Brilliant New Conservative Talking Point Revealed: No ‘Peace Dividend’

It’s official: Accusing President Obama of trying to cash in a “peace dividend” is now a conservative talking point. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) first floated this argument in a speech last week at the American Enterprise Institute (a place which has contributed far more than its share of bad conservative ideas.) It was then pushed by AEI’s magazine wing. Today it’s a headline in the Washington Times and parroted by Washington Post blogger Bill Kristol, who lets fly with this gem:

It’s one thing to run deficits to fight wars and defend the country. It’s another to throw money at everything except defense and to increase the national debt while skimping on defense spending over the next several years, to the point where such spending will be, by 2016, at its lowest percentage of GDP since before World War II. Is the world really the safest it has been since the 1930s? Is it responsible to declare a peace dividend when we’re not at peace?

To read this, you might think that someone had actually “declared a peace dividend,” other than conservatives attacking the idea that there is one. As conservative talking points go, charging President Obama with trying to cash in a “peace dividend” seems pretty silly, both stylistically and substantively. A peace dividend sounds like something people would really like, not something they’d hate the president for cashing in.

As for comparing defense spending in 2016 to 1930 as a function of GDP — well, let’s just say that your average eighth grade could probably explain why that’s silly. But I will use this graph which I’ve stolen from Yglesias:


As always, conservative arguments speak volumes about the esteem in which they hold their intended audience.