Marginalia - Page 2

Invasion of the party snatchers

The Constitution grants solely to Congress the power "to raise and support Armies," with the telling proviso that "no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years." The framers did not want a standing army sitting there like a loaded gun, waiting for some president to grab it and start shooting. And for nearly two centuries, the country's practice was to demobilize after conflicts. As Doris Kearns Goodwin observes in No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (1994), the US Army in 1940 was smaller than Belgium's. But over the next decade the military was to swell unimaginably, and it remained swollen, even as the "military-industrial complex" a departing President Eisenhower warned us about became a cancer growing on our politics, while its propaganda affiliates assured us that, whether the problem was poverty, drugs, terror, or Manuel Noriega, the answer was war.

The Republican Party chose to dance with this soul-sucking devil at some Mephistophelian ball, only to find later that its throat had been slit and a dagger plunged into its back. For us, the only remaining business is to assign the obituary and then find some way to operate our rickety two-party system with just one party. Unless ... some nervy Republican presidential aspirant acknowledges the obvious: that given a choice between democracy and empire, a true Republican — a true American — chooses democracy. A true Republican puts America first by cutting the military budget by 90 percent and redirecting that money into a crash alt-fuel program, into education and health care and environmental protection. Rebuild America. Assuming such a braveheart didn't soon perish in a mysterious plane crash, next year's presidential election would immediately become more interesting. *

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