Broder in 2003 op-ed Compared Iraq War to New Deal

David Broder’s October 31st op-ed on how Obama might spark an economic recovery by preparing for war with Iran has received much derision from various quarters (summarized in today’s Daily Talking Points).

But I’d like to highlight that Broder’s argument shows how thoroughly out of tune he is with the macroeconomic effects of government spending, and that this isn’t the first time he’s linked war spending to FDR’s New Deal.

Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research debunks Broder’s assumption that war spending is different than any other kind of public expenditure.

Baker writes:

Sorry Mr. Broder, outside of Fox on 15th the world does not work this way. War affects the economy the same way that other government spending affects the economy. It does not have some mystical impact as Broder seems to think.

But Broder does seem to see a “mystical relationship” between wars and boosting the economy. 

In an August 2003 oped in The Washington Post, titled “W’s New Deal?,” Broder wrote:

Roosevelt made his changes under the spur of the Great Depression and World War II. Bush has the impetus of 9/11 to thank for the doctrine of preemptive wars, used to justify the attack on Iraq, and for the creation of the Homeland Security Department, one of the biggest restructurings of government since the New Deal.

I can’t say for sure how the creation of the Homeland Security Department and the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq measures up to the New Deal in terms of total spending. But remember, President Bush’s term ended with the start of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. So it’s tough to say that Broder’s bizarre endorsement of war spending works out for the better.

Broder concluded in 2003 that the risks are high and success is not guaranteed when pursuing a policy of public spending on the scale Bush advocated in 2003 or FDR employed during the Great Depression. Having seen how the Bush administration ended–an administration with no shortage of war spending–it’s astonishing to see Broder rehash this argument.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. The superannuated Broder’s attempt to flatter and identify himself with evil to make himself relevant at the sad end of a long life frankly recalls nothing so much as the analogous attempt by Heidegger.

    As for the glaring logical fallacy, see Pat Buchanan’s typically brilliant column on the subject.

  2. RE: “Broder does seem to see a ‘mystical relationship’ between wars and boosting the economy.” ~ Eli Clifton

    FROM TED RALL, 07/22/10: …Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay “Eternal Fascism” describes the cult of action for its own sake under fascist regimes and movements: “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”…
    SOURCE –

  3. Good grief, if we were to use WW2 as an history lesson, let’s at least get the roles right. The US benefited from not fighting WW2 but for arming the British, French and others. We literally traded the British empire’s territories for the products of American manufacturing. England was at the point of that spear–England, France, Russia, Italy and Germany including Poland and Austria/Hungary/Czechoslovakia/Yugoslavia. Of course Japan, China and the Pacific Islands suffered too. All except the US.

    Now these Wars on Terrorism aren’t fought here either, but again, in WW2 we weren’t the principle combatant, England and Russia were “All in” we were pushing but we didn’t have near as much fat in the game. The real effect of WW2 was that we usurped the British, who chose, ultimately, to go to war with Germany. So, might we be Britain and China, the country on the sidelines who’s manufacturing is supplying the world who are mired in war and depression? Broder should consider his analogy better. It might tell him that the best thing for China’s economy and long term prospects for dominance would be for America to go to war with Iran.

    This will make the Middle East safe for Chinese democracy and economic development; spur Chinese manufacturing while degrading their principle competitors. By loaning us the money to continue our aggression, we trade our empire for debt. Broder’s analogy isn’t off, his assignment of the various roles is.

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