Author: Doug Bandow (Doug Bandow)

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Regime Change in Syria: Pick Your Poison
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Regime Change in Syria: Pick Your Poison

Donald Trump campaigned on an “America First” foreign policy.  But he hasn’t been immune to the vapors of the Swamp.  Not even three months after his inauguration, administration officials were praising NATO; affirming commitments to Japan and South Korea; discussing troop surges for Afghanistan; talking about permanently stationing forces in Iraq, increasing aid for Saudi...

Targeted Assassinations: Killing the Republic?
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Targeted Assassinations: Killing the Republic?

Contrary to the popular slogan, the September 11 attacks did not change everything.  They did, however, transform how Americans, and especially American officials, think about both war and executive power.  The resulting “War on Terror” has been under way for a dozen years. In a traditional war, whether formally declared or unofficially fought, the battlefield...

Uncle Sam Goes Bust
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Uncle Sam Goes Bust

Even President Barack Obama appears to realize that Washington has a spending problem.  His latest budget, delivered late and without enthusiasm, makes a nod toward restraining the growth of social programs, most notably “entitlements,” headed by Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Alas, that baby step earned a rebuke from his left-wing allies, along with a...

Europe: Welmacht or Laughingstock
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Europe: Welmacht or Laughingstock

On December 1, 2009, the Lisbon Treaty took effect.  Within a year the 27-member European Union was fractured politically and besieged economically.  “Euroskepticism” was on the rise.  The plan to turn Europe into a Weltmacht capable of matching the United States and China looked almost comical.  Europe remained a geographic aggregation, not a geopolitical unit. ...

From Good War to Bad Social Engineering
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From Good War to Bad Social Engineering

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for more than eight years.  That is longer than our involvement in both world wars combined.  Yet the end of the conflict appears to be further away than ever.  It is not even clear what would constitute victory. Afghanistan began as the “good war,” receiving near-unanimous...

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Social Security’s Coming Crash

The welfare state was born in Otto von Bismarck’s Germany, a ploy of the famed Iron Chancellor designed to counter the electoral appeal of the rival Social Democrats.  Thus, social security was created in 1889 and eventually spread, under several guises, to many nations. Here, the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (Social Security)...

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Bailout Mania

We might live in the postindustrial era, but economic booms and busts have not disappeared.  Unfortunately, these days the taxpayers seem to get stuck with the losses. The current crisis results from expanded mortgage lending, much of it financed by subprime loans secured through “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs) by private investors and the government-sponsored enterprises...

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The Obama Presidency: The Triumph of (Lots of) Experience Over (a Little) Hope?

It has been an awful two decades.  Say what you will about Ronald Reagan, he did not leave people feeling depressed, even hopeless.  Then came four years of George H.W. Bush—an honorable man, but hardly an inspiration.  And his tax and regulatory policies were largely indistinguishable from those of the Democrats. Then we endured eight...

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The Burmese Tragedy

Even before being devastated by a killer cyclone on May 2, Burma was one of the world’s poorest countries.  Renamed Myanmar by a military junta, Burma is also one of the most oppressed countries.  In terms of brutality, cruelty, and venality, her government is in a league with North Korea.  It comes as no surprise,...

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Abortion: No Libertarian Triumph

A debate has broken out over the continuing viability of the “fusion” of libertarians and conservatives.  If the latter are represented by President George W. Bush and the 109th Congress, the alliance seems dead.  Concocting a coalition of libertarians and liberals isn’t going to be any easier, however.  Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute has attempted...

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On the Lam From the Census Bureau

I’m hiding out—from the Census Bureau.  True, they usually don’t send out U.S. marshals with guns and handcuffs.  But I’m playing it safe anyway, because the Bureau has been after me since I failed to fill out its treasured questionnaire, “The American Community Survey.” I’ve been through this before.  I don’t mind if the government...

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Social Security’s War on Families: A Current Crisis and a Coming Disaster

The war in Iraq has left many casualties; Social Security reform is one of them. For so long, Democrats surrounded the issue with demagoguery. And now that the Democrats control Capitol Hill, Republicans seem unwilling to acknowledge, let alone confront, Social Security’s impending financial collapse. And yet the need to confront the problem has never...

