Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 20, 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY.... Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and arguably the only GOP senator with any credibility left on international affairs, appears to be deeply skeptical of the U.S. efforts in Libya. That probably won't do him any favors in the Republican cloakroom.

But there was one line in particular he offered on "Face the Nation" this morning that stood out for me.

Lugar warned that the U.S. is investing huge sums of money in a foreign endeavor at a time when the domestic economy is still struggling."It's a strange time," he said. "Almost all of our congressional days are spent on budget deficits, outrageous problems. Yet, at the same time, all of this passes, which is a very expensive operation."

Wait, you mean military operations aren't free?

We've grown accustomed to simply leaving costs out of the equation when evaluating the merit of national security decisions. For much of the political establishment, it seems somehow gauche -- we're dealing with a combat situation, which necessarily means money is no object.

But to borrow a cliche, missiles don't grow on trees. We've spent the last two months hearing Republican officials tells us, ad nauseam, that "we're broke." In fact, we're so broke, we have no choice, they tell us, but to decimate funding for education, medical research, infrastructure, job training, and homeland security, among other things, even if it makes the jobs crisis much worse. "So be it," Speaker Boehner tells us.

Apparently, however, we're not that broke. At least not broke enough to think twice about whether to engage another foreign enemy.

Truth be told, I'm not especially concerned about the costs of this operation, either. Whether "Operation Odyssey Dawn" is a good idea is a question worth considering in great detail, but when evaluating the merits, costs aren't exactly the first question I'm inclined to ask.

Then again, I'm not a deficit hawk who's been telling the nation that spending more money -- on anything -- will likely cause the end of civilization as we know it. Those who have been making just such a case may want to take a moment to explain why we can't afford to fund Head Start centers, but the price of Tomahawk cruise missiles aren't much of a concern.

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Most Americans, politicians included, don't vote their interests, they vote their pathologies.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 20, 2011 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Because Head Start benefits black children, while Tomahawk missiles blow up brown people.

Posted by: bleh on March 20, 2011 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

A random thought, just reading that Franklin Graham is going on about the trouble in Japan meaning the second coming of christ - my thoughts on the matter - How would the repubs know if it was, christ would come as one of the poor, since when did the repubs recognize the poor?

Posted by: j on March 20, 2011 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Let me correct your sentence above. Should read:

spending more money -- on anything THAT I DON'T PERSONALLY LIKE -- will likely cause the end of civilization as we know it.

Republicans LIKE war. No budget required. They HATE helping people, so every penny has to be squeezed or eliminated.

Posted by: Mark-NC on March 20, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom isn't free.

Unless you're rich.

Posted by: bignose on March 20, 2011 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm. Isn't most of this money already spent? I mean, the missiles are already made, and weren't we going to employ the soldiers anyway? They've signed up for stints of service. And, if we have to build missiles to replace these, doesn't that put people to work -- and give Big Business more money in its pockets?

Posted by: pol on March 20, 2011 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Be careful what you wish for: Republicans will embrace the idea that defense costs money as soon as they realize that expenditures like these will help justify even further slices into the social safety net. "Sure, we'd love to help, but we had to fund Operation Whatever, so there's no money left for Head Start or Social Security".

Posted by: Bernard Gilroy on March 20, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, bleh, real concern for "brown people" who ordered the bombing of a Pan-Am plane carrying white, black and brown people. Or a real concern for "brown people" who aided and abetted Idi Amin in his slaughter of black people. Real concern about "brown people" who aid and abet dictators in the Sudan and Chad which ends up in the killing of even more brown and black people.

Yes, Lugar, as the deep seated RepuG that he truly has been very hypocritical and selective in his condemnations. He cares less about the poor or even the few middle class left in this country.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 20, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

In 2002, Lugar was VERY concerned about the end game in Iraq and the "plan for peace". Lugar publicly complained about the lack of a plan, but did not get much attention.

So what is the end game in Libya? Do we install corrupt wealthy elite overlords to replace current leadership? Does anyone remember that the US got kicked out of their AFB when the current (populist) leadership removed a corrupt dictator decades ago?

Posted by: bakho on March 20, 2011 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh I don't know. Tomahawk cruise missiles have already been paid for (previous years' defense budgets). There's nothing else you can do with them, you can't regain the sunk costs, and they have expiration dates just like everything else.

Posted by: Prof B on March 20, 2011 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Chad, isn't that in Florida?

Posted by: bleh on March 20, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Lugar pings respect in nanometers, I like the angle however on teabagger traitors; "I thought we were broke, broke enough to gut middle class "entitlements" while increasing income and lightening the tax burden for the wealthy". Of course nobody is listening; if anyone were they would cry out against the complete lack of management! The House and Senate combined could not effectively manage a 7/11. Mr. Lugar and all the rest of them should be homeless for their mismanagement.

Posted by: Trollop on March 20, 2011 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't refer to these clowns who have voted for tax cuts at every and any opportunity while deficits were being dug deeper "Deficit Hawks." We lose a little ground every time we legitimatize this phony narrative that the "Starve the Beast" and "Tax Cuts Uber Alles" fake "fiscal conservatives" have carefully constructed over the last three decades. At best they are "Deficit Peacocks." At worst they are simply dishonest nihilists bent on empowering economic elites at the expense of most Americans.

