Poor President Obama, as Colin Powell pointed out in endorsing him Thursday, clearly holds what should be a winning hand in the war-on-terror game, and yet Mitt Romney and his neocon speechwriters won't cut him any slack. Suddenly it's not Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda that matter, but rather the military threat from Red China that is killing us with slick iPhones and cheap solar panels.
Throw in some good old Russia baiting, and if Romney has his way, the military-industrial complex will get its beloved Cold War back despite the fact that the communist threat is now one of conquering space on the shelves at Wal-Mart. Obama, the naive community organizer, thinks the foreign policy debate is about national security, but Romney, the quintessential vulture capitalist, knows that it's always been about maximizing profit.
That is the problem with the war on terror that Obama inherited from George W. Bush but has successfully reissued as his own product line: it's got all the patriotic bells and whistles, but as a profit center, it sucks. You just can't logically justify spending trillions of dollars on building ever more sophisticated weapons to defeat a 9/11 style enemy equipped with weapons that can be purchased at Home Depot for a couple of hundred bucks. Another $2 billion nuclear sub, in addition to the two we already turn out every year, isn't very useful in hunting down potential hijackers based in some desert outpost or even in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany.
Bush and his neocon coterie recognized the glaring irrelevance of the Cold War era arsenal in the fight against terrorism, and that is why they invaded Iraq instead of focusing on al-Qaida and its supporters in Afghanistan. As Donald Rumsfeld put it, "There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are a lot of good targets in Iraq," meaning that we could pretend it was the Normandy landing all over again and count on an embedded media to mindlessly celebrate rolling out the mothballed war toys. There had to be another use for B-2 stealth bombers other than flying over the Super Bowl.
Saddam Hussein at least had a recognizable army and something of an air force, but even so, Bush had to invent a WMD scare to justify a hot war that would be a post Cold War bonanza for defense contractors lobbying for even more outlandish military deals. Iran now serves a similar purpose, even though the increased regional influence of the ayatollahs that Romney wildly inflates is a result of our putting Shiite political refugees, formerly living in protected exile in Iran, into power in Iraq.
But, as earlier with Iraq, the threat from Iran is a poor excuse for boosting military expenditures back to Cold War levels, and so Romney has turned to the neocons to bring China and Russia back into the threat inflation charts. As Powell said in endorsing Obama and rejecting his fellow Republican, Romney: "There's some very, very strong neoconservative views that are presented by the governor that I have some trouble with."
Of course, it was those same neocons who deceived Powell into sounding the false alarm in his United Nations speech over Iraq's nonexistent WMDs, and he now knows just how treacherous they can be. The key advisers around Romney are the same folks who got Bush to trick us into a war that few Americans now defend, but their cynical appeal to Republican politicians lives on. Although Romney has been loath to identify with the now much discredited foreign policy of the former president, he is reliant on the very men who led Bush astray.
The list reads like a who's who of the neocons who beat the drums for wasting American lives and taxpayer dollars during the Bush reign. Key among them is John Bolton, perhaps better known for his outsized mustache than for his outlandishly hawkish views. Another is Robert Kagan, who, like Bolton, was a key player in the infamous Project for a New American Century that was eagerly pushing for a massive increase in military expenditures even before the 9/11 attacks. Another is Robert Joseph, the Bush-era National Security Council official credited with sticking the 16 words in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech making the egregiously false claim about uranium being shipped from Niger to Iraq.
No wonder Powell is alarmed; those are the guys who fooled him once, but not twice.