Social Security’s War on Families
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Social Security’s War on Families

The war in Iraq has left many casualties; Social Security reform is one of them.  For so long, Democrats surrounded the issue with demagoguery.  And now that the Democrats control Capitol Hill, Republicans seem unwilling to acknowledge, let alone confront, Social Security’s impending financial collapse. And yet the need to confront the problem has never...

Committing Political Suicide
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Committing Political Suicide

The 109th Congress was ugly to behold.  Spendthrift, irresponsible, incompetent, corrupt—like the pigs who were transformed into the farmers they had displaced in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the Republicans ended up looking like the Democratic legislative establishment they had toppled just a dozen years before. This proved to be politically inconvenient.  After all, it was...

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Risking Life and Limb

American soldiers have, for more than 200 years, risked life and limb for their country.  The politicians who recruited and sometimes conscripted the soldiers routinely painted military service in glorious terms: You are protecting America—even the entire world. President George W. Bush continued in this tradition last Veterans Day.  The Iraq occupation “is vital to...

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Democracy or Liberty

For some, the drafting of the Iraqi constitution has called to mind America’s founding.   But whether any constitution will deliver liberty or democracy to Iraq’s people remains tragically uncertain. The failure of Washington to find WMDs in Iraq or to link Baghdad to anti-U.S. terrorism forced the Bush administration to find an alternate justification...

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The Dishonest Pursuit of War

President George W. Bush’s recent attempt to generate public support for his Iraq policy comes as even more evidence emerges that the invasion of Iraq was a war of choice.  His argument that we must persevere because Iraq has become “a central front in the war on terror” sounds like the man who kills his...

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The Republican Party’s Welfare Queens

Republicans routinely portray themselves as fiscal guardians.  In truth, they, like the Democrats, are irresponsible wastrels.  Outlays are up by one third under President George W. Bush, making him the biggest spender since Lyndon B. Johnson.  As the Cato Institute’s Stephen Slivinski observes, “Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still...

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Killing Off Limited Government

The federal government cannot ban criminals from bringing guns to schools, but it can arrest a person for growing marijuana at home to ease nausea from chemotherapy.  Such is the state of Supreme Court jurisprudence. The intellectual case for the “War on Drugs” faded long ago.  Criminalization of what is primarily a moral and health...

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The Lure of Lebanese Quicksand

Two decades ago, Ronald Reagan committed his greatest foreign-policy blunder: intervening in Lebanon’s civil war.  After Muslim opponents of the bedraggled Lebanese government targeted U.S. diplomats and Marines to deadly effect, however, he “redeployed” U.S. forces to ships offshore and sailed away.  Now, the Bush administration risks sliding back into the Lebanese imbroglio. The bloody...

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American Terrorists, Environmental-Style

Terrorists are on the loose in America—enviroterrorists.  In early August 2003, radical environmentalists apparently burned down an apartment complex under construction in San Diego.  Ecoterrorists next attacked four SUV dealerships in West Covina, a Los Angeles suburb. These crimes were likely perpetrated by the so-called Environmental Liberation Front (ELF), which has long boasted of committing...

A Brief History of Quagmire
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A Brief History of Quagmire

The United States is the world’s sole superpower, a globe-spanning “hyperpower” with professed interests everywhere.  Israel is a small nation of minimal resources, far from America.  Under normal circumstances, such a country would not loom large in U.S. policy.  Yet, in the post-September 11 world, Israel sits at the center of American strategy. Israel’s importance...

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Free to Leave

The Iraqis have voted.  Now, it is time to start bringing home America’s troops. More than 1,400 Americans had died, and nearly 11,000 had been wounded, by the end of January.  The war has already cost $200 billion, and the President is asking for another $80 billion. Yet President George W. Bush refuses to set...

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An Over-Rated Debate

Presidential debates usually are overrated, but the 2004 foreign-policy contest was informative.  Although John Kerry is not an attractive personality, he knows the issues.  George W. Bush knows his lines. Americans undoubtedly were relieved when the President declared, “I know that Osama bin Laden attacked America.”  Apparently, he has learned something while in office. To...

