George Will: GOP losing “superiority” on national defense

posted at 1:20 pm on February 9, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

We can’t let the entire day slip away without one seriously unpopular opinion, so let’s check in with columnist George Will. In his latest offering, he cautions that forty years of “a presumption of superiority” on the part of the Republican Party may be coming to an end if we’re not careful. This deals not so much with how President Obama is handling military and national security matters, but with how his aspiring opponents are talking about the issue. He begins with the subject of Iraq.

Hours — not months, not weeks, hours — after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, vicious political factionalism and sectarian violence intensified. Many Republicans say Barack Obama’s withdrawal — accompanied by his administration’s foolish praise of Iraq’s “stability” — has jeopardized what has been achieved there. But if it cannot survive a sunrise without fraying, how much of an achievement was it?

He also cautions conservatives against being too quick to criticize any reductions in proposed military spending and reductions in troop levels overseas, particularly given the current mood of the nation.

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?

While I understand how some people may look down their noses at the idea of being pragmatic when it comes to the intersection of national security and election year politics, there are other factors at play here which you would be foolish to ignore. Polls have consistently shown that a staggering 75% of Americans supported Obama’s decision to finish pulling out of Iraq on George W. Bush’s original schedule, and those numbers have not shifted noticeably even with the outbreak of secular violence there after our departure. As recently as last month, 78% said they support the President’s plans to step up our rate of departure from Afghanistan. And Obama still gets high marks for taking out bin Laden and other high profile terrorist leaders.

The whole point here is to remember that it is very dangerous to get too far out in front of attacking Barack Obama’s position when he’s playing a winning hand. Something about Kenny Rogers and knowing when to hold them or fold them comes to mind.

There are so many other issues on the domestic front which provide plenty of ammunition to go after the President, and rightly so. This seems a not very opportune time to jump on him over military concerns. In closing, since life imitates art far more than the reverse, perhaps the best reminder might come to us not from the campaign trail, but from Saturday Night Live. Watch it again and put it in context of the current conversation.


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Not to mention the fact that if the “squeeze ‘em ’till they pop” plan works on Syria and Iran, it’s going to make him look, well, like a Republican.

Though I wonder now whether his administration is divided on this policy given the leak on Israel’s attacks of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Doomberg on February 9, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Bishop says George Will knows baseball!

KOOLAID2 on February 9, 2012 at 1:24 PM

George Will losing it..period!

The War Planner on February 9, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Obama got Osama. Obama got Osama! He’s the Foreign Policy King…

sandee on February 9, 2012 at 1:25 PM

If Obama was going to make a political decision when it came to troop withdrawal to placate his base, it would have made more sense to withdraw from Afghanistan than Iraq without a status of forces agreement. Republicans can absolutely make a case for all the bad political decisions in regard to our foreign policy, Obama has made. Leading from behind has consequences, and just because we haven’t paid for them yet, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to down the road, when those decisions bear their bitter fruit….Gird Your Loins.

Dr Evil on February 9, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Ok, real quick…

We can’t let the entire day slip away without one seriously unpopular opinion

What would that “seriously unpopular position” be?

Polls have consistently shown that a staggering 75% of Americans supported Obama’s decision to finish pulling out of Iraq on George W. Bush’s original schedule, … As recently as last month, 78% said they support the President’s plans to step up our rate of departure from Afghanistan.

Those don’t appear to be “seriously unpopular positions” to me…

rndmusrnm on February 9, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Obama got Osama. Obama got Osama! He’s the Foreign Policy King…

sandee on February 9, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Someone’s got to get the job done – and it wasn’t going to be the Decider. What do you expect from a guy who says “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”

Mission accomplished!

KeninCT on February 9, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Someone’s got to get the job done – and it wasn’t going to be the Decider. What do you expect from a guy who says “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”

Mission accomplished!

KeninCT on February 9, 2012 at 1:31 PM

How does it feel to be a Cartoon Character?

