The Tea Party at War

A few days ago somebody asked me if I knew what was going on in Iraq these days. Is there still a war happening? Are we getting out? I had to admit that I didn’t really know. War is such a constant in the background now—just like in the novel 1984—that I tend to tune it out, like traffic noise. It’s an insane situation. Official government policy is that the United States must be capable of fighting two wars simultaneously. A year or so ago I saw an article in the New York Times stating that a lot of officials are beginning to believe that this might be insufficient. Only empires do this sort of thing. And empires invariably overextend themselves, exhaust themselves, and then collapse. This is where we’re heading, but hardly anybody talks about it. American military spending is roughly equal to the rest of the world’s combined. But when the Republicans and the Tea Party folks raise hell about government debt they never suggest slashing the military budget.  One reason nobody talks about it much is that the word game is rigged. Nobody talks about the “War Department” or “war spending,” but the “Defense Department” and “defense spending.” Our wars are not defensive; they’re imperial. There is a belief—and growing up I heard it stated many times, and by the same sort of people who make up the Tea Party movement—that every generation should experience war, that it “makes a man out of you.” That’s crazy. The last war I supported was Vietnam and only up until early 1968. I supported it because I was a dumb teenager and I didn’t know any better. The Tea Party continues to receive a lot of media attention for its supposed rage over government debt. If their rage were really about government debt, they’d be making a huge stink over military spending. But they aren’t doing that and they never will.


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6 Responses to “The Tea Party at War”

  1. Sonic Charmer Says:

    I can’t say for sure, not being one of them, but I don’t think the Tea Party’s position is that the government shouldn’t spend any money on anything. Therefore, the mere observation that the Tea Party doesn’t oppose the government spending money on X doesn’t really prove anything.

    I think the Tea Party position is that the government shouldn’t waste money. If there are Tea Partiers who support spending money on our military endeavor in Iraq (I don’t know whether Tea Party opinion on Iraq is monolithic at all), one would assume it would be because they don’t consider that money to be wasted, they consider it valid and justifiable government expenditure. So there is no ‘contradiction’ involved in their support for it. On the other hand, there are probably Tea Partiers who do consider it to be wasteful spending, and oppose the Iraq garrison accordingly.

    The key here, generally, is to treat your opponents’ position with enough respect that you are able to understand and characterize it accurately.

    • markbittner Says:

      It’s not the consistency or inconsistency of their positions that bothers me. It’s the lack of good morals.

  2. Sonic Charmer Says:

    Hmm well then why didn’t you say so. Why didn’t you just say ‘I disagree with them and my disagreement with them is rooted in moral beliefs I have’.

    Instead you constructed an argument that concluded like so: “The Tea Party continues to receive a lot of media attention for its supposed rage over government debt. If their rage were really about government debt, they’d be […..etc…]”. The latter was not a morality-based argument, it was clearly meant to point out a supposed inconsistency or disingenuity on their part. I.e., clearly, you do not think their ‘rage’ is ‘really’ about government debt (you think it’s ‘really’ about something else – what, exactly?)


  3. Panteha Says:

    Sonic Charmer: What you’re alleging Mark is committing is the informal fallacy of ‘straw man’; he isn’t. If you’d like suggestions for basic logic textbooks, I’d be happy to pass along a list.

    Just wanted to say I saw your doc last year and am still affected by it. I can’t put it into words so I won’t even try… suffice it to say I hope you continue to touch people with your humanity in this unnecessarily harsh world in whatever way you deem fit.

    All the best,


    • markbittner Says:

      Thank you for your support, Panteha. The original filming was done over ten years ago, and it is still affecting my life in ways I could never have anticipated. I feel like I’ve just begun.

  4. Margaret Says:

    Sonic Charmer, it’s difficult to treat the Tea Partiers’ positions with respect, because their actions are not respectable. They are comfortable with members who wave smudged birth certificates and insist Obama is foreign-born, who scream racial slurs and threats at those who disagree with them. The concept of a civil, respectful difference of opinion is clearly beyond them. They themselves have framed the nasty, take-no-prisoners tone of the debate. Because of that, your nanny-like chiding of those who disagree with them is irrational.

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