An Unchecked Blank Check

Friedersdorf examines the GOP's refusal to extend fiscal restraint to foreign spending:

Unfortunately, the conservative movement's impulse is to afford military leaders too much deference. Take its stance on our nuclear arsenal. After the military presented a plan to reduce it, President Obama signaled his displeasure by demanding more ambitious cuts. "Obama knows more about weapons requirements than the military now?" conservative blogger Dan Riehl wrote, echoing many on the right. "I think it's time to start ringing the alarm bells with this guy, folks." Conservatives respond quite differently when domestic-affairs bureaucrats claim special knowledge. Expertise in education, or welfare spending, or environmental stewardship is afforded some respect. Deference is tempered, however, by the understanding that people aren't very good at judging the relative importance of their own work, and that every institution is reflexively opposed to shrinking itself. Should our nuclear arsenal shrink? I haven't any idea, but a better counterargument is required than "the military knows best."

It seems to me to be an inherent part of conservatism properly understood to constantly evaluate means and ends, to ensure that a country is not over-extended, to maintain a viable fiscal balance for the foreseeable future, with some cushion for an emergency. Assessing whether a country's military commitments exceed its fiscal grasp would be an obvious part of that equation. But, of course, among today's loony rightists, it isn't.

You will never hear a neocon talk about the expense of empire or the burden of imperial debt. The neoconservative outlook focuses on the internal nature of foreign regimes, but it refuses to look at the internal financial collapse of contemporary America.

Neocons favor more defense spending, period. I do not recall a single recent instance in which they did not want to project military power, regardless of its expense. There have been no conservative worries about the cost of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as they fulminate against big government spending. To ask the question of why American tax-payers are still financing the defense of Germany, for example, is to commit heresy (I exclude Ron Paul from all this, of course). And yet if we know one thing from history it is that empires crumble from a function of mounting debt, often caused by unnecessary or hubristic wars. If today's astounding debt - created in large part by Republican tax cuts, war, failure to rein in entitlements or regulate the financial industry sufficiently - does not wake them up, what will?