Del Dolemonte on February 9, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Some cuts in defense are OK by me and I worked in the defense industry. We spent a lot of coin nation building in Europe, Japan and Korea. We were there for a long, long time and I think it’s long past time to draw off some of the spending there. As for other nation building – I guess these days we just don’t have the patience and attention span and we expect too much too soon or we just cut and run. You can’t stay on top with an attitude like that. Dang our short attention spans. Of course I blame the remote control. ;-) Oh look a bird…

rhombus on February 9, 2012 at 1:35 PM

The Party of Stupid who let the blatantly unconstitutional “kinetic military action” in Libya slip off the public radar deserves to be outflanked on foreign policy.

Archivarix on February 9, 2012 at 1:36 PM

What do you expect from a guy who says “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”

Mission accomplished!

KeninCT on February 9, 2012 at 1:31 PM

I would expect a leftist pu$$y to contribute nothing to the thread except a made up quote.

Seriously, boy, why do you even exist if your life is such a fail?

http://www.besocial.com/profile/view/keninct

MNHawk on February 9, 2012 at 1:36 PM

The Party of Stupid who let the blatantly unconstitutional “kinetic military action” in Libya slip off the public radar deserves to be outflanked on foreign policy.

Archivarix on February 9, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Don’t worry, that issue will be back as soon as a GOP President tries it – that and non-recess recess appointments. ;-)

rhombus on February 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM

To this extent – George Will is correct:

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?

He is correct – what the hell are we doing with infantry troops in Germany? In England? In Belgium?

Time to reassess where the USA deploys are services.

jake-the-goose on February 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM

sure some defense cuts are fine but i don’t want these massive cuts they are proposing..Obama is a typical, liberal democrat…big spending, big cutting on defense..what else has he cut besides defense?

sadsushi on February 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM

I think a lot of conservatives support withdrawing troops from Europe, and ending Clinton’s balkan adventure. I also didn’t see many cheerleading 0bama’s blatantly illegal Libyan private war, or his upcoming blatantly illegal Syrian private war.

Lotta strawmen dancing around in Mr. Will’s diatribe.

Rebar on February 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Lotta strawmen dancing around in Mr. Will’s diatribe.

Rebar on February 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Well said.

rhombus on February 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM

MNHawk on February 9, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Still angry, grandpa? Do you really think that’s me? You rubes ain’t to bright, huh?

KeninCT on February 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Energy and Defense are related. So are alliances, treaties and etc.

Keystone

Schadenfreude on February 9, 2012 at 1:44 PM

You rubes ain’t to bright, huh?

KeninCT on February 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM

The material writes itself…

Del Dolemonte on February 9, 2012 at 1:44 PM

You rubes ain’t to bright, huh?

KeninCT on February 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM

You’re not too bright either.

Schadenfreude on February 9, 2012 at 1:45 PM

I really can not stand George Will.

Blake on February 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

There are still 19 American hostages being currently held in Egypt Every news organization including this site needs to publicize this every single day until they are freed.

paulsur on February 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

George Will is right. Neoconservative foreign policy has failed in Iraq and nobody is sure why we were there in the first place, but instead of acknowledging their mistakes and learning from them the neocons push ever onward heedless of the fact that our nation is bankrupt and 16 trillion in debt. We have an aging population that is going to cost a lot of money to support, we can’t afford to be the policeman of the world any longer, yet there is little if any discussion about this on the right because the neoconservatives dominate Republican media, including Rush and Levin. Instead they ridicule Ron Paul who is the only candidate that seems to have his head screwed on straight enough to be aware of the demographic and economic challenges our nation is facing; challenges so great that I would argue they are the greatest threat our nation faces today.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:49 PM

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.

Has George Will forgotten why our allies are able to spend so little on defense?

Hot Air readers know better:

Only the Soviet-style gigantic military sets the US apart from the rest of the world.
Daikokuco on February 9, 2012 at 1:07 PM

You represent the dark side of open registration.
I guess somebody needs to educate you on national security. The reason Canada and Europe have been able to spend so much on their socialism is because they relied on America to bear the cost of essentially defending them. Yes, a strong and peaceful Europe is in America’s best interest but let’s be honest about it. Many many nations have been able to maintain “navies” smaller and less capable than the US Coast Guard because they knew that our 13 aircraft carriers were there to protect them if need be.
Happy Nomad on February 9, 2012 at 1:27 PM

AesopFan on February 9, 2012 at 1:49 PM

This seems a not very opportune time to jump on him over military concerns.

how things change…

sesquipedalian on February 9, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Maybe the neoconservatives should start by explaining how a bankrupt nation of aging baby boomers is going to pay for all the proxy wars and nation building.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM

how things change…

sesquipedalian on February 9, 2012 at 1:51 PM

He fooled all of you fools, and you crawl deeper into his azz. Enjoy the whiff.

