George Will Wakes Up

February 09, 2012 5:37 pm ET — Walid Zafar

In his column today, conservative Washington Post opinionator George Will's takes his side to task for the dishonest ways they have attacked the president's record on foreign policy. As Will explains, those who advance the notion that "America is being endangered by 'appeasement' and military parsimony have worked that pedal on their organ quite enough."

The deaf, dumb, and blind approach that the Republican presidential contenders have taken, in which they attack even the president's most popular and successful decisions, doesn't have much resonance with the electorate — especially given that the president has pursued a fairly conservative foreign policy while backing modest cuts to the massive military infrastructure. Will writes:

The U.S. defense budget is about 43 percent of the world's total military spending — more than the combined defense spending of the next 17 nations, many of which are U.S. allies. Are Republicans really going to warn voters that America will be imperiled if the defense budget is cut 8 percent from projections over the next decade? In 2017, defense spending would still be more than that of the next 10 countries combined.

Do Republicans think it is premature to withdraw as many as 7,000 troops from Europe two decades after the Soviet Union's death? About 73,000 will remain, most of them in prosperous, pacific, largely unarmed and utterly unthreatened Germany. Why do so many remain?

Since 2001, the United States has waged war in three nations, and some Republicans appear ready to bring the total to five, adding Iran and Syria. (The Weekly Standard, of neoconservative bent, regrets that Obama "is reluctant to intervene to oust Iran's closest ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.") GOP critics say that Obama's proposed defense cuts will limit America's ability to engage in troop-intensive nation-building. Most Americans probably say: Good.

Will, an early and enthusiastic  supporter of the war in Iraq, points out that what many Republicans are complaining about — namely that we are less inclined to invade and occupy other countries almost at will — is exactly what most Americans want. In particular, Will goes after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has advanced the "appeasement" canard even more than his more hawkish opponents. Romney's policy on Afghanistan, for example, seems to be the opposite of what the president is initiating; even if that means continuing a war that many (including some of Romney's own advisors) realize is unwinnable in the conventional sense.

But Will's comments about military spending are even more important. In the past several months, we've heard from Republicans that sequestration would result in all sorts of terrible outcomes, including a possible military draft, the abandonment of our allies, and even ceding our "global superpower status." The Heritage Foundation, one of the breeding grounds for conservative thought, is not only opposed to modest cuts to military spending but has consistently called for defense spending to be increased, much like Romney.

But these arguments, as Will notes, are made without consideration of just how massive our military budget is, how small an impact sequestration will ultimately have, and the fact that not only do we spend more than the next 17 countries combined, but that many of those behind us are our NATO allies and hence are of no threat.