iraq war

Americans may pay up to $4 trillion for battles

Brown University scholars have released a study of the total expenses of the past ten years of American battles. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended in almost 250,000 people being killed, and may expense upward of $4 trillion or even more ultimately. Post resource - Wars cost American taxpayers almost $4 trillion in past decade by Newsytype.com.

There were over 125,000 Iraqi civilians killed

As reported by Reuters, the expenses of war since the 2001 Sept. 11 attacks are being added up by scholars from Brown University. "Costs of War" was the name of the project. The Watson Institute for International Studies released the project. A site is available to see all the findings. This contains about two dozen scholars from different universities. After President Obama has said $1 trillion would be spent on the Afghanistan battle, the research has come about. It may result in being between $3.4 and $4.4 trillion when you count the expense of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Almost 250,000 people are estimated to have been killed. States show that during the battle, there were about 125,000 Iraqi civilians that were killed although journals such as The Lancet was criticized a lot for inaccuracies in estimates, states Al Jazeera.

Interest payments alone in the hundreds of billions

War has caused both the Bush and Obama administrations to borrow heavily. The interest alone is hard to bear. Of the payments already made, there has already been a lot spent. There was $185 billion paid out already. Reuters thinks that more cash will be needed where that came from. CBS reports this number to be around $1 trillion. The president's quote of $1 trillion for war spending is partially accurate; an estimated $1.3 trillion was appropriated for direct war spending. Since the Department of Defense has not yet unveiled its war expenditures, additional expenses are left out of that figure. The amount of money spent just on veterans that were injured in combat is at $36 billion. By 2050, it could possibly be around $900 billion instead though. Other veteran costs, and costs to their families, also have to be paid. That will cost an extra $400 billion. In 2008, there were 181,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battle veterans that got Veterans' Administration benefits, USA Today reports. As of 2006, 947,000 Vietnam vets were receiving similar benefits.

Costs over just working class individuals

It will be decades before everyone can even tally up what the finals costs will be. Besides costs to American taxpayers, the expense to Iraq and Afghanistan in repairing wrecked infrastructure, caring for people with disabilities and lost income from individuals who were killed may never be tallied. A 2010 USA Today article explained that the United States had already spend $44.6 billion by the end of 2009 in rebuilding Iraq which consists of military and security forces. A Foreign Policy article showed how much the U.S. has been doing in Iraq too. The United States has already spent $19 billion on rebuilding efforts. Afghanistan is so decimated that one of few lucrative occupations is cultivating opium. Afghanistan supplied 92 percent of the world's opium last year, according to The Guardian.

Articles cited

Reuters

reuters.com/article/2011/06/29/us-usa-war-idUSTRE75S25320110629

CBS

cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20075350-503544.html?tag=stack

Al Jazeera

english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2011/06/2011629145430649752.html

Costs of War

costsofwar.org/

USA Today on Veterans Benefits

usatoday.com/news/2008-05-11-disabled-vets_N.htm

USA Today on rebuilding Iraq

usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2010-03-22-iraqcosts_N.htm

Foreign Policy

shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/06/13/castles_in_the_sky_the_failure_to_rebuild_afghanistan

The Guardian

“Let America Be America Again”

Let’s try to figure out where we go from here.

 

Remember what it was like at the beginning of the 2000s? It was conservative Republicans who were filled with hope and a desire for change. Bill Clinton was nearing the end of his scandal-scarred administration, and Al Gore and Bill Bradley were dueling over who could move the country to the left more effectively. The Republican primary started off with a host of pretenders to Ronald Reagan’s throne, but soon settled into a brawl between Texas Governor George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain.

 

Bush won that brutal contest and eventually defeated Al Gore in the Electoral College, after the US Supreme Court pulled the plug on the circus in Florida. Once Bush was officially declared the winner, conservatives looked to the next few years with unbridled optimism: with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House, the right finally had the chance to rollback decades of progressive excess.

 

Bush was to be the JFK of the right—a young and vibrant leader ready to lead the country to a new frontier of domestic freedom and international strength. January 20, 2001 was to be a moment of renewal for the country—a time when America would regain its rationality, its civility, its moral integrity.

 

What happened to that moment? Why was it squandered? Why did conservatives and Republicans fail to keep their eyes on the prize?

 

The 2000s were supposed to be a conservative decade. Instead, the effort to liberate the country from liberalism was derailed—by a great fire in New York that motivated conservatives to support an expensive and ineffectively-prosecuted war in Iraq, by the intimidating power of the progressive media, by a President that was not actually committed to limiting the size and scope of the federal government. Lacking in focus and lacking in resolve, conservatives made the ghastly mistake of excusing Bush’s flaws even as average Americans found themselves unable to ignore his weaknesses.

 

The conservative moment of January 2001 lasted for mere seconds. At the beginning of the Bush administration, conservatives believed in reducing income taxes, eliminating government waste and protecting the nation from attack; by the end of the Bush administration, conservatives apparently believed in remaining loyal to incompetent government officials, implementing borrow-and-spend economic policies and compelling foreign countries to embrace democracy. No wonder so many Americans fell into Barack Obama’s open arms.