Schadenfreude on February 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM

I am sick of men in the media wearing toupees. George Will, at 70, looks ridiculous in that blonde rug. Brit Hume wasn’t fooling anyone, either. It undermines their seriousness and credibility.

DaydreamBeliever on February 9, 2012 at 1:53 PM

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?

I just commented on this idea with a moron on another thread. Part of the reason those allies are able to spend less is because the US spends what it does. It is more than just bravado or saber rattling. The United States provides geo-political stability and unique capabilities. Our allies, many of whom have “navies” with less capability than the US Coast Guard, know that they can count on our 12 aircraft carriers if need be.

With contracting combat operations, it makes sense that the DoD budget shrinks but Democrats and Ron Paul want to use a chainsaw and not a scalpel. They want to slash whole programs (some legitimate cuts and some not). They want to cut healthcare benefits for active and retired servicemembers. They want to do away with the 20-year “retirement” for those who the nation asks to go into harm’s way. And all of it is nothing but budgetary cannibalism since it trades national security for not having to look at real budgetary reform.

Happy Nomad on February 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM

George Will is right. Neoconservative foreign policy has failed in Iraq and nobody is sure why we were there in the first place, but instead of acknowledging their mistakes and learning from them the neocons push ever onward heedless of the fact that our nation is bankrupt and 16 trillion in debt.

To bad there are very few conservatives that understand this. This doesn’t mean we go back to the paleo-conservative way of isolationism, it means we have to recognize what the threat to us is and how to contain or defeat it. This spreading “democracy” garbage has got to stop.

lowandslow on February 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Maybe the neoconservatives should start by explaining how a bankrupt nation of aging baby boomers is going to pay for all the proxy wars and nation building.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM

ssshhhhh! We don’t have to worry about that for at least another 2 years, maybe.

rndmusrnm on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

So where is Ayman al-Zawahri ??

J_Crater on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11 and didn’t have WMD’s. Osama Bin Laden was in Pakistan, not Iraq. Now we’re bankrupt; how did “liberating” Iraq and handing it over to Iran make us safer? Why should Americans want to repeat the same mistake elsewhere now that we’re 16 trillion in debt?

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Brit Hume wasn’t fooling anyone, either. It undermines their seriousness and credibility.

DaydreamBeliever on February 9, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Brit would look so much more serious and credible if he had opted for an afro wig. :)

Happy Nomad on February 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM

There is a lot of waste that could be cut in the DoD, and most of it is in the procurement process. The Obama administration are the last people I trust to make the cuts. NATO is a costly dinosaur, and all our troops in Europe just enable those countries to field just enough cub scouts soldiers to have parades. One day we will wake up to find China as the world power.

cartooner on February 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Sure, defense cuts can and should be made. Just not the massive gutting of critical infrastructure that the leftists want. Many on this blog ask, “Why do we have troops in Europe?” The reason is power projection. Having a couple of large airbases to stage and refuel long range cargo aircraft is one plus. Another is having ground forces and an airborne capability that can reach out and touch someone much faster by being forward deployed.

Can they cut two of the four brigades out over there? Sure they can and it probably won’t hurt much. The one Stryker BDE in Germany and the Airborne BDE in Italy will probably be just fine. We also have a couple of FOBs in Eastern Europe that we can rotate troops in for training and to provide a presence in Europe. They just happen to be located on a strategic transportation corridor. There are reasons why we have troops in certain places. The strawman argument seems to always be, “well, we need to cut spending and since we spend all this money on defense we can cut it back deep and won’t really hurt anything.” In my experience, cutting infrastructure is a sure way to set us up for failure in future conflicts.

Robert-A on February 9, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Nomad: Well, on the plus side, if the US pulls out of protecting Europe (which, to be frank, I would have no problem with), the end result of the Eurosocialist state will become quite stark indeed.

In essence, it can be claimed that US global defense policy is robbing us of some quite remarkable fiscal arguments.