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Democracy for Whom?

With the peace in Iraq proving as messy as the war, the Bush administration has spent a year desperately trying to get other countries to send troops for occupation duty.  Brazil, Egypt, and India said no; Japan temporized, before sending in 550 soldiers for “humanitarian” duty.  The kidnapping of one Filipino truck driver caused the...

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The War on Fat

The war on fat rages on, and—wouldn’t you know it—one of the leaders in the crusade against fat is, well, on the heavy side.  Jacob Sullum of Reason writes that Kelly Brownell, “a Twinkie tax advocate who never tires of comparing Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel,” actually sports “an extra chin and an ample gut.” ...

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Iraq: Whither the United States?

Concerned about declining confidence in his administration’s policy in Iraq—and, equally important, falling support for his reelection campaign—President George W. Bush gave the first of several planned speeches on Iraq to an audience at the Army War College.  Alas, he offered the usual platitudes about providing Iraq “a free, representative government” and occupying that country...

Afghanistan: Opium Market to the World
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Afghanistan: Opium Market to the World

“For more than two millennia, Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations and a major contributor to world culture,” declared the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2003.  Exactly what Afghanistan has contributed to world culture is not so clear, but the desperately poor, primitive, war-torn state is important in another way. ...

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What Kind of Freedom?

When family and culture are under constant attack, there sometimes seems to be no greater enemy than the American Civil Liberties Union.  Yet, when Washington is busy expanding the welfare/warfare state, sometimes only the ACLU seems willing to confront Leviathan.  What is someone who loves both liberty and community to do? There is no reason...

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Shirking Responsibility

The nasty fight between Richard Clarke and manifold Bush officials quickly took on a “he said/she said” quality as greater violence enveloped Iraq.  National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice gave a strong performance before the September 11 Commission, but the celebrated August 2001 briefing memo warning of an Al Qaeda attack weakened her case. Neither side...

Tax-and-Spend Politics, Bush-style
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Tax-and-Spend Politics, Bush-style

We can cut the deficit in half if Congress “is willing to make tough choices,” says President George W. Bush.  We are doomed. Not that President Bush intends to make tough choices: His policy is borrow and borrow, spend and spend.  When Bush took the oath of office, the Congressional Budget Office projected a cumulative...

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The Myth of WMD’s

That the Bush administration went to war with Iraq based on a mistake—or, perhaps, a lie—has long been obvious.  Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill writes that, just ten days after Bush’s inauguration, the National Security Council met to discuss how to dispatch Saddam Hussein.  That was over seven months before September 11. The seizure of...

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A Military Encore in North Korea

As if the Bush administration were not busy enough already, Undersecretary of State John Bolton has said that North Korea should “draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq.”  That followed a comment from President George W. Bush that, if Washington’s efforts “don’t work diplomatically, they’ll have to work militarily.” Hopes for the former have risen and...

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Still Bringing ’Em On

“Bring ’em on,” President Bush announced a few months ago, and America’s opponents have since brought on ever more death and destruction.  Luckily for the President, he lives behind the White House fence, surrounded by a vigilant Secret Service detail.  Not so fortunate were the 16 Americans killed in the downing of the Chinook helicopter,...

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Our Triumph in Iraq

Iraq is conquered; unfortunately, winning the peace is proving far more difficult.  Bringing down an unpopular, isolated dictatorship in a wreck of a country is one thing.  Creating a liberal, multiparty, multiethnic democracy where one has never existed is quite another. Officially, the Pentagon proclaims that we will stay “as long as necessary” and leave...

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Fateful Choices

There are few issues more emotional than abortion.  The dogmatism of the respective combatants strikes fear in the hearts of lesser mortals—which means almost every politician.  Three decades after Roe v. Wade, the issue of abortion is unlikely ever to be resolved politically. The major parties have largely followed the passions of their most active...

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It Ain’t My Fault

I am trying to lose a few extra pounds and have been reasonably good as of late.  The other day, however, some Brach’s chocolate eggs began calling out to me: “Eat me, eat me.”  I was powerless to resist, so strong is my addiction.  In just an hour, I had devoured a pound of them.  I’ve...

