A panel of congresspeople and foreign policy experts discussed whether or not the United States engages in too many global conflicts during a panel at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday. Each participant offered differing perspectives on the criteria for involvement in war, with one congressman emphasizing the need to remain vigilant and back our wars with funding so “our enemies will be broken.”
Dr. Angelo Codevilla, professor of International Relations at Boston University, stressed that the proper natural end of war is peace. On the other hand, “defeat is letting the enemy win his version of peace. Our leaders have forgotten that truth and have engaged our forces without [knowing what we’re really after],” he said at the “Too Many American Wars? Should We Fight Anywhere and Can We Afford It?” panel.
We can afford it and we “must afford it” was Representative Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) opinion on U.S. conflict. According to Cotton, “We’re fighting ONE war, and it’s a war against radical Islamic jihad … Iraq and Afghanistan are two battlefronts in [the same] war.” If we remain vigilant, Cotton believes “our enemies will be broken. Their ability to project power over American interests …will be degraded … their coreligionists will reject their radical theological aims.” The freshman representative also discounted concerns over the cost of these military engagements, stating, .“we can afford it … and we must afford it … we have the national wealth to do it.”
But Dr. Ivan Eland, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, offered a strongly different view on foreign policy, reminding the audience that “the founders virtually all were suspicious of standing armies.”
Dr. Eland suggested the President Coolidge model of smaller government and limited military engagement be utilized, reminding the audience that federal spending as a percentage of GDP increased under President Reagan. Most notably, Dr. Eland suggested that if the United States refused to intervene in WWI, the Russian Revolution would not have occurred and Hitler would not have risen to power.
Dr. Codevilla offered harsh words for both the Bush and Obama administrations. According to Codevilla, Powell’s notion of “an exit strategy is complete nonsense.” Furthermore, the professor stated that little difference exists between the “wise men” of both the Obama and Bush administration and that their sophistication is complete balderdash.” According to the Codevilla, going to war to stop terrorism without any notion how to end it or who to shoot is improper.
Conservative stalwart Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) focused on providing the military the tools and authority to win conflicts. According to Gohmert, “Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we would not win it … You don’t send American men and women into harm’s way unless you give them the authority to do what they need to win and then bring them home.”
The diversity of the opinions illustrate the debate currently being waged throughout the Republican Party on the methods of war and the purpose of military engagement.