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Being the world's policeman makes limited government impossible

DeMint's Conundrum

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Jim DeMint is one of my favorite Republicans. The senator's unwavering opposition to government spending — from "stimulus" and national healthcare to auditing the Federal Reserve — just warms my conservative heart. That is until he breaks it again, as he always does, by going back to supporting the biggest government program of them all.

On the day before DeMint appeared on Fox News in support of the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered on 9/12 in Washington, D.C., he gave the following comments on the Senate floor: "Today marks the eighth anniversary of America's war on terror ... It's crucial to remember now, as the terror and tragedy of that day recedes into the past, this war did not begin with the 9/11 attacks or when we sent troops to Afghanistan, and it will not end when we defeat terrorists on any battlefield. Our goal cannot be merely to end one war but to win the war on terror. We will not win trying to appease the grievances of our enemies. They do not hate our policies; they hate us, our freedoms, and our way of life."

DeMint could not be more wrong.

Do Islamic terrorists find American democracy weak, our culture too libertine, and our comparative materialism repugnant? They sure do, and their Koran even says all sorts of nasty stuff about Christians, Jews, and other infidels. But blaming 9/11 or the current terrorist threat exclusively on the anti-Western prejudice of Islamists is like blaming alcoholism on an addictive personality while completely ignoring the substance of the problem — the alcohol.

The overwhelming, primary motivator for Islamic terrorism is our interventionist foreign policy. Our own government intelligence makes this crystal clear. A would-be Islamic terrorist might cringe over Playboy or gay marriage in a faraway land, but the substance of his hatred is the presence and activity of the U.S. in his homeland.

In the 1990s, the U.N. estimated that over a half-million Iraqi children had died as a result of U.S. sanctions; the Iraq War alone has resulted in the deaths of somewhere between 100,000 and one million Iraqi civilian casualties. Now, the number of American "infidels" on Muslim holy land — a primary complaint of Osama Bin Laden in 2001 — has now increased tenfold.

Plenty of Americans believe the U.S. is justified in invading any nation it sees fit in order to avenge the deaths of the 2,998 civilians killed on 9/11. The idea that Islamic terrorists simply hate our "freedom" — and are not seeking retaliation for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their Muslim brothers and sisters — is dangerously naïve. The terrorists attack us here because we are over there. Period. And in 2009, more of us are over there than ever.

DeMint strikes me as a patriotic guy who bought into the same narrative many Americans did post-9/11. Today, the junior senator finds himself as a primary spokesman for many of these same Americans — only this time they want to go to war against the Democrats' big government agenda. So do I.

But it makes no sense to protest the big government of the Democrats while still promoting the big government of the recent Republican past. DeMint's clarion call on the eighth anniversary of 9/11 to defeat a vaguely defined enemy by achieving some undefined victory is a recipe for eternal war, a foreign policy that not only almost guarantees another terrorist attack, but completely negates the senator's otherwise limited government message. Sen. DeMint seems like a genuine man who truly believes in small government, but he has yet to confront the glaring contradiction between his domestic and foreign policies, an irreconcilable conundrum many conservatives continue to harbor.

Men on the Right like Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, Rep. Walter Jones, Sen. Tom Coburn, the late Robert Novak, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, columnist George Will, and others have cut out a more sensible, less interventionist foreign policy path that conservatives can feel comfortable exploring. There's not a chance in hell that neoconservatives like John McCain or Lindsey Graham would ever step foot down this path. But DeMint has never been a neocon; he could easily hang up the world's policeman badge and become the limited-government conservative he has always strived to be. In doing so, he would serve the Right well — and America even better.

Our two greatest threats are terrorism and big government. The Democrats have long loved big government and Obama seems intent on continuing with a Bush-style, interventionist foreign policy. Republicans have decided to fight this president's domestic agenda, but most are lining up to encourage Obama to mimic Bush by turning Afghanistan into his own $3 trillion war. For both our security and debt, limited government must finally be applied both home and abroad. The Democrats are completely wrong, and the Republicans remain at least half-wrong.

I'm sorry, but having to choose between the jackass party and the half-assed party is no choice for me.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.

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