The Skeptics

Why Isn't There a Debate about America's Grand Strategy?

There is a similar lack of interest in the House. Back in July, GOP leaders blocked Rep. Barbara Lee’s attempt to force an AUMF debate. Although Lee’s proposal won bipartisan support in the House Appropriations Committee, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office called it “an irresponsible measure” that “endangers our national security.”

Speaker Ryan, Senator McCain and others on Capitol Hill who don’t wish to debate the nation’s wars should understand that our military interventions are ineffective precisely because Congress—and therefore the public—is disengaged. The nation fights in many wars that, unlike Korea or Vietnam, don’t get tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers killed. But wars that aren’t worth fighting unless they are cheap and easy might not be worth fighting at all. Indeed, the unwillingness to expend resources on dubious foreign wars is a mark of the public’s collective common sense.

Meanwhile, to the extent that they don’t feel much pain, or suffer any apparent trade-offs, the vast majority of Americans who don’t serve in the military remain rationally ignorant of the wars that don’t obviously cost them anything. In short, the public doesn’t care because Congress has given them little reason to care.

And U.S. foreign policy proceeds as if on autopilot.

Christopher Preble is vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and the author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free.

Image: Reuters