It is generally known that Americans want it both ways — green giddiness and plenty of oil and gas for their cars and homes; lots of government services and low taxes; a big military but spasms of isolationism. But now California is where the rubber meets the road, and we just saw the big government side of the equation dissolve. With the highest income taxes, highest sales taxes, and biggest deficits, Californians finally said “no mas,” and let the cutting begin. Of course, we have expanded government to such a degree that “radical” cuts will only get us back to about 2005-sized government, and “tax cutting” in this loopy state will mean holding firm at a 9% sales tax and 10%-plus income tax. But one must begin somewhere.
Though I’d stop short of advocating the Swiss model for the United States, I nevertheless favor a large army and high defense spending mostly because I want to avoid wars, not because I want the ability to start more of them. I am troubled by Mr. Hanson’s apparent belief that once one possesses a large army, it follows logically that it must be used. Indeed, were his belief sufficiently widespread I’d feel compelled to agitate for a smaller army.
While there is no absolute contradiction between favoring a relatively large military and a neutral foreign policy–Switzerland shows this to be true–in the American context we have rarely seen the two combined. In his railing against FDR’s preparations for entry into war, Garet Garrett did make calls for building up defenses against any possible invasion or attack as part of his argument for continued neutrality, but on the whole it has been true that those who want to avoid foreign entanglements do not want to create a military force that would enable us to become entangled in foreign conflicts. One of the reasons why we have such a large military is that there are not all that many Americans who oppose foreign entanglements as such, and even fewer who have influence oppose them, much less do they see a problem with America’s superpower status.
UPDATE: Steve Sailer