 

This was a wasted decade for the American right, and especially for the Republican Party. Are we in for more of the same over the next ten years?

 

Hopefully not. If optimism is indeed a fundamental tenet of conservatism, then one has to believe that the GOP and the American right will get it right—and that the development of a coherent, credible conservative message, and the recruitment of new men and women to deliver that message, will lead to electoral victory and political accomplishments in the 2010s.

 

Can such a “coherent, credible conservative message” be developed? Yes. However, in order to do so, we have to resolve the image problems and internal contradictions of modern conservatism.

 

A few months back, former National Review contributor David Frum visited the Latin School of Chicago to discuss the current political climate, specifically his concern that voting patterns established in one’s youth are hard to alter as one gets older. Two students at the elite high school told Frum they rejected the Republican Party because the party’s message came across as exclusionary and hypocritical—opposed to women’s rights and gay rights, deeply hostile to science, concerned about Obama’s reckless spending while dismissive of George W. Bush’s, etc. How did the Republican Party—and, by extension, the conservative movement—acquire this negative reputation?

 

It seems that conservatives and Republicans have largely lost the ability to successfully  communicate their views to the wider population. Ronald Reagan was able to reach out to those who disagreed with key elements of his message, but in the two decades since Reagan left office, the American right has turned inward, no longer bothering to convert more Americans to its cause.

 

It’s easier to speak to those who already agree with you. It’s also lazier. Somewhere along the line, it became the right’s unofficial policy to simply declare that America was a center-right nation, instead of doing the hard work required to make America a country in which conservatism is truly the default political template.

 

There is a belief that conservatives and Republicans need President Obama to fail spectacularly in order to make a full political comeback—but why does it have to be this way? Can’t conservatives and Republicans win again simply by building a better mousetrap?

 

Of course they can—if they use the right tools.

 

                                                 ____________________

 

“Participatory democracy requires popular deliberation,” Matthew Spalding notes in his 2009 book We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future. But our political discourse too often is stifled by the political correctness of self-appointed social critics on the one hand and the closed-minded ideology of single-issue advocates on the other. Neither makes a real attempt to persuade or listen. The debate among our political leaders is more narrowly partisan than it is broadly political, driven by immediate interests more than considerations of the common good. Rather than throwing up our hands and withdrawing from the public debate, though, we need to engage it in new ways by making a clear and forthright defense of core principles, applying them creatively to the questions of the day, supporting positions consistent with those principles, and generally reframing the national debate about the most serious issues before us. We need more popular scholarship and scholarly popular writing that is accessible and compelling to the general public, designed to shape the public mind and not just contribute to the dusty shelves of university libraries or the passing attention of the latest website.”

 

Once core conservative principles are clearly defined, it shouldn’t be that hard to defend those principles. Of course, it might be hard if conservatives are too exhausted from trying to determine exactly what those principles should be.

 

Is “limited government” a conservative principle? If so, it hasn’t been adhered to by recent Republican administrations. Even Ronald Reagan was unable to scale back the size and scope of the federal government. As Steven Hayward notes in his 2009 book The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989, “Reagan was more successful in rolling back the Soviet empire than he was in rolling back the domestic government empire chiefly because the latter is a harder problem. While the partisan Democratic House that Reagan faced through his entire eight years was an important factor, it does not entirely explain Reagan’s failures. Rolling back big government was a harder problem for constitutional reasons, but also because of public opinion. The experience of the 1990s, after the Gingrich revolution delivered both houses of Congress to Republicans, suggests the public doesn’t support shrinking the government to the same extent that the conservative movement does. Conservatives resist facing this problem directly and openly, preferring to deploy expanded versions of the sound critiques from public choice theory to explain why the public really doesn’t like big government but can’t break the ‘iron triangle’ that preserves big government piecemeal. This is a cop-out.”

 

If “limited government” is truly a fantasy, then it might be wiser for conservatives and Republicans to position themselves as supporters of better government, in contrast to the hackerama and waste of progressive Democrats. As Hayward suggests, the average person is not opposed to big government per se, just inefficient big government.  If conservatives and Republicans began to place more of a rhetorical focus on maximizing government efficiency instead of peddling fairy tales about cutting the size and scope of government, perhaps the percentage of self-identified conservatives in this country would rise above forty percent.

 

The Republicans didn’t exactly demonstrate a commitment to maximizing government efficiency during the Bush years; if conservatives and Republicans are serious about converting more Americans to their vision, they must be willing to acknowledge that the last Republican President deviated from that vision.

 

Former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett has set the template for the rest of the right in this regard, pointing out how Bush led conservatism to its low point in the late-2000s. In a November 20, 2009 Forbes.com article, Bartlett noted that Bush torpedoed the GOP’s credibility on fiscal-responsibility issues with the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. “Recall the situation in 2003,” Bartlett noted. “The Bush administration was already projecting the largest deficit in American history--$475 billion in fiscal year 2004, according to the July 2003 mid-session budget review. But a big election was coming up that Bush and his party were desperately fearful of losing. So they decided to win it by buying the votes of America's seniors by giving them an expensive new program to pay for their prescription drugs.

