Ivan Eland: The way government works, every agency—whether fighting poverty, obesity, childhood acne, or terrorism—needs a threat to hype to keep the cash flowing in from scared taxpayers.
Ivan Eland: Largely peaceful protests toppled the autocratic governments in Egypt and Tunisia. If peaceful dissent can work against authoritarian thugs in those countries, it has an even better chance of working in democratic Israel.
Ivan Eland: American history vindicates the old saying that “truth is the first casualty of war,” but the passage of time should allow a republic to undertake a more honest and dispassionate examination of historical events. It rarely does, with truth being swept under the rug in favor of assuming uncaused indignities.
Ivan Eland: Weapons purchases are often welfare projects doled out to congressional districts and states with political clout. In fact, unlike in the commercial market, defense contractors don’t give subcontracts to the best subcontractors but spread them around the country to build political support, so that it is very difficult to kill weapons programs.
Ivan Eland: To keep with the bipartisan spirit after the Gabrielle Giffords’ assassination attempt and also to avoid partisan fighting over spending priorities, which will bog down and probably eventually kill any significant budget cuts, all government programs should be cut by 15 percent from last year’s budget level, including heretofore sacred defense and entitlement programs.
Ivan Eland: Missile defense is an expensive relic of the Cold War, which the U.S. can no longer afford given its huge budget deficits and high debt levels. Keeping the program alive are Republicans who want to preserve this white elephant to realize the grandiose “Star Wars” dream of their hero, Ronald Reagan.
Ivan Eland: Extending the U.S. nuclear shield to the much more unstable and violent region of the Middle East seems supremely foolhardy. The U.S. could more easily get dragged into an unplanned and unneeded future nuclear exchange there than in any other area of the world.
Ivan Eland: The problem is that the U.S. goal in Afghanistan—although President Obama has reduced it from George W. Bush’s instituting democracy to merely stabilizing the country—is still too ambitious.
Ivan Eland: Although Bush can’t change his domestic catastrophes, such as the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or the horrendous financial crisis and the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, if Iraq and Afghanistan eventually reach some stability, he may be regarded as the man who threw out the despotic regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.
Ivan Eland: If it weren’t for the latest salacious bureau-gossip, the book would be rather boring—and tragic. Boring, not because the issues are uninteresting or because Woodward is a bad writer, but because the author records a dysfunctional White House internal decision-making process in which meeting after meeting features the same reasonable questions about the U.S. war in Afghanistan but in which nobody ever has very good answers to them.