It strikes me that there's a sense in America that we can have it all — that the US can be a consumer paradise that's financed on borrowed money, and at the same time be the world's mightiest military power. Do you think I'm off base?
I think the assertion was certainly correct up until the time the economy began to go into a tailspin in 2008.
The collapse of Lehman Brothers was September 2008, so that's a good place to date it.
I'm not sure that view is as quite as widespread as it once was. My sense is that people are beginning to develop an inkling of how fragile the American way of life actually is. I'm not a particular sympathizer of the Tea Party movement and I've got some real problems with the its view with regard to immigration and race. But, these people are angry for a reason. They are angry at an incompetent government, at a government that cannot manage its own affairs, at a government that is fiscally irresponsible. Tea Partiers worry about the nation either going bankrupt or saddling future generations with a mountain of debt. The Tea Party movement in some sense functions as the canary in the mineshaft here.
How do we balance our challenges abroad with our needs at home? Let's take a dramatic example like Detroit, a once-great city which, if it were a stand-alone political entity, would be a third-world nation.
I think the way you phrased the question puts your finger on it. There needs to be a pretty fundamental reassessment of priorities. I mean, Detroit's a great example, the Gulf is an example, Cleveland is an example. The purpose of America is articulated in the preamble of the Constitution. It is not to police the world, it is to provide for the well-being of Americans and their prosperity. Before too long, that imperative has taken a back seat to our ambitions of being a great world empire. It's time to stop that. And that's one of the reasons it seems to me that the debate over Afghanistan is so entirely unsatisfactory. The debate over Afghanistan tends to focus on what we are going to do about this one particular war. The debate over Afghanistan, I think, really ought to emphasize the extent to which the very existence of a war, now in its 10th year, in central Asia, testifies to how badly out of whack our national priorities have come to be.
Focusing back again on Afghanistan, what did you make about the recent events surrounding the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal?
Some of the things that McChrystal and his subordinates said should set off alarm bells, because they begin to hint at the toll that is being exacted of the American military, which finds itself perpetually at war. One aspect of that toll is evidence of an erosion of civilian control, and growing contempt on the part of military officers for the senior civilian leadership. I find it hard in some respect to blame these military officers for the attitudes that they express, even while recognizing that those attitudes are utterly unacceptable. To be a soldier today is to be somebody who serves the country that finds nothing amiss in being perpetually at war.
: News Features
, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Afghanistan, More