Conservative activist Grover Norquist believes it is time to have a serious conversation about the costs and benefits of America's role in Afghanistan. The founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax that “inertia is an
insufficient argument” for continuing the current policy.
Norquist kicked off the conversation last week at a dinner hosted by Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at New America Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that is generally viewed as left-of-center. His comments immediately drew fire.
Max Boot, writing in Commentary magazine, called N
orquist’s comments “laughable” and likened it to pulling out of “World War II while Hitler or Tojo were still in power, or to end the Civil War while Jefferson Davis still ruled the South. Think of all the millions we could have saved by ending wars prematurely — quite a bonanza, especially if you ignore the rather substantial costs of defeat.”
Norquist, however, was undeterred. He noted that the United States will spend $119 billion this year in Afghanistan, a country with a GDP of just $14 billion. He said supporters of the war should not be afraid to debate their position, to come up with good reasons to stay and benefits of doing so.
“Shut up is not an argument,” he said, adding, “People who don’t want to debate their position must feel they have a very weak hand.”
Norquist said that conservatives cannot fall into the same trap as liberals who, for example, believe if you spend money on welfare it shows you are concerned and you are helping. He said it is not the same, “you can spend money and waste it.”
“Only (conservatives) can convince the country to stay the course or to take a different approach,” he said.
Norquist argued that short of invasion, most wars and are wars of choice. He said that President Ronald Reagan had all the reason he needed to keep U.S. troops in Lebanon following the 1983 truck bombing of the Beirut barracks that killed 241 American soldiers. Yet, he pulled out the troops rather than become entangled in civil war that raged from 1975 to 1990. Norquist said you have to ask how long will you be there, how much will it cost in lives and money, and will our presence make the situation any better.
Norquist said that the defense budget must be put under the same microscope as other things and that those who say you can’t make defense cuts are hiding something. “We have to be for not wasting money anywhere. … To argue there is no waste in the Marine Corp probably would not pass the laugh test.”
When asked is wars should be subject to a cost and benefit analysis, Norquist replied, “They sure as hell better.”
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