At a panel entitled Too Many American Wars? Should We Fight Anywhere and Can We Afford It?, Rep. Steve King begins by reminding us that some wars are good, listing the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American war as examples. Rep. Louie Gohmert (Yes, Steve King and Louie Gohmert were on the same panel, and sweet merciful crap, these are the people debating where and how to have our next wars) complains bitterly that the Carter-era Iranian embassy did not result in war. The most intellectual member of the panel, Dr. Angelo Codevilla, was more calculated in his words; he was praised by the next panel member for his wisdom, after which that speaker (Rep. Tom Cotten) then proceeded to ignore or contradict his arguments with no seeming awareness of it.
As for Gohmert. Oh my Lord. Holy effing eff. His speech is disjointed and baffling; what he is arguing for is unclear. It is not a mere point of accent; a hard Texas drawl can be a joy to listen to, when employed by a clever mind, but this is not, well, that. On Afghanistan, his most pithy and emphatic statement, "the enemy of my enemy can be my friend", may sum it up best. Simple, to the point, and with nasty repercussions that can be dismissed by simply never thinking about them.
At this point I almost feel I owe Allen West an apology. I had previously tagged him as America's Dumbest Congressman, but compared to Gohmert, West was the picture of coherence. No, forget rhetoric, Gohmert gives off the strong impression of a fellow you could not fully trust with big-people scissors. Listening to him wrestle with an argument is like watching a Cub Scout try to fight off a bear with nothing but his penknife and a neckerchief.
My only conclusion from the panel is that conservatives have no earthly idea what their policies on American wars are. They don't have polices. They are simultaneously for and against defense spending, and for and against drone and other surgical strikes. They are against interventionism; but defenders of Vietnam, had we only finished the job. The one point of perhaps-consensus from the panel is that America needs to be more resolute, and harsher on its enemies, and that most of our problems are caused by being insufficiently determined to beat their enemies completely. More thoughts on the panels below the fold.
When it comes to the subject of Iran, in a panel soon afterwards (the title is Iran and the Islamist Threat to America and the West, for the record), all such doubts are off the table. Sen. Lindsey Graham warns that Muslim extremists are not deterred by mutual annihilation, as long as they can take us with them, and that the Shia rulers of the nation seek nuclear weapons as "cover" for the protection and growth of the region's other Shia Muslims. Rep. Buck McKeon talks a lot about Reagan, who freed the Iranian hostages immediately after taking office because Iranians knew he was stern.
The Glenn Beck contingent is ably represented by a stern-looking Otto Reich, who is there to warn of Iran's deep hemispheric influence "from Canada to Argentina," warning that they have "have established a presence" in "commercial," "agricultural," and a long litany of other things, but by the time he finishes speaking, the very crowded room that Lindsey Graham and McKeon had spoken to has mostly emptied out. Apparently the crowd was here to see the two panel stars, not out of any particular interest in a war with Iran or the urgent threat of Islam down in the southern lands. Not that there is any debate to be had; the panel is to explain all the various reasons why military action is required. That is all.
There are questions. The first is from a college Republican who is a Muslim, and with a nervous voice points out that Islam and terrorism are different and should not be conflated. But you didn't hear any of that during this panel, moderator Cliff May asks? When the student says that he did, May asks him to come up after the panel, because he hadn't heard any such thing.
Graham responds to the question in part by noting that a military strike at this point must include not just possible enrichment sites, but their air force, Revolutionary Guard, and other targets. In response to the next question, he mentions his support for things like bringing drinking water to poor villages and other aid efforts to boost support American support in those regions and reduce support for radicalism, which is the sort of thing that most of the rest of the spending-cut-obsessed conference grumbles on about in speech after speech. By this point, the room is almost empty, other than those waiting in line with questions. At this point the panel conflicts with Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, and Rand Paul wins easily.