Boot: A Serious Militarist

After he broke with his former neo-conservative comrades, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan suggested why in a not-so-oblique passage of his 1993 book on the post-Cold War era, Pandaemonium. During his early years in the Senate, he wrote, he came to realize that his former ideological allies “wished for a military posture approaching mobilization; they would create or invent whatever crisis were required to bring this about.”

Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, appears to be the very embodiment of what Moynihan was referring to. His op-ed in the Washington Post Friday makes clear that he thinks permanent mobilization is a very good thing. It seems, according to Boot, that every time the United States has reduced its military budget or the size of its armed forces, or its conventional or unconventional military capabilities since the Revolution itself, the result was disaster. Every time. My personal favorite paragraph in the piece reads:

“After the Vietnam War, our armed forces shrank from 3.5 million personnel in 1969 to 2 million in 1979. This was the era of the “hollow army,” notorious for its inadequate equipment, discipline, training and morale. Our enemies were emboldened to aggression, ranging from the anti-American revolutions in Nicaragua and Iran to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We are still paying a heavy price for the Iranian Revolution, with Iran on the verge of going nuclear.”

The implication of the second and third sentences, of course, is that, if the armed forces hadn’t shrunk, they could somehow have deterred, or, if necessary, actually intervened in Nicaragua and Iran to thwart “anti-American revolutions” that presumably would never have taken place were it not for our enemies’ “aggression.” The notion that these revolutions, as in Vietnam, might have had homegrown roots doesn’t seem to have occurred to Boot for whom the whole post-World War II era of decolonization was presumably a Communist conspiracy masterminded in Moscow and/or Beijing. (And if the Shah had remained in power, it would have been inconceivable to Boot that Iran might try to acquire nuclear weapons!)

In any event, read Boot’s article and then take a look at David Stockman’s op-ed in the Sunday New York Times in which he recounts “how my G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy,” from the Reagan administration — in which he served as the first director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) — to the present. Interestingly, Stockman explicitly blames “the neocons” for “pushing the military budget skyward” at the same time that taxes were being slashed.

It’s clear that Boot is still pushing.

(I should say blaming the “neocons” alone isn’t really fair. The aggressive nationalists of the Cheney/Bolton variety, with whom the neo-cons had forged a strategic alliance in the mid-1970’s, shared — and continue to share — the responsibility. Of course, both tendencies have enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the defense industry.)

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.


One Comment

  1. The sarcasm here is a little heavy, but the facts are correct. The problem is that the neocons and “aggressive nationalists” (who are no different from the neocons except that they didn’t start out in the Democratic Party) don’t know the difference between a strategic threat and a nuisance. The Soviet Union was a strategic threat to the US; Iran is not.

    Under Bush I and Clinton defense outlays were cut about 30%. Deeper cuts could and should have been made. The idea that the American people should go broke for the benefit of Israel, Japan and South Korea is ludicrous. Bush II’s election and 9/11 changed everything; the neocons were in the saddle and it’s been nothing but disaster since.

    The Stockman piece was excellent. Let’s not forget though that the liberal spendthrifts in the Johnson administration and in Congress since also bear a heavy share of the responsibility for the current economic mess.

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