Commentary: Let's get rid of the State Department

Special to McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 4, 2012 

A favorite talking point for politicians these days is that the deficit is too high. Since raising taxes is unthinkable, downsizing government is the only option, but no one can agree on what to cut.

Here is a suggestion that will reduce the deficit and the size of government, not raise taxes and greatly improve national security: close the State Department.

That may sound radical, since not even Rick Perry has suggested it. (Unless State was another agency that he forgot he wants to eliminate.) It makes sense, however, and not just because it would save over $40 billion dollars — the Department’s annual budget. That big building in Foggy Bottom near all the monuments can be turned into a Motel 6, making it a moneymaker rather than a revenue eater.

The 270-some embassies and consulates around the world would also be closed. That is no problem since we don’t need to know what the people in those countries are thinking. They all just want to be like us anyhow, and if they don’t, they should be ignored.

With no diplomatic posts overseas, foreigners won’t be able to get visas to come to the United States. But since some of them are bound to be terrorists, keeping them all out will make us safer. Together with a ten-foot high fence around the entire United States, it would be the ultimate in border security.

No doubt some will point out that many foreign visitors are tourists who spend billions of dollars visiting Disney World. The net economic impact would be zero, however, when all the Americans who used to vacation abroad stay home and take the place of the foreigners in line at Space Mountain.

What about imports, especially since Wal-Mart doesn’t sell anything that isn’t made in China? If no more junk were imported from overseas, however, it would give our economy a huge boost. There is nothing manufactured over there that could not be made as cheaply here once the unions are busted and the EPA dismantled. As for energy imports, we can also meet all our own needs if we just get fracking. A gas well in every front yard and we can declare mission accomplished.

To provide for the common defense, we can throw up a missile defense shield over the entire country that will protect against anything thrown our way bigger than a rock. It will cost a couple trillion dollars, but that’s a bargain since it is less than the cost of replacing a Sunni dictator with a