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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

For Americans, Peace Trumps War

by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Presidential politics, big picture, is mainly about two things: prosperity and peace, a/k/a national security.

On the prosperity side Donald Trump is beginning to attract unexpected mainstream praise for the economic, specifically monetary, policy element of his prosperity agenda. Matt O’Brien, at the Washington Post, writes On this [Federal Reserve Policy] issue, Donald Trump knows a lot more than other Republicans. Sad! At The Week Jeff Spross writes Donald Trump is shockingly sane on the Federal Reserve. Now Politico reports Trump’s economic policies start to make sense, former Fed board member says. The Washington Post's Jim Tankersley already scooped that One part of the Republican Establishment actually loves Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, referencing supply-side thought leaders Steve Forbes, Arthur Laffer, Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore, founders of the officially neutral Committee To Unleash Prosperity (of whose Supply Side Blog I serve as editor in chief).

Moving on to peace, and national security, Donald Trump has unsettled American policy elites, Republican eminences, and world leaders. He has done so by publicly toying with some borderline heretical (or as the New York Times more elegantly puts it, orthodoxy defying) proposals like the possibility of renegotiating our commitment to NATO and of withdrawing our nuclear defense commitment to Japan and Korea (suggesting they develop their own nuclear deterrent a là France’s force de frappe).

Recently Trump gave his first major foreign policy address. The status quo elites missed the punchline.

The last time a candidate created such consternation was when Ronald Reagan proposed shifting from the doctrine of containment of the Soviets to “We win, they lose,” proposing a judicious, not bellicose, confrontation. Is Trump off the rails? Or on to something?

I already, here and here, have noted how the GOP primary voters flocked, in super-majorities, to its three “Tough Dove” peace through strength candidates – including Trump – and shied from its militant (Christie, Fiorina, Kasich) and even moderate (Bush, Rubio) hawks.

The electorate, very much including the GOP base, wants peace. Trump outlined how he would offer himself up as a Reaganesque “peace through strength” president. The speech attracted some criticisms, some even merited, for inconsistencies and lacunae.

Those criticisms, however, overlook the politically most significant thing about that speech. The most interesting thing was how consistent this speech was with Trump’s already established “Tough Dove” Doctrine. The startling essence may be found here:We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes, but we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests.

Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries.

Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.

Fixing our relations with China is another important step — and really toward creating an even more prosperous period of time.

. . . Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction.
I am not qualified to render judgment on the geopolitics of Trump’s propositions. That said, the politics of these olive branches are brilliant.

Trump has a preternatural ability to read the public mood. Previously he raised totems before fetishized objects of popular discontent. Trump repeatedly presented himself to the popular imagination as a Professor Abraham Van Helsing brandishing a crucifix and garland of garlic cloves against perceived, or imagined, blood-sucking vampires. Now: olive branches.

The hobgoblins of foolish (or, for that matter, prudent) consistency never have haunted the mind of Donald Trump. In the same speech Trump also stated:Our nuclear weapons arsenal, our ultimate deterrent, has been allowed to atrophy and is desperately in need of modernization and renewal. And it has to happen immediately. Our active duty armed forces have shrunk from 2 million in 1991 to about 1.3 million today. The Navy has shrunk from over 500 ships to 272 ships during this same period of time. The Air Force is about one-third smaller than 1991. …

And what are we doing about this? President Obama has proposed a 2017 defense budget that in real dollars, cuts nearly 25 percent from what we were spending in 2011. Our military is depleted and we’re asking our generals and military leaders to worry about global warming.

We will spend what we need to rebuild our military.
Well. As James Madison wrote in 1795, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

True then.

True now.

America already spends, by credible estimates, more on its military — well over half a trillion dollars a year — than the next half dozen or so countries combined. Most of these nations are our allies.

And China spends around a quarter to a third of what we do and far less per capita. Russia, spends perhaps a tenth (comparable with Britain, France, and India). Both have continental territories to defend. Let it emphatically be noted: not defend from the prospect of American invasion.