 

“Recall, too, that Medicare was already broke in every meaningful sense of the term,” Bartlett continued. “According to the 2003 Medicare trustees report, spending for Medicare was projected to rise much more rapidly than the payroll tax as the baby boomers retired. Consequently, the rational thing for Congress to do would have been to find ways of cutting its costs. Instead, Republicans voted to vastly increase them--and the federal deficit--by $395 billion between 2004 and 2013…Even with a deceptively low estimate of the drug benefit's cost, there were still a few Republicans in the House of Representatives who wouldn't roll over and play dead just to buy re-election. Consequently, when the legislation came up for its final vote on Nov. 22, 2003, it was failing by 216 to 218 when the standard 15-minute time allowed for voting came to an end.

 

“What followed was one of the most extraordinary events in congressional history. The vote was kept open for almost three hours while the House Republican leadership brought massive pressure to bear on the handful of principled Republicans who had the nerve to put country ahead of party. The leadership even froze the C-SPAN cameras so that no one outside the House chamber could see what was going on…the Medicare drug benefit was a pure giveaway with a gross cost greater than either the House or Senate health reform bills how being considered. Together the new bills would cost roughly $900 billion over the next 10 years, while Medicare Part D will cost $1 trillion.

 

“Moreover, there is a critical distinction--the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers; 100% of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit, whereas the health reform measures now being debated will be paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, adding nothing to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office…I don't mean to suggest that Democrats are any better when it comes to the deficit, although they have a better case for saying so based on the contrasting fiscal records of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The national debt belongs to both parties. But at least the Democrats don't go on Fox News day after day proclaiming how fiscally conservative they are, and organize tea parties to rant about deficits, without ever putting forward any plan for reducing them. Nor do they pretend that they have no responsibility whatsoever for projected deficits, at least half of which can be traced directly to Republican policies, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag. It astonishes me that a party enacting anything like the drug benefit would have the chutzpah to view itself as fiscally responsible in any sense of the term.”

 

In a November 25, 2009 Forbes.com piece, Bartlett again held the GOP accountable, this time over the issue of war funding: “In recent years, Republicans have been characterized by two principal positions: They like starting wars and don't like paying for them. George W. Bush initiated two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but adamantly refused to pay for either of them by cutting non-military spending or raising taxes. Indeed, at his behest, Congress actually cut taxes and established a massive new entitlement program, Medicare Part D…Bush and his party, which controlled Congress from 2001 to 2006, never asked for sacrifices from anyone except those in our nation's military and their families. I think that's because the Republicans understood, implicitly, that the American people's support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has always been paper thin. Asking them to sacrifice through higher taxes, domestic spending cuts or reinstatement of the draft would surely have led to massive protests akin to those during the Vietnam era or to political defeat in 2004. George W. Bush knew well that when his father raised taxes in 1990 in part to pay for the first Gulf War, it played a major role in his 1992 electoral defeat.

 

“Consequently, Republicans resolved to fight our wars on the cheap and with deceptive cost estimates,” Bartlett continued. “On the eve of war in December 2002, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Mitch Daniels claimed that the war in Iraq could be fought at a total cost of $50 billion to $60 billion. Indeed, Bush even fired his top economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, for saying publicly that the war might cost between $100 billion and $200 billion.

 

“Of course, both Daniels and Lindsey grossly underestimated the actual cost. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost close to $1 trillion thus far. That is exactly what economists not on the White House payroll expected…In his 2008 book, What a President Should Know, Lindsey said that lowballing the cost of the war was a ‘tactical blunder’ because it allowed Bush's enemies to claim that he lied us into war. But at the same time, Lindsey acknowledges that the administration never rose to ‘Churchillian levels in talking about the sacrifices needed.’ He also says that asking for sacrifice in the form of spending cuts and tax increases would have served the important purpose of involving the American people in the war effort. As it is, war is largely out of sight and out of mind.”

 

 Bartlett and such commentators as Daniel Larison and Austin Bramwell of The American Conservative are providing the constructive criticism conservatives and Republicans need in order to make a comprehensive comeback in American political and cultural life. May their kind increase.

                                                _____________________

 

Another core conservative conviction that needs to be clarified is the right’s respect for the religious—and the non-religious.

 

In the fall of 1998, the late Jack Kemp drew some fire for suggesting that conservatives of faith were getting too obnoxious for their own good. In a November 8, 1998 Washington Post column, Kemp declared, “The 1998 midterm election was a referendum on Republican performance, not on the impeachment issue or on either party's agenda for 1999…. The electorate is practically shouting for Republicans to finish the job Ronald Reagan began in reforming the tax and regulatory apparatus. Instead, the party's cultural conservatives and religious activists insisted that it was more important to avoid risky reforms. They made the decision to sit on their hands, wait for a cultural backlash and rely on voters to punish the Democratic party for supporting a president who had misbehaved in his private life and lied about it to a grand jury…[The ‘98 midterms] demonstrated the limitations of a political campaign built around only cultural and social issues. It is impossible to separate the culture from the economy; a strong culture requires a strong economy. Those party intellectuals and opinion leaders who gambled this election on a cultural backlash are now licking their wounds and pondering their failures. There is absolutely a place for them in the party of Lincoln, but it can't be in a dictatorial role. Conservative social engineering is every bit as presumptuous as liberal social engineering.”

