You may have caught Jeff Stack’s essay a couple of weeks ago in these pages expressing concern about a possibly eminent war with Iran. His piece was part commentary on recent developments, part history of U.S. foreign policy and part call to action.
The call to action was for a couple of gatherings he was coordinating to visit the local offices of some elected officials. One gathering was last week at Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s office on south Providence Road, which was conveniently during my lunch break, so I figured I’d show up.
More than one person was surprised to see me there. I guess conservatives are supposed to be in favor of wars.
Hartzler’s office staff members were accommodating in sitting down with the three constituents who came by to exercise their right to petition their government. Here’s an expanded version of some points I shared.
First, a declaration of war is supposed to be issued by Congress. Constitutional authority is theirs to authorize the president to send our military into action abroad — a charge that Congress has irresponsibly punted to the White House for generations now. The U.S. has had active military campaigns for a long time, but the last war officially declared was WWII.
War is ungodly expensive, both in terms of money and human lives. Putting our troops in harm’s way can be legitimate, but we need to have a darn good reason and be cautious when doing so. Our government has an abysmal track record in this regard.
The flyers in Congresswoman Hartzler’s office list the main issues she is concerned about — caring for our veterans being near the top.
But too many troops come back home in a box draped with a flag, and even more come back physically injured and/or mentally disturbed. It turns out post-traumatic stress disorder is becoming more widely diagnosed, a direct result of our troops being sent into hell-on-earth situations that shock their humanity.
Instead of frequently sending our troops all over the world into dangerous situations, we should bring them home. Voting for unlimited military spending and “supporting the troops” are not necessarily the same thing.
The stereotypical political alliances about military policy are changing.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, astutely labeled Hillary Clinton a “warmonger” recently, even pointing out that in other countries, the two of them would not even be in the same political party.
Among the Republican establishment, the neoconservative faction represented by the Bushes et al. is running into pushback.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, takes every opportunity to call for sanity in our foreign policy. He criticizes those calling for needless wars and commends those looking to tap the brakes on the war machine. He regularly articulates the difference between a strong national defense to protect our people and our sovereignty vs. belligerent militarism, empire and debt dependency.
Even the president himself has long lamented the U.S. intervention in Iraq and (sometimes) criticizes “these endless wars” to applause at his MAGA rallies. He sure rocked the boat with NATO allies by simply asking them to start paying their fair share for this alliance.
At the same time, let’s not confuse this with the idea we should all disarm in order to bring a utopian peace upon the earth.
Still, defenders of the status quo often point out that if America scales back our interventions, a vacuum will be created, into which they say the worst evildoers imaginable will necessarily land. This is a legitimate concern, but we need to consciously transition, perhaps over some years and with help from our friends, from throwing our weight around as the primary global policeman, to instead leading with diplomacy, cooperation and fair trade.
The mentality of endless wars is, in fact, certainly not conservative. It costs too much money, is too risky for our soldiers and distorts our friendly relations around the world.
Military action has its place. There is such a thing as a just war. But we too regularly dive into skirmishes where we have little if any legitimate business.
Congresswoman Hartzler has the opportunity to show leadership in this transition of the United States from its habit of overreaching and overspending to a new era where keeping the global peace is at least a decentralized effort.
Columnist Steve Spellman hosts “The Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum” at 5 p.m. every Tuesday on on KOPN/89.5 FM.