I'll take this opportunity, as a corrective, to do a little "blogwhoring" because I'm determined to fight these phonies on their own turf:

I've put together a "Common Sense" Guide to the Great Deficit Debate, to help activists and concerned citizens get basic background and facts to fight the hysterics generated by Tea Partiers, Koch apparatchiks and GOP social nihilists:  
A PDF download - and related commentary, links & resources - available here:  

The Titanic sails at dawn
Hope this is useful to some of you - and spread it around if you are so moved.

Posted by: Brucds on March 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Was Lugar involved in some vote I didn't hear about? What is he talking about "passes"? As far as I know, Congress hasn't declared war on Libya, or even authorized use of military force. Not that piddling niceties like that matter anymore in our post-Iraq, we'll-blow-up-anything-the-President-wants political environment, but still. Some of us old fogies have fond memories of those quaint Constitutional war powers.

The only thing I know that has "passed" is in the Security Council, which isn't in the business of worrying about our deficit.

Posted by: biggerbox on March 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Odd. We can have a fleet that circles the globe looking for trouble. But ask them to do something like launch some missiles and now that costs extra? What exactly do we get for $700+ billion dollars a year? Sorry. You mean you want us to do something? Now that costs extra?

Posted by: mickster on March 20, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

When the Navy isn't involved as they are now in Libya, do they just sit in port, and do the planes stay parked on the tarmac or under the flight deck of the aircraft carrier? Are the airmen and sailors not paid anyway? I think much of the money will be spent anyway. When you want be be the baddest kid on the block, it costs money, a lot of money. The real question is: do we really come out ahead as a country with so much spent on defense when we let many of our own citizens in this economy have to rely on their own non-existent boot straps to lift themselves up? Apparently many Republicans think so.

Posted by: sparrow on March 20, 2011 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

to put it in perspective, the 110 tomahawk missiles we fired yesterday cost $569,000 each. that's more than 5 years of federal funding for NPR shot off in less than an hour.

Posted by: mellowjohn on March 20, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

If any of those $569,000 missiles took out surface to air systems of the murderous thug Khaddafi's miliatary and saved the lives of, either the coalition or our pilots, then, it is money well spent or would you have rather read of any F-18, B-2, Rafele or Mirage plane and piot being shot down? Yes, I know, you would have rather seen all military funding spent on NPR and other worthwhile ventures, but, to take out the mastermind behind Lockerbie and other brutal terrorist acts, I believe one can be a strong Progressive and a strong supporter of our military. The invasion of Iraq was a horrible misuse of our military. Operation Odyssey Dawn is a much needed use of our military. At least we helped create employment in Libya for those hired to change the diapers of Khaddafi after he was told about the air and sea strikes.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 20, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on March 20, 2011 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it Congressional the prerogative to declare war?

Unilateral warmaking by the Executive Branch whether under Democratic, Republican, or Whig control is as unconstitutional as ever.

Maybe Representative Kucinich would like to draw up a new set of Articles of Impeachment.

Posted by: Steve on March 20, 2011 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

That, of course, should read "Isn't it the Congressional prerogative to declare war?"

Chalk it up to lysdexia.

Posted by: Steve on March 20, 2011 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Ha, I'd like to see the House Republicans shut down our federal government, refusing to pass anymore Continuing Resolutions to fund it, now that we're at war...in Libya...in Afghanistan...in Iraq.

Oh wait, what am I thinking? We are talking about the House Republicans. Country first, soldiers first, aren't exactly high on their priority list, especially when there's a Democratic Party president in the White House. Come to think of it, country first/soldiers first wasn't really high on the Republicans' priority list when Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were running things, not with blowing off the warning signs before 9/11, not with their invading a country based on lies, not with their outing a covert CIA agent, not with their shorting our soldiers fighting over in Iraq, not with them letting Wall Street Robber Barons run wild and almost crash the U.S. and world economies in 2008. Sometimes one has to wonder if the top priority of the Republican Party is to destroy America, subvert our Constitution, kill our nation's middle-class, throw even more Americans out onto the street and into poverty.

So, it will be interesting to see in upcoming weeks if House Republicans throw Uncle Sam under the bus in pursuit of their never-ending culture war against American citizens (except the rich) and the Obama administration (even though Obama has bent over backwards to appease them).

Posted by: The Oracle on March 20, 2011 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Isn't it the Congressional prerogative to declare war?"
Posted by: Steve on March 20, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Could be the reason we (and all our allies) have been very, very careful not to *call* it "a war". If it has no name, it doesn't exist. An "operation", maybe. An "intervention", perhaps. But, "war"? Perish the thought.

Posted by: exlibra on March 20, 2011 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

This is just another example of the old adage that people can afford what they want. Republicans say we can't afford "it", but what they really mean is that they don't want to pay for "it."

Republicans like spending on the military (to defend their financial interests throughout the globe), and they really like tax cuts for corporations and uber-rich Americans. So they can find the money (or accept deficit spending) for those.

But they don't like public sector employment, health care, Social Security, NPR or Planned Parenthood, so THOSE we can't afford. The question is whether Democrats will challenge or echo the "we can't afford it" meme.

Posted by: PTate in MN on March 20, 2011 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't it take WWII to get the US (finally) out of the Great Depression, providing a giga-buttload of fiscal stimulus?

Sure, that's much MUCH less efficient than building roads and schools, but sometimes the "Nazis" demand that you put their priorities first.

[Good might, Political Animals. Comments are off overnight, but we'll have fresh threads tomorrow morning. --Mods]

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on March 20, 2011 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK



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