Scott H on February 9, 2012 at 2:02 PM

You could safely say that “NEOCON” is a bad word, among the left and right. No more republican Libya interventionist supporters like McCain.

We need to keep our weapons systems unrivaled, but intervention for “democracy,” or for the greater good, is out. As far as I know, Paul’s call for getting out of SKorea etc is not good, but I’m not sure. It could be that Paul is right. If so, he could be the best R candidate, surprise! Certainly, in any event, quit the self-righteous mocking of sincere Ron Paul supporters. Unless you are self-defeatist.

anotherJoe on February 9, 2012 at 2:04 PM

FloatingRock: 20/20 hindsight there. At the time we invaded Iraq (with the full support of the Democrats, I might add), every foreign intelligence agency to which we had access agreed that Iraq did in fact have WMDs.

If possession of WMDs is considered sufficient cause to invade a country (which your post tacitly allows), then we had that sufficient cause.

Scott H on February 9, 2012 at 2:04 PM

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Military spending didn’t bankrupt us – entitlements, progressive social programs, and public sector unions bankrupted us.

Any cuts in military spending are not going to be used to reduce the deficit, every penny is going to be transferred to the above programs – with the result of more people hooked on welfare and more bought democrat party votes.

Rebar on February 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11 and didn’t have WMD’s. Osama Bin Laden was in Pakistan, not Iraq. Now we’re bankrupt; how did “liberating” Iraq and handing it over to Iran make us safer? Why should Americans want to repeat the same mistake elsewhere now that we’re 16 trillion in debt?

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

If we had just kicked some a$$ and left some rubble with a warning to behave or we’ll be back and NOT engage in nation building, we could have toppled the Taliban, Hussein, Assad and K’Daffy and been back home in a year. let them do their own nation building and if they don’t like it, learn to leave us alone.

cartooner on February 9, 2012 at 2:06 PM

cartooner is also correct. If you allow Obama to make cuts in Defense, he will not fix the issue of overspending on defense, as most of that overspending is done for the benefit of paying people’s salaries, and most of them belong to PEUs.

Which means he will not do anything to fix the acquisition nightmare of DoD, and therefore he will hurt our readiness and ability to defend this country far more than the cuts would indicate.

Scott H on February 9, 2012 at 2:07 PM

When neocons allied themselves with Obama and Al Qaeda in Libya, attacking people like me who opposed it, that was the last straw for me. Then McCain and most of the rest of the Republican Party supported the unconstitutional provisions of the NDAA, allowing the President and military to arrest Americans, hold them indefinitely and deny them their Constitutional Rights, now I think of them as enemies of liberty and the Constitution that must be defeated.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:07 PM

So where is Ayman al-Zawahri ??

J_Crater on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

In Egypt, celebrating the Arab Spring.

Schadenfreude on February 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM

cartooner: That definitely has a Machiavellian ‘it is better to be feared than loved’ feel to it. I am not saying that pejoratively, BTW. I am just saying that it is not the option that was chosen.

I can definitely see some advantages to your approach, but the main disadvantage is that it does very little to anything about protecting us from future attacks.

Scott H on February 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM

cartooner on February 9, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Yeah, and instead of all the neocon propaganda about “Religion of Peace”, we should have had an adult conversation in this country about who and what the enemy that attacked us is all about. Instead we fought a bunch of confused politically correct proxy wars and then got bogged down with a bunch of nation building. We should have taken Patton’s advice and kept on the move.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Yeah, but guess what? The other side is losing their holier-than-thou, anti-war, anti-killing “superiority” at the same time.

The left’s rejoicing in drone attacks, and the killing of Bin Laden (no matter who had to die with him),etc ,etc has me wondering if they actually ever believed what they were spouting in the first place. That’s a pretty big moral turnabout in such a short time.

Conservatives are, and always will be, superior in protecting our country because it’s in our bones, not in the White House memo of daily talking points.

jakev on February 9, 2012 at 2:12 PM

There are still 19 American hostages being currently held in Egypt Every news organization including this site needs to publicize this every single day until they are freed.

paulsur on February 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

You politically incorrect derelict, you!

They are called Arab Spring freedom fighters.

p.s. don’t you dare start a Carter-like hostage days count…until Nov. 6, 2012.