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Reinstituting the Script?

A draft is being proposed by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who opposed the congressional resolution supporting war in Iraq.  He lost, so now he wants to conscript young people into the coming conflict to ensure that Americans “shoulder the burden of the war equally.” Reinstituting conscription is bizarre on its face.  America currently deploys the...

Foreign Aid and USAID
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Foreign Aid and USAID

There may be no more pitiful sight than that of tides of impoverished and starving refugees; there may be no greater irony than grievous want in the Third World amidst exploding possibilities in the First.  Nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives on less than one dollar per day.  More than half survives on...

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A Dying Dictatorship

Avenida 21, number 3014, is a nondescript house in an Havana suburb.  The paint is peeling; the walls are plain; the rooms are sparse.  Inside lives Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, a Cuban dissident working to free the Cuban people.  The task is not easy.  Despite the collapse of communism elsewhere, here “political repression has been...

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Terrorism Alive and Well

Terrorists are wreaking havoc all around the globe, and it is obvious that Al Qaeda is alive and deadly, if not well.  Thus, the Bush administration is faced with a stark choice: Focus on protecting Americans by continuing the fight against terrorism, or risk American lives by setting the world further aflame with an unnecessary...

Pro-Family, Pro-State?
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Pro-Family, Pro-State?

Freedom  is under serious assault today.  Government takes and spends nearly half of America’s income.  Regulation further extends the power of the state in virtually every area of people’s lives.  Increasing numbers of important, personal decisions are made by some public functionary, more often than not based in Washington, D.C. Virtue, too, seems to be...

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Religious Freedom in the Gulf

In Kuwait City, Kuwait, the outdoor souk or market offers a little of everything, from cosmetics to electronics to sandals.  Hanging prominently is a prayer rug picturing the Nativity.  The Christ Child smiles down on Kuwaiti traders as the Muslim call to prayer blares in the background. Americans sometimes forget that other countries restrict religious...

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Dubious Allies

“We love our children, but we need food,” says Masih Saddiq, a 50-year-old brickmaker, explaining why none of his 13 children were in school.  They range in age from one-and-a-half to 25; all seem destined to spend their entire lives making bricks, as have their parents. The brickyard sits outside central Lahore, Pakistan’s second-most populous...

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Modern Religious Wars

The weathered boatman peered out at the three Westerners as we climbed into a small water taxi to cross the bay from the city of Ambon to the airport. “You’re from America? Send us arms. The Muslims are bad.” He used his hands to indicate a rifle as we pulled away from shore. Ambon, the...

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A Maturing Europe?

While many Asians have welcomed the election of George W. Bush, leading Europeans are nervous. In particular, they fear that President Bush will reduce their continent’s free defense ride, especially as the Balkans begins to explode vet again. But it is time to expect Europeans to behave like adults in securing their own interests. The...

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Jakarta’s Seething Volcano

You had to look closely to see the thick strands of barbed wire in the shrubs in front of my hotel. I’ve traveled all over the world, including to Kosovo, but this was the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel that was fortified. The staff explained that it was there in case of another...

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A European Defense?

Be careful what you wish for, goes the old adage. You just might get it. So it is with America’s desire that the Europeans do more for their own defense. The E.U. has proposed the development of a European rapid reaction force of 60,000 men. Although it will be some time before such a unit...

Down the Rathole
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Down the Rathole

Last year, President Clinton, who has rarely found a conflict that lie did not want to join, complained to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Congress was cutting foreign aid, “the very programs designed to keep our soldiers out of war in the first place.” He threatened to veto the foreign-assistance appropriation hills passed by...

No More Perpetual War
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No More Perpetual War

With Republicans increasing social spending and Democrats upping military outlays, Washington is devoid of serious debate over any important issue. Despite the President’s attacks on GOP “isolationism,” both parties largely favor foreign intervention. As a result, America finds itself entangled in almost every international conthet and potential conthet: Bosnia, the Caucasus, China, Colombia, East Timor,...