Am I the only one who finds that the Kagans are relentlessly, almost ideologically, committed to US build-ups overseas, and the regular use of military power and military-related tools generally? I just read the WaPo op-ed from last week. It tells me nothing I haven’t heard from them whether on C-Span, Lehrer, or from their various websites/think-tanks for years. Certainly, Afghanistan may be worth the build-up they counsel. My own thoughts are deeply divided, so it’s not obvious that they are wrong in the op-ed. Nor are they incorrect that military leverage is the ultimate backbone for the exercise of national power. I agree there too. And I know they are a lot smarter, better travelled, and have better access than me. So I do read them usually.
But increasingly I don’t feel like I need to. I already know their answer – more soldiers, and more ‘will’ or ‘backbone.’ As Greenwald has said, these guys seems like robots. They always seem to suggest that more US force is the answer. If Russia misbehaves, we should threaten it implicitly and let southeastern Europe into NATO. On China, belligerence is the obvious way to save Taiwan. Iran should be bombed. Iraq was a great idea. Etc, etc.
It can’t be this easy. There are other tools of national power and influence – diplomacy, aid, sanctions – and these are wildly underfunded. (Compare the DoD and State budgets; the former is funded by 25-30x the latter. And forget about USAID.) I realize that soft power or whatever you want to call it is ‘soft.’ It doesn’t work too well. But counsels to war or war-like build-ups/advisors/military aid, etc, have their own massive costs that I never seem to hear about that from them or other ‘neo-cons’ (if that is where the Kagans lie). Walt has a nice 2- piece on the huge costs this sort of counsel implicitly carries. You can’t just war and war – it guts democratic freedoms at home, turns you into an imperialist abroad (whether you want to be or not), and breaks the domestic fiscus. (Not to mention that your country becomes responsible for a great deal of death and destruction, regardless of the cause it serves.) Do the Kagans ever blink for a moment when they read about the trillion dollar deficits for the next decade? I am sure they do. They are pretty bright. But is their answer simply to reflexively demand domestic program cuts to prop-up defense spending at the $6-700 billion level indefinitely? Again it just can’t be that easy.