Schadenfreude on February 9, 2012 at 2:12 PM

When we rebuilt Europe after WWII we had already defeated our enemies. That’s the way it should be done: first you kill your enemies until they’re either dead or surrendered and compliant and then you try to help them out as much as you can afford to, if at all. If they don’t like it, too bad, they shouldn’t have attacked us.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:15 PM

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Which is the better way of putting it, rather than recycling leftist talking points while playing Monday Morning Quarterback.

We tried to make the world a better place in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world didn’t cooperate. Again, we tried. Fine. From this moment forward we go back to the way it used to be. Keep destroying things and killing people until they cry uncle.

And get out of Europe.

MNHawk on February 9, 2012 at 2:18 PM

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:15 PM

When we defeated our enemies in WWII, we also happened to end up as the only nation with manufacturing capability to rebuild Europe. With a huge market and the Soviets pushing from the east, it was not pure altruism that we aligned our interests with those of Western Europe.

Happy Nomad on February 9, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Very well put. It is to bad that a sound bite is taken as smart policy. Having bases over seas is not just a military issue but is so much more. Don’t forget there is a small place called China that will before to long will not have a small military. Take the bases out of Europe you will never get them back other than the way they got there in the first place.

KBird on February 9, 2012 at 2:23 PM

We can’t afford a strong defense in the long term if we are drowning in debt and our economy is in shambles. Do what is hard, make the necessary cuts to military spending. And focus on what is imperative: stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and continuing drone strikes on jihadists.

BlackCapitalist on February 9, 2012 at 2:25 PM

MNHawk on February 9, 2012 at 2:18 PM

I’m not sure if you’re accusing me of being a Monday Morning Quarterback, but if so, I’m not. I was critical of the neocon strategy from the beginning. I’ve been critical of the ROP propaganda. I’ve been critical of their proxy war/nation building strategy and the ROEs. If I had been in charge after 9/11 the world would be a safer place for freedom right now and we wouldn’t be bankrupt.

And just to dispel any notion MMQuarterbacking, back in 1999 during a primary debate between Bush and McCain hosted by Ted Koppel I emailed Koppel a question for the debate asking how the two candidates would deal with the threat posed by Al Qaeda and their recent declaration of war. (The question wasn’t asked in the debate, though.) While I was concerned about Al Qaeda at the time, that I recall neither Bush or McCain mentioned them once during the entire primary.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM

“Republican” columnists I no longer pay any attention to:

1. George Will say anything the esblishment tells me to Will

2. Peggy Nooner Noonan

3.Charles Sour Krauthammer

4. And now, *sob* Ann Lost her mind Coulter

evilned on February 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Yeah, and instead of all the neocon propaganda about “Religion of Peace”, we should have had an adult conversation in this country about who and what the enemy that attacked us is all about.

Which will never happen because of the liberal belief that discrimination is the worst evil ever, a belief that has spread deep into this country. Even into most “conservatives”.

lowandslow on February 9, 2012 at 2:27 PM

Happy Nomad on February 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Indeed.

Defense cuts are the ONLY federal cuts actually being implemented. I agree that some are needed (conservatives can’t demand a smaller government without accepting that defense has to take some kind of trim as well). But, hardly anyone wants to tackle cuts in entitlements (what a term, people feeling entitled to their share of the public trough) or unnecessary federal departments like Education, Energy, Commerce, etc. Those are what are running our debt out of sight.

Bitter Clinger on February 9, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Will and his holier than thou crap are getting a little old and tiresome.

rplat on February 9, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Maybe the neoconservatives should start by explaining how a bankrupt nation of aging baby boomers is going to pay for all the proxy wars and nation building.

FloatingRock

This message brought to you by retards for Ron Paul.

conservatives can’t demand a smaller government without accepting that defense has to take some kind of trim as well

Bitter Clinger

Actually they can do just that, and they should do that. Otherwise, they’re basically saying all spending is equal. Sorry, but cutting money for piss Jesus art doesn’t mean we have to be fair and cut a weapons system too.

xblade on February 9, 2012 at 2:42 PM

But, hardly anyone wants to tackle cuts in entitlements

Bitter Clinger on February 9, 2012 at 2:33 PM

You’re absolutely right, we really need to do that too, but the fact is that soon to be retired baby boomers and previously retired Americans are the majority of the population now and we can’t cut their entitlements unless they let us.