Trump lucidly makes the compelling point that Islamic fanatics – not Russia or China — represent the current life-or-death threat. He offers an opportunity to take a good look at putting some of our gun money into butter money: tax rate cuts and rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.

Trump blusters now about rebuilding the military. Yet his history reveals him to be more a lover than a fighter.

The voters sense, and crave, peace. As I have written here the single most overlooked shift in the tectonic plates underlying our politics may be the under-reported dawning of world peace.As this columnist elsewhere has noted Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Joshua Goldstein’s Winning the War on War, and the Human Security Report Projectpreviously summarized by this columnist — light the way:

“…the number of war battlefield deaths has dropped by a factor of 1,000, falling from 500 per 100,000 in prehistoric times, to 60-70 in the 19th and 20th century (notwithstanding epic wars) to… less than one such death per 300,000 now in the 21st. Genocide deaths have dropped by well over a factor of 1000 from 1942 to 2008.
War is fast atrophying. America is not by nature imperialistic, militaristic, or even bellicose. We got dragged into a century long war… a noble one, against reprehensible dictatorships. We, and liberty, won.

The first leg of the Hundred Year War, World War I, coincided with the collapse of the Imperial world order. The overthrow of the Ottoman empire in 1923 completed the ending of four of the five reigning empires – Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Chinese, and Ottoman. The one remaining, least autocratic, empire, the British, went into terminal decline to end but a brief generation later.

After millennia of imperial rule the world was rid of emperors. This is a Very Big Deal.

So big that it’s not so easy to see.

The fall of Empire did not, in the event, make the world safe for democracy. Instead, dictators, tyrants, and warlords arose amid the ruins. That impelled America back into the second leg of the Hundred Year war, World War II, to defeat the Axis powers of Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese militarists.

We won. Liberal republican governance principles became firmly adopted in Western Europe and Japan. Historic.

Totalitarian figures continued to dominate the communist East. We then entered the third leg of the Hundred Year War, the Cold War. America prevailed.

The Soviet satellites spun out of allegiance. The Berlin Wall fell. Germany reunited. The Soviet Union peacefully dissolved itself into its constituent republics.

China, in process of democratizing beginning at the prefecture level, unnerved by the dissolution of the USSR and cognizant of the historical fragility of its own sovereignty, put its political liberalization on pause. China pivoted, instead, to supply-side prosperity policies. And prospered.

At no time did America wish, or attempt, to rule the world. We accidentally inherited temporary world dominance and proved, by and large, a very fine steward. The world electorate appears to wish to move, now, to regional power centers rather than America's benevolent hegemony.

That should be perfectly fine with us. America’s expensive burden of maintaining world peace will be distributed to other shoulders while we cut our tax rates and rebuild our bridges. America then can go back to living by our favorite, hippie-like, slogan: “Make money, not war.” All good.

America yearns for peace, prosperity, and the opportunity to transmit around the world, by soft power, liberal republican governance principles to enhance human dignity. Trump, politically, seems to sense this. He is aligned with this electoral impulse. Thus Trump would make a formidable challenger to the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton, as U.S. Senator, voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. She, as secretary of state, was the prime architect of Obama’s destruction of Libya. Hillary Clinton displays considerably more hawkish feathers than does “Tough Dove” Donald Trump.

To put in a kind word for Mrs. Clinton her advocacy to destroy the Libyan dictatorship surely came from haunting memories of the Rwanda genocide not from bellicosity. Still, Iraq and Libya were mistakes of epic proportions. The electorate may well hold her accountable.

There are ample reasons to question Donald Trump’s suitability for the presidency, many persuasive. That said, Trump’s clearly authentic declaration that “Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction” is consistent both with paleoconservative and progressive principles. Take note.

A presidential election is about two big picture things: prosperity and peace.

Advantage, Trump.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Donald Trump, For Americans, Peace, Trumps War  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
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