” or “We’ll invade, get a surrender, then order them to pay tribute. If they stop paying, we invade and crush them” rather than all this stuff about international agreements and trying to slyly reform other bits of the world into what we want them to be and trying to guess that if we do this, they’ll do that, then we do this, they do that… when 99% of the time it all turns out completely different anyway.

    I know I’m waffling, but I think what I’m trying to get at here is that all the complex negotiations and zillions of hours spent on international diplomacy might be just as much a waste of time as internal state planning. Instead, interactions between nations should be kept as simple as possible. That leads one to a somewhat Paulist point of view.

  • Russ

    Anybody who doesn’t think the world’s trade doesn’t rely on the US Navy needs to google three words:

    “Strait of Malacca.”

  • Ian:

    “we’ll depose Saddam and then Iraq will become a shining beacon of democracy in the region”, for instance

    The problem with that bit was not that it was some grand long-term plan, the problem was that there was no plan, only a grand long-term goal. If anyone has bothered to sit down and conceive a plan, they would have very quickly come to the inevitable conclusion that the goal was totally unrealistic. And, that bit about Iraq was in fact of the “he is a threat, lets crash him” variety. The grand long-term goal of the new shiny Arab Democracy was seen as a side benefit, and also as a means of not having to go on crashing the rest of them (by “them” I mean the entire Iraqi population).

    On international agreements: I see nothing wrong with those, as long as they are well thought out and not blindly relied on (Chamberlain does not qualify on either count), and we still have a big stick in our arsenal just in case.

  • Ian B

    I’d argue that Iraq was indeed part of a plan, even if a poorly conceived plan- which my previous post argued they all inherently are. There was a belief as to what would happen after Saddam was deposed which turned out to be entirely wrong.

    A simple old-fashioned plan would not have attempted to win hearts and minds in Iraq, or help them set up a pro-western regime, or anything else. It would simply have been to, for instance, utterly smash Iraq’s offensive capability (and to hell with Iraqi casualties, the more the better) then leave again, or force them to pay tribute.

    And as I pointed out, the consequences of actions are rarely foreseeable, even simple ones as I’ve suggested. Consider the Roman’s determination to bring Judah to heel, by various political meddling and 3 uses of overwheming force, the third of which entirely destroyed the little country. Who then could have predicted that the resultant Jewish diaspora would lead a splinter sect of their religion to rise up and overwhelm the entire Roman Empire? In terms of political hindsight, the best Roman strategy would have been to leave the Jews alone with their god in their little country. Non intervention would have been a better long term Roman strategy than the interventionist strategy they pursued, which ultimately bore such strange fruit.

  • Ian: the Law of Unforeseen Consequences is the only law there is:-) Of course I agree with you. My point was precisely that we should have stuck with the old-fashioned plan, or not invade in the first place.

  • Kim du Toit

    Two points.

    1. “The next US president is going to be the Democratic nominee, unfortunately.
    — I don’t think so. Hillary Clinton has extraordinarily high negatives (the “broken glass” syndrome, as in: the number of people who would crawl over broken glass to vote against her is about 51% of voters). Forget the other Democrats: they don’t stand a chance.

    2. Remember that when faced with the prospect of John Kerry or another “dead-heat” election, 60 million people turned out and voted for George W. Bush.

    The key to this election will revolve not around the “middle”, but around conservatives, millions of whom may just not vote if faced with an unpalatable Republican candidate. Without them, an Republican candidate is doomed, as GWB’s father found out when he reneged on his no-new-taxes promise.

    Why else do you think Romney and Giuliani have been pandering away like crazy to organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the NRA?

    Ever wonder why not a single Democrat candidate has breathed a word about gun control during the campaign, for example?

    We conservatives are not known as the “silent majority” for nothing. We don’t make a huge noise (well, apart from loudmoths like me); we dont send angry letters to the newspapers; and we certainly don’t tell pollsters what we think.

    But we do vote — or not, if the Republican candidate is unbearable.

    That’s why the Republican Establishment is clueless. They haven’t figured it out yet.

    But they’d better.

  • Paul Marks

    I wonder if you are including military spending in your calculations of government spending as a percentage of G.D.P. Cynic (of course you are).

    Ronald Reagan did cut some domestic programs, and got rid of others entirely – and he restored some real Federalism by reducing the percentage of State government spending that was financed by Federal taxes.

    On taxes, the top rate went down from was it 60% to 28% – and yet the amount and the percentage of total tax paid by the rich went UP.

    However, it is true that Ronald Reagan did not tackle the “entitlement” programs – the really big programs Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and so on.

    He did not like them (just as Ron Paul does not like them), but he did not present the detailed way of getting from where things are to where they ought to be (just as Ron Paul does not).

    “Pete” Du Pont tried in 1988, but he crashed and burned in New Hampshire (who cares that you have a very good record as Governor of Deleware and have lots of good ideas – if you have a French sounding first name you are doomed).

    And Fred Thompson is trying now – but the media mock him.

    Actually in a general election campaign (where he would get the time he needs) he would be a very hard man to mock – as he tends to stand up for himself.

    I briefly saw him on Fox today – and he played hard with the daytime interviews (he made them look like the lightweights they are).

    He is not a small man with a weak voice.

  • Cynic

    I wonder if you are including military spending in your calculations of government spending as a percentage of G.D.P. Cynic (of course you are).

    Military spending is still spending, and quite frankly, the massive buildup in the 1980s was mostly a colossal waste of cash. It isn’t really unreasonable to plea for some kind of fiscal sanity with regards to defence spending. The current defence spending under Bush, including the Iraq and Afghanistan budgets, is over $500 billion a year. That is downright robbery, and anybody who believes such exorbitant government spending is necessary is an enemy of the taxpayer.

  • Sunfish

    Without them, an Republican candidate is doomed, as GWB’s father found out when he reneged on his no-new-taxes promise.

    Even more than that, remember when Lee Atwater said, “Fuck the gun owners! Where else are they gonna go?”

    Yep, we showed him. Oh, wait, we showed him and got Billy Jeff for our troubles.

    If we’re going to fix anything about the Stupid Party, we need to get over our fear of meaningful primary challenges against incumbent presidents. Both Bushes should have been challenged.

  • Nick M

    Yeah, let’s scrap the jets and subs and carriers and tanks and develop a lean mean fighting machine entirely geared to fighting bearded primitives. Yes, lets do just that and when 20 or 30 years from now the next threat hoves into view and it’s a high-tech heavy metal military we’ll be completely prepared to fight the last war as ever… You are of course all aware that a supersonic stealth fighter or nuclear submarine can be sketched on a fag-packet and built by yokels in a shed in a week if needed. Sheesh!

    Paul, The entire USAF F-15 fleet (except the rather different F-15E strike version) is currently grounded with a very tricky structural problem. My solution: scrap ’em and order another couple hundred Raptors.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Nick I had heard abouthe F15s. You may be right – but I wish the Raptor was less expensive.

    Cynic – I think you are talking about the rise in the military budget from 5% of G.D.P. to under 7% at the peak in the 1980s (as oppposed to 11% under J.F.K. before Vietnam).

    Actually as government programs go (which, agreed, is wildly badly) the build up was well managed – and without the U.S. military would have decayed to nothing much (due to previous neglect).

    As for the current wars.

    Afghanistan was hardly optional – as even Ron Paul agreed at the time.

    As for Iraq – in 2003 we agree, but a sunk cost is a sunk cost.

    Defeat is not a good option now (and running away is defeat) – for reasons I, and others, have explained many times.