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Now that the Dems have finally grown a set will the neocons bail? I mean the Dems are closer to them on social policy, and now that they’ve gone all hawkish does that mean the neocons are going to go neolibs? Do you think Jeb Bush might seek the Democrat nomination?

DFCtomm on February 9, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Well, yeah, if we let Obama and the media define the issues, there’s no way to attack his “winning hand.”

The alternative to the scheduled drawdown wasn’t “no drawdown at all.” It was renegotiating the Status of Forces Agreement.

Negotiating the SOFA was never easy. It had been negotiated twice before Obama came to office. In each case, opposition in Iraq — not comprehensive opposition, but significant opposition from some factions — had to be talked down, bargained on, or overriden.

Obama found himself simply unable to do that again. The proposition is not that US troops should be in Iraq on the same basis as in 2006. The proposition is that retaining some troops in Iraq, for another finite period, would be the best way in the given circumstances to establish the US commitment to stabilizing the region, in large part by showing that we were committed to the status quo in Iraq.

Obama never presented the strategy of a renegotiated SOFA to the American people. He should have, and he should have been able to renegotiate the SOFA. There was still an important locus of sentiment in Iraq for a US presence that bolstered Iraqi independence from her neighbors. To say that we shouldn’t have backed up the sympathetic factions is like saying we should have left Germany to be divided up by Communists and resurgent Nazis after WWII.

J.E. Dyer on February 9, 2012 at 3:33 PM

It seems like there is a basic misunderstanding of why we continue to have forces in Europe. And, in Will’s case some willful historical blindness.

Do Republicans think it is premature to withdraw as many as 7,000 troops from Europe two decades after the Soviet Union’s death?

This makes it seem like we have not cut forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve cut massively since the end of the Cold War. Entire Corps of multiple divisions have gone away. And, not just been withdrawn, they’ve disappeared. The same goes for Air Force and Navy assets. The forces that remain in Europe are barely a shadow of what they were in the Cold War.

Anyone who thinks we have forces in Germany to defend Germany is foolish. We never did have them there for that reason. We determined that the defense of Western Europe was in the vital interest of the US. That’s why we were there until the end of the Cold War. So, why are we there now? Because we continue to believe that we have vital interests in that region of the world. When the Russians were rolling into Georgia not too long ago we were able to prepare forces in Germany to intervene if necessary. Could we have had a credible reponse from forces based in the US? No, it is incredibly difficult to move heavy forces those great distances and we no longer have either the naval or air assets to do it. The Russians are still a threat to the former Soviet republics and eastern europe. By being in place with a credible response force we serve as a deterent. It is a real and vital mission that serves US interests.

And, what better place to have forces than Germany. It’s centrally located, they foot much of the bill for us being there, they have great transportation assets and their familiarity with us makes a great working relationship. (As I sit here writing this there is a German Special Forces officer not 20′ from me.) And, it’s one of the most secure places with a very efficient and well trained internal security force. A great deal of our resupply effort for the Middle East comes from Germany and there’s a real good reason why our MEDEVAC chain runs through there as well.

Fortress America won’t work. We need to defend our interests away from our shores and support friends and allies that assist us in doing so. Part of that is making smart decisions about what our national interests are. In my opinion Bosnia and Libya were not and neither is Syria. Iraq and Iran are.

SoonerMarine on February 9, 2012 at 3:39 PM

The history of the last ninety years or so has taught us that every time we relax by cutting back military expenditures, we find ourselves having to deal with a new crisis that makes us spend a pile of money to build up to where we can deal with it–the fact that our response these days doesn’t necessarily involve bombing the enemy back to the Stone Age suggests that potential enemies will be more likely, not less, to challenge us.

And yeah, I’m a little sick of Mr. Prissy Bow-Tie’s lectures.

M. Scott Eiland on February 9, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Islam will win this war.

Americans are so stupid these days.

War is all about killing civilians. Civilians keep the Army supplied and fighting and provide new troops for the Army. Civilians must be the primary target in any war you intend to win.