 

Kemp continued, “Americans prefer to receive their spiritual fulfillment in churches, synagogues and mosques. They are conservative in their values but they want a progressive conservatism, not a reactionary conservatism… Reagan espoused a conservatism that was based on traditional values and morality without legislating personal behavior. He knew that economic growth, personal freedom and equality of opportunity will allow America's faith-based institutions to thrive and provide a moral compass without government interference. Republicans must now demonstrate to the electorate--and especially to the minority communities--that we possess the vision and strategy to help all people get a shot at the American Dream.”

 

Kemp’s perceived potshots at social conservatives roused the ire of then-Boston Globe columnist John Ellis. In a November 12, 1998 article, Ellis wrote, “[Now] Republican congressional leaders talk about the need for ‘moderation’ and ‘pragmatism,’ code words aimed at supposedly overzealous religious conservatives. The ‘Christian Right’ is derided by Republican strategists and operatives as a ‘paper tiger,’ incapable of delivering votes in Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp delivers his own rebuke, prominently displayed in The Washington Post. Adding insult to injury, the national press amplifies all this, believing it to be true. It isn't true. It is true that the Democratic Party and liberal elements in the national media have successfully demonized religious conservatives as intolerant zealots. In this effort they have been blessed by the presence of such figures as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, and various extremists in the antiabortion movement. But anyone who has spent time in politics knows that these are the Beltway faces of the religious right, Hogarthian caricatures of a much more humane and diverse constituency.”

  

“…[Social] conservatives are the soul of the Republican Party,” Ellis continued. “In the main, they are neither intolerant nor unforgiving. Reporters who have covered their political activities know them to be earnest, unfailingly polite, and deeply concerned about the moral climate of the country. These concerns are widely shared by the population at large. The agenda of religious conservatives is to reverse what they perceive to be the moral decline of the nation. They view the abortion issue as the most important moral issue in America since slavery, but they are not, in the main, abolitionists. Instead, they have adopted a strategy that tries to diminish the number of abortions performed in the United States by passing legislation that requires parental consent for teenagers and that outlaws the murderous practice of partial-birth abortion.

 

Religious conservatives have worked long and hard to return the educational system to basic values, insisting that school be a place of learning, not self-esteem management, and that discipline, manners, and good conduct be part of the program. They have also asked that a few minutes of silent prayer be included in the daily routine so that students might reflect on the wisdom of the ages. Religious conservatives have led the fight against the vulgarity of our media culture, engaging in economic boycotts of companies that produce mindlessly violent and egregiously exploitative movies, television shows, musical recordings, and publications. For their efforts they have been reviled by economic elites who profit from such ventures and by intellectual elites who imagine that The People vs. Larry Flynt is art. Religious conservatives have been at the forefront of the rebirth of volunteerism in America. Although their generosity and compassion receives virtually no national press attention, it has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. And religious conservatives have been instrumental in keeping the cause of human rights alive.”

 

Ellis is absolutely correct to note that social conservatives constructed the building the modern-day GOP currently resides in. However, conservatives and Republicans must always made sure there are no restrictive covenants or gentlemen’s agreements preventing social libertarians from moving in.

 

In a culturally secular society, there will naturally be Americans who are potentially sympathetic to the conservative message, but who have certain quirks. Perhaps they feel that both unborn babies and homosexual couples deserve civil rights protection. Perhaps they believe in an awesome God and a risen Christ while also believing that most of the folks on television who claim to speak in Jesus’ name are full of it. Perhaps they are opposed to both the War on Christmas and the War on Drugs. The conservative tent should have enough room to allow these people to be welcomed with open arms.

 

If a religious person and a secular person share the same views on economics, defense, the freedoms enshrined in the First and Second Amendments, etc., why should they not work together to achieve common political goals? There should not be a feud between these two factions—not when they have a common political enemy.

  

In addition, while strong Christian convictions have led many to embrace conservatism, conservatives should always be cautious about creating the impression that one must be a Christian in order to be a conservative. As Dinesh D’Souza notes in his 2009 book Life After Death: The Evidence, “…[We] live today in a secular culture where Christian assumptions are no longer taken for granted. There are many people who practice other religions, and some who practice no religion at all. The Bible is an excellent source of authority when you are talking to Christians, but it is not likely to persuade non-Christians, lapsed Christians, or atheists. In a secular culture the only arguments that are likely to work are secular arguments, and these can only be made on the basis of science and reason.”

 

Let’s make those arguments.

