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Do not be goaded into war

When in doubt, cut taxes or send in American military troops. Those seem to be the only choices for some of the nation’s politicians on the right.

No tax is good—taxes feed the government beast that has an insatiable appetite. Cut off its food source and government will shrink to a manageable size, whatever that is.

Taxes are especially bad when they fund things conservative politicans don’t support—food stamps, unemployment benefits, clean air and water. For some the only good tax is the tax that feeds the military budget. That’s especially true these days when some are calling for American boots on the ground and missles in the air to fight the Islamic State. Or, to follow Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s exortation to take out the regime in Iran before it gets any closer to a nuclear weapon.

In a recent Keizertimes web poll, 75 percent of the respondents were against an increase in the Oregon gas tax even if the money was earmarked solely for transportation and highway projects. The American people do not like taxes, a feeling that thas been re-enforced by talking heads, pundits and politicans for decades.  But there is always money to funnel to defense, which is the only governmental responsibility that gets universal approval.

There is no doubt that the United States needs to spend money on defense. The issue is what that money is being spent on. Millions of vehicles across the nation bear ribbon magnets with a “Support Our Troops” message. Yet, our troops remain woefully underfunded, either on the battlefield or once they get home. Congress and the Pentagon is pushing for the new F-35 fighter. Experts say that this state-of-the-art plane will not perform nearly as well as the two planes it is to replace: the A-10 and the F-16.  The F-35 project is expected to cost upwards of $1.5 trillion. Our troops could be very well supported with a portion of that kind of money. Better equipment in the field, more intelligence and certainly better care for them when they return home bruised, battered and/or broken.

National defense is important, but the defense game has changed over the past few decades. The United States is safe from other nations—no nation-state dare attack continental America. Our current defense strategies must address that some of our prime enemies are stateless and rely on goals other than conquest. There will not be a convoy of military ships heading for the U.S. across the Atlantic; there will be a convoy of jeeps and SUVs racing across the Middle East to build a caliphate the leaders say is the beginning of the End of Days.

The United States ended its major offense in Iraq four years ago and it has been drawing down in Afghanistan. Much of the equipment American used in those wars have been left to the governments with which we were allied. In Iraq much of that military hardware is now in the hands of fighters of the Islamic State (after U.S.-trained Iraq troops dropped their weapons and ran—not unlike our allies in south Vietnam 40 years ago).

American taxpayers have spent about $2 trillion since 2001 to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—two wars we did not win, nor did we lose. We just walked away, as some had been calling for from the very beginning.

It’s unfathomable that in the face of just concluding the longest war in our nation’s history, that some politicans are again beating the war drums.

Should the American government spend money on solving the Middle East?  Is there a solution? Regardless of Netanyahu’s shameful anti-Obama speech, on American soil, in the midst of an Israeli election campaign, the administration should keep it steady as it goes.  No one wants an Iran with nuclear weapons, That’s what we said about North Korea and we did not attack that country. Iran is the target of war chanting because of its neighborhood.

The American people have war fatigue and do not want to see young American men and women sent overseas, especially in a conflict that has no U.S. interests involved. As Lyndon Johnson once said about a war 50 years ago, American boys should not be sent to fight when the people under attack should be fighting for themselves.

The American people do not want to pay more taxes, though most of the taxes they pay are from the state and local levels. Those politicans who have control of the nation’s purse strings can certainly spin a rationale for war (even when it comes from a foreign leader). It would be nice if once in a while they could make the need for improved infrastructure here at home sound as necessary as buyng a trillion dollar jet plane or sending America’s youth back to the Middle East.