World War 2 was won by killing most of the Civilians in the industrial cities of Germany and Japan. Civilians were the primary target. We tried for a while trying to take out infrastructure but it was a waste of manpower and planes. The civilians quickly repaired whatever we destroyed. War is won by the best supplied army. That supplying is done by civilians.

Islam gets this we are instead playing by their rules meant to destroy us. We will not even call Islam Militant. We ignore what their books say. We ignore a thousand years of history.

Islam is uniting now they already have Nukes the only question is when will the real war begin. It seems to me that Obama has hugely helped his Islamic fellow fighters to set up our defeat.

Steveangell on February 9, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11 and didn’t have WMD’s. Osama Bin Laden was in Pakistan, not Iraq. Now we’re bankrupt; how did “liberating” Iraq and handing it over to Iran make us safer? Why should Americans want to repeat the same mistake elsewhere now that we’re 16 trillion in debt?

FloatingRock on February 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

I usually don’t waste my time with you silly kids who insist on using the N” Word (Neocon), because it’s so 9/10. But I’ll play with you.

1. First of all the 2002 Iraq Resolution never claims that Iraq had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. More about that later.

However, that Resolution did state that al Qaeda operatives were in Iraq, and the only people who have trouble with that idea are your college professors who claim that Iraq is the only country in the entire world where al Qaeda did not operate.

This despite the fact that Democrat Bill Clinton’s Justice Department directly tied al Qaeda to Iraq when they indicted bin Laden in 1998.

2. As for the WMD’s, every intel agency on the planet said they had them. Not just ours.

3. bin Laden was in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. Unless of course you believe C-BS “Anchor” Dan “Fake But Accurate” Rather, who claimed he was in Paki. But the wikileaks documents state he watched the 9/11 attacks on TV in Afghanistan.

4. We would have had to take out Saddam Hussein sooner or later. As well as his sons. Obviously you’re of the persuasion that Mikey Moore was right, and that Iraq was a better place before we went in than now.

5. Getting back to Iraq and 9/11, no formal inquiry has determined that Iraq was not involved in the attacks. But widely ignored and widely unreported by the Democrat Media in late 2003, a Bill Clinton-appointed US Federal Judge in lower Manhattan ruled in a lawsuit brought by 9/11 family members that based on the evidence presented at the trial, Iraq did play a role in the 9/11 attacks.

Another Democrat-appointed Judge in that same Court (which BTW is the same court where Stedman Holder wanted to try KSM) in 2011 ruled in a similar lawsuit that Iran was also involved in the 9/11 attacks.

This time, the Judge’s finding was trumpeted throughout the Democrat Media, unlike the 2003 ruling by the same Court that I cite above. That’s because proof of Iraq being involved in 9/11 would never fit the Leftist Democrat Media Template while a Republican they all hated was President, while proof of Iran being involved did fit their Template with a Democrat as CIC.

I’m sure had Algore been President in 2003, that Court ruling re. Iraq and 9/11 would have been front page news.

Del Dolemonte on February 9, 2012 at 4:54 PM

To this extent – George Will is correct:

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?
He is correct – what the hell are we doing with infantry troops in Germany? In England? In Belgium?

Time to reassess where the USA deploys are services.

jake-the-goose on February 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Ron Paul is not totally crazy about what should happen beyond our shores!

KOOLAID2 on February 9, 2012 at 5:12 PM

conservatives can’t demand a smaller government without accepting that defense has to take some kind of trim as well

Bitter Clinger

Actually they can do just that, and they should do that. Otherwise, they’re basically saying all spending is equal. Sorry, but cutting money for piss Jesus art doesn’t mean we have to be fair and cut a weapons system too.

xblade on February 9, 2012 at 2:42 PM

I’m very pro-military myself (even served, too). But a large point of Will’s article is that even with some cuts, we will still be the King of the Hill in terms of our military operation. I, like Happy Nomad, prefer the scalpel approach in lieu of the axe approach.

And lets face it. The Defense Dept., like any bureaucracy, has its share of waste. The cuts won’t eliminate all of it, but it forces the Pentagon to re-assess its priorities to help cut some it down. Of course, that is very badly needed in all the other federal departments and agencies.

Bitter Clinger on February 9, 2012 at 6:26 PM