                                                ____________________________

 

“The [Republican] Party also must be more sober about the demographic transformation that is taking place in America,” former FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote last year. We are a browning nation, but a Party seemingly incompetent in connecting with America’s diversity and its ascendant multiculturalism. We are stuck in antiquated notions of race. My kids saw Barack Obama not as black but as modern. His race and enlightened manner of dealing with it captures how the young see themselves.”

 

While equal treatment and equal opportunity are core conservative convictions, the American right didn’t always live up to this principle in the past. Unfortunately, a number of prominent conservatives acted stupidly with regard to racial issues in the 1950s and 1960s (William F. Buckley initially dismissing the civil rights movement, Barry Goldwater failing to join Everett Dirksen in supporting the 1964 Civil Rights Act, etc.), permanently damaging the perception of conservatism in the minds of millions of black voters.

 

Conservatives and Republicans might have some success attracting black small-business owners to their cause, but they have little chance of bringing large numbers of black voters to the right. While many blacks are culturally conservative, they are also, with rare exceptions, simpatico with progressive Democrats when it comes to economic and foreign-policy issues. Thus, overwhelming black support for the political left will likely remain the status quo for decades to come.  (In theory, working-class black voters could be encouraged to reconsider their voting habits via Republican-led efforts to establish school-choice programs.  However, the grim reality is that such programs, if proposed, would likely face resistance from affluent voters uninterested in having children from a different social class in “their” schools. As Peter Brimelow notes in his 2003 book The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education, “The voucher movement's fundamental and unspoken problem, however, is race. Government schools in wealthy suburbs are already de facto private schools — and they are de facto segregated, by class if not completely by race. Families who cannot afford to live in these neighborhoods cannot send their children to those government schools. To many suburbanites in these areas, vouchers just look like a new word for busing.”)

 

Instead of wasting time trying to change what cannot be changed vis-à-vis the black vote, conservatives and Republicans would be better off tailoring a message of hope and opportunity to other non-Caucasian groups. As Powell suggests, the GOP must find some way to connect with nonwhite voters who are not, as of now, permanently aligned with the Democrats. If the party fails to do so, it will be doomed demographically.

 

The conventional wisdom is that conservative/Republican demagoguery on the issue of illegal immigration has hurt the right’s image in the eyes of nonwhite voters. Perhaps conservatives and Republicans would be better off simultaneously encouraging an increase in legal immigration while denouncing illegal immigration.  When was the last time you heard a prominent conservative figure raise questions about the bureaucratic jungle a person must traverse in order to become a naturalized citizen? Without hearing such expressions of sympathy for those trying to become legal, recent nonwhite legal immigrants will naturally become suspicious of the motives behind anti-illegal-immigration rhetoric (that is to say, they will logically fear that such rhetoric is just a prelude to the “actual” goal, the limiting of legal immigration). As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby noted in November 2009, “It is…dispiriting to see conservatives assail immigrants instead of the insane immigration system that gave most of them no legal way to enter the United States… Of course illegal immigration is a problem. But it can only be solved by overhauling our dysfunctional immigration laws, not by demonizing or scapegoating illegal immigrants.”

 

There are plenty of nonwhite voters who think conservatives and Republicans are on point with regard to fiscal, social and defense issues—but they will not align themselves with the American right so long as certain figures on the right use rhetoric that suggests “they’ve been spending most their lives living in a pastime paradise,” to quote the famous Stevie Wonder song. When they see certain conservatives rant and rave about illegals and express little if any sympathy towards those who are striving to become legal…when they see certain conservatives implying that a President with a legitimately multicultural background isn’t really a citizen…when they see certain conservatives make nonsensical references to “pro-American” parts of the country…these voters get more than a little suspicious.

 

Conservatism, in the purest sense, respects the past while focusing on the future. So let’s try to keep the impurities out.

 

                                    ________________________

 

 

If the 2000s are to be remembered for the failure of “compassionate conservatism,” let the 2010s be remembered for the success of “clean conservatism”—a conservatism that’s not at war with itself, a conservatism that can reach those who are currently politically uncommitted, a conservatism that can maintain America’s greatness.

 

Clean conservatism is capable of self-criticism, always recognizing that inquiry is the only route to truth. Clean conservatism resists empty sloganeering, always honoring the intellectual roots of the movement. Clean conservatism is aware that not everyone will listen to its message, but nevertheless attempts to tear down the walls of ideological segregation in the United States. Clean conservatism proposes actual solutions to problems related to education, access to affordable health care and environmental damage, instead of allowing progressives to claim ownership of these issues. Clean conservatism recognizes that we are all Americans, and that there should be no conflict between urban and rural citizens. Clean conservatism pays homage to the achievements of the past, but recognizes that not everything that occurred in the past can be duplicated in the future. Clean conservatism sees more beauty in tomorrow than it saw in yesterday.

 

Clean conservatism ignores the slurs, the insults, the attacks, the nasty looks. Clean conservatism understands that this stuff comes with the territory. Clean conservatism presses forward, doing the necessary work to build a new center-right foundation.

 

Once that foundation is built, clean conservatism will win. It will win because its arguments will be stronger than the ones put forth by its opponents. It will win because its message will be more powerful than the messages of those who seek to discredit or demonize it. It will win because Americans will see themselves as truly belonging to this movement.

 

Years ago, conservatives embraced the catchphrase “Morning in America.” Today, and tomorrow, the vision should be more than just “Morning in America.” For what good is a beautiful morning if it leads to a terrible afternoon and an unbearable night?

 

The terrible afternoon was the mid- to late-1990s, when it appeared that the conservative vision had returned to power, only for that appearance to be revealed as an apparition. The unbearable night was the mid- to late-2000s, when the American right seemed to be mired in quicksand.

 

Instead of just “Morning in America,” why not have a beautiful day and a glorious night? A clean conservatism can speed up the arrival of this day—a day when parents can again be confident that their children’s quality of life will be superior to their own, a day when a worker can again make enough not just to get by, but to get ahead, a day when a Commander-in-Chief can trust the information he’s given before sending his troops into harm’s way, a day when no one is treated differently because of who they love, especially if the person they love is God.

 

A clean conservatism can deliver this result. A clean conservatism can truly renew America’s promise and America’s purpose. A clean conservatism can heal the injuries pessimism and hopelessness have inflicted upon so many of our citizens. A clean conservatism can provide honest hope, credible change, literal liberty…and justice for all.

Recognizing the Lessons of the Ron Paul Revolution

Crossposted at NextGenGOP.com.

A few hours ago, I received an e-mail from a Ron Paul supporter, and although the majority of the e-mail was rather condescending, the author makes an important statement that I do believe merits exploration:

You guys [at NextGenGOP] are … ignoring Ron Paul … and his contribution to gathering sincere and dedicated enthusiasm in American politics.

Indeed, the author is correct – our contributors have not really discussed the Ron Paul Revolution, despite the fact that there are a number of crucial lessons for the Republican Party to learn from his successes. Thus, without further ado, I will take this post to thoroughly explore this matter.

To his credit, Ron Paul’s campaign demonstrated that Republicans can indeed keep up with Democrats in the era of Web 2.0, particularly in the areas of grassroots organization and fundraising. In addition, his campaign won the hearts of many young voters in a way quite similar to that of President-elect Obama. This begs two critical questions: how did Ron Paul manage to accomplish these significant feats despite being widely regarded as a “fringe candidate,” and more importantly, what lessons must the Republican Party take from his success?

Ron Paul’s Successes

Let us begin by looking at the many successes of the Paul campaign, and how his performance compares to that of the two most significant candidates of the cycle: John McCain and Barack Obama.

  1. Ron Paul energized his supporters, resulting in an incredible outpouring of enthusiasm for his candidacy despite being supported by an extremely small percentage of voters. McCain’s campaign created a short burst of energy during his selection of Sarah Palin and the convention, but it proceeded to fizzle out as time passed. Obama’s campaign continuously energized its supporters, resulting in unbelievably massive crowds at his campaign events. A Gallup poll from October 2008 confirms this phenomenon, clearly indicating the enthusiasm gap that Democrats had over Republicans.
  2. Ron Paul effectively used the Internet to organize his grassroots efforts. Relying on existing infrastructures like Meetup.com – where he was able to recruit over 86,600 members in 1,150 groups that planned and held over 51,000 offline campaign events – the Paul campaign had enormous success in this arena. McCain’s website had its own network called McCainSpace, but at many levels it was not especially groundbreaking, and in contrast to the online outreach by Obama and Paul, it seemed to be used fairly lightly by supporters. In contrast, Barack Obama successfully built an incredible network at my.barackobama.com by bringing on Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Ask almost any Obama supporter, and they’ll tell you that they used Obama’s online tools in one way or another. What’s unique about Ron Paul’s success, however, is that his campaign didn’t spend enormous resources building its own tools. Instead, it successfully took advantage of tools that already existed and thus was able to build an incredibly comprehensive national grassroots network without having to spend a significant amount of its own money.
  3. Ron Paul’s ability to raise funds online is unparalleled in the Republican Party. Indeed, for the final quarter of 2007, Ron Paul outraised all of the other Republican Presidential candidates. McCain’s fundraising was generally unexceptional, and his strategic error in choosing to take public funding will almost certainly never happen again. And of course, we all know that Obama was a fundraising juggernaut, particularly online.
  4. Ron Paul strongly appealed to young voters. Exit polls for early primary states like NH, MI, SC, and FL show that a disproportionately large percentage of younger voters pulled the lever for Ron Paul (in many cases, roughly twice the percentage of votes he received from other age groups). As we know from the exit polling of the general election, these young voters overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama over John McCain: CNN pegs Obama’s advantage at 66% - 32%.

How Ron Paul’s Successes Came to Fruition

At the most basic level, it was Ron Paul’s common-sense and decidedly libertarian platform that created so much interest in his campaign. While some of his positions, such as his staunch opposition to the Iraq war, stand in stark contrast to the Republican agenda, the fact is that the core of his message is quite in line with the traditional Republican message: reducing the federal government’s size and cutting its spending.

What made Ron Paul distinct, however, was his passion and commitment to accomplishing this. If you had to identify the single most important policy issue in a hypothetical Paul administration, it would unquestionably be reduction of government. Unfortunately, you cannot unequivocally say the same about any of the other Republican candidates, and certainly not of John McCain (read: McCain-Feingold, among other things).

Ron Paul’s steadfast and unwavering commitment to his limited government principles brought a huge influx of dedicated supporters to his campaign. The resulting enthusiasm among these supporters translated into impeccable successes.

Lessons for the Republican Party

  1. Democrats aren’t the only ones who can fully take advantage of the Internet, both in donations and in building a grassroots organization. Indeed, you don’t even necessarily need to build new tools to win the battle online. That said, in order to see Ron Paul-like success, there are two crucial components that must exist. First, you must have enthusiastic supporters who are not only willing but excited to help the organization. Second, you must be willing to allow online tools to step into areas that have traditionally been controlled internally, such as grassroots organization.
  2. We cannot underestimate the importance of our ideals of smaller, less expensive government – and our candidates’ commitment to these ideals. To paraphrase a McCain stump line, Republicans were elected due to their promises to change Washington, but instead they let Washington change them. As a result, the voters turned to Democrats in 2006 and 2008, at least in part because they simply don’t trust us to keep our word. In 2010 and beyond, we need to run candidates who have a proven commitment to these principles – perhaps signing off on a Contract with America 2.0 similar to what I’ve previously suggested – and in doing so we will generate an incredible amount of enthusiasm for our candidates.
  3. Successfully using the Internet saves money. A lot of money. Of the major Presidential candidates, Ron Paul’s campaign devoted by far the smallest percentage of its budget to paying staffers. One of the most important reasons for this is simple: by successfully using the Internet to build the grassroots backbone of the campaign, there was considerably less need to pay staffers to organize outreach efforts. Yes, the sheer notion of such a decentralized campaign may be unsettling to those who are used to running traditional campaigns. However, Web 2.0 is shaking up the foundations of many traditional infrastructures with resounding success. If we want to survive in this new era, we need to allow it to shake up our organizations, too. Just imagine if John McCain had been able to slash his campaign’s payrolls by just 15% due to such decentralization – in fiscal year 2007 alone (well before McCain was the presumptive nominee), McCain would have been able to save $2.3 million.
  4. Republicans can win back the younger voting bloc. My experience has been that the vast majority of my peers – voters age 18-29 – fundamentally agree that they want the government in their lives as little as possible. The Republican Party is the party of individual freedoms and liberties, and if we can manage to resecure the public’s faith in this, we can win back young voters.

The bottom line is that we simply cannot afford to discount Ron Paul as a “fringe candidate” whose successes hold no lessons of value for the Republican Party. Instead, we must to adapt these successes into the new Republican Party. Viva la revolución!

Obama's Iraq policy shifts are telling.

Mike Allen reported in the Politico today that Barack Obama may be changing positions on yet another issue; Iraq. Nonetheless, what is telling about this revelation isn't Obama's lack of honesty, but rather an acknowledgement from his campaign that Iraq may not be the disaster many Democrats claim it to be.

Of course, the Obama spin machine, as quoted in the article, is claiming that Obama has maintained a consistent position on Iraq. As usual, the facts say otherwise. In more than one debate during the primary season, Obama pledged to begin withdrawing from Iraq "from day one".

Now that Obama may be coming around on Iraq, or is doing so for the time being, the question should be asked whether or not the antiwar Left will stand behind a candidate whose campaign seemingly now advocates a position on Iraq not far off from that of John McCain.

 

Good News from the Iraqi Front

In news that will probably be ignored within a week or so, things are getting better in Iraq. In fact, the Iraqi military…yes, the Iraqi run military, not the US military presence, will be taking full control of the Anbar province. Why is this important? The Anbar province was filled to the gills with insurgents and includes the borders of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan…where foreign militants had been sneaking into Iraq. According to a Pentagon report on the region, the “…average number of security incidents remained at five incidents per day over a 90-day period, accounting for less than 4 percent of the attacks in all of Iraq…This represents a 10-fold reduction compared to the summer of 2006 and is half of the rate of the last few months of 2007.” That’s big news.

This comes along with other big news that the Iraqi government is forming a new oil production company after the Iraqi military, (again forces run by the Iraqi government…not the US), “…brought Shiite militias in the Maysan capital of Amarah under control.” Yes, Iraqi forces are helping stabilize regions of their own country. This company will begin developing for oil in the Maysan region upon approval of the Iraqi parliament. Once again, this is a huge deal for Iraq and shows that there is progress during this protracted war.

Why isn’t the media discussing this in detail? Why doesn’t the media care about the fact that the Iraqi war is actually going more smoothly and that the Iraqi government is starting to kick it up and work the way it should? Why doesn’t the MSM actually discuss this at length? Because they can not. To admit they were wrong about the Iraq war would be a folly for them, as Cal Thomas points out. Here’s an excerpt from his article –

The main reason progress in Iraq is not receiving more attention is that the progress is considerable and the big media are not paying attention because they don't like the new storyline. They prefer "America defeated," not "America victorious" because defeat increases the likelihood of a Democratic electoral blowout in the fall.

A headline in last Saturday's New York Times tells you all you need to know about the reluctance of the mainstream media to report on progress in Iraq. With what sounds like information produced only after an editor was water-boarded, it reads, "Big Gains for Iraq Security, but Questions Linger."

If this headline writer were reporting victory in World War II, it might have read, "America wins; German and Japanese Psyche Seriously Affected." The 1969 moon landing might have read: "Man Lands on Moon; Will It Hurt the Lunar Environment?"

It’s sad, but it’s true. It is now John McCain’s job to tell the nation that the Iraq war is finally making some traction, making giant leaps, and that the people of Iraq are reaping the benefits, not merely us. Their penchant for yellow journalism will make it difficult to make headway, but it needs to be done. The nation needs to know, it’s their God given right as human beings to be told the truth about what’s going on with their own countrymen abroad. McCain needs to make sure we know the truth, because we all know the media isn’t going to tell us.

This is cross-posted from my primary blog, Matty N's Blog.

 

Bush To Begin Withdrawing Troops From Iraq

While the Associated Press spends their days worrying about how much they should charge bloggers for the privilege of quoting their articles (Note to AP, bloggers should charge you for providing traffic to your website), they have curiously missed what would otherwise be considered a very newsworthy story. On Monday, President Bush announced the withdrawal of 30,000 troops by July.

U.S. President George Bush on Monday announced the withdrawal of 30,000 troops by July, highlighting that any further withdrawal of the troops will depend on the security conditions in the country.

This came during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London.

The U.S. president linked any further withdrawal of U.S. forces with the improvement of Iraqi forces’ capabilities and their abilities to bear more responsibilities, as well as the economic improvement and more progress regarding political reconciliation.

“This strategy aims at handing Iraqis more responsibilities,” Bush said.
For his part, Brown denied any impact of the political argument on his government’s stance.

“There is a work to do in Iraq and we will continue our work,” Brown added, stressing that he would not outline any time table for British forces withdrawal.

The media silence on this story is deafening as I had to go all the way to an Iraqi news source to find the story (via GatewayPundit). The silence however was predictable as many media outlets were anticipating a withdrawal of troops due to failure in Iraq, yet the reason for the reduction in troops is actually due to their success. In fact the media coverage of Iraq has declined 92% from the same time last year, indicating that the more progress is made, the less the media consider it an issue.

If John McCain expects to contend in this election it is imperative he remind the American people of these successes. He should be reminding Americans every week of the progress being made in Iraq, and the Congressionally set benchmarks which have already been met.

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The Media Ignore Progress, Yet Again

In May, 19 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. This marks the lowest monthly death toll of U.S. troops since the war began in 2003. While this by no means erases the meaning of the individuals' lives lost, it does show that there have been improvements in the war-torn country. So, with death rates declining and with progress more than immanent, why have the U.S. media been so reluctant to cover Iraq? The Washington Post's editorial board weighs in:

"THERE'S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks -- which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war."

This lag in news coverage is intriguing, considering the overall progress that has been made. It's ironic that the only time the media are harping on Iraq is when death and destruction have taken center stage. Why is it that when progress is made, the media decide to turn away? What in this world could possibly be more newsworthy than the war that liberals have continuously berated actually taking a turn for the better?

Now, don't get me wrong. The war was mismanaged, which surely called for anger and responsiveness on behalf of the American people. But at a time when positive advances are being made, everyone should be standing behind the mission and recognizing the importance of completing it. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

We've reached an odd crossroads in America. Today, the defeatists seem to have an upper hand, as their negativity has guided the nation into a mentality that continues to trick citizens into believing that this war is lost.  Unfortunately for the defeatists, recent developments show that the U.S. is actually winning in Iraq.

So, while the media fail to properly report the positives, we're forced to listen to Barack Obama and his enthusiasts devilishly try to appeal to a war-weary nation as they call for complete abandonment of a war that might actually be successful. What will Obama say once he realizes that the U.S. might actually win the mission? And wouldn't it help if the media would do their job and actually report on the positive strides that have been made?

I'm not the first person to complain about this. Conservative angst has existed since the beginning of the surge, as commentators have relentlessly made the case that the media have ignored the positive results that emerged from the troop surge.

"Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites." - The Washington Post

Perhaps Hot Air says it best:

"The defeatists have been exposed. They cannot run, but they can keep spinning. Even their colleagues in the media have begun to notice the good news, however, and the facade of defeat has begun its inevitable collapse."

Let's hope that the defeatists don't win.  Their ideology is counterproductive and could lead the U.S. to prematurely pull out of a volatile region before getting the job done.  We don't need leaders making false promises; what we need is to complete our pledge to the Iraqi people, while remaining realistic about the challenges ahead.  While the mission may not be easy, abandoning Iraq should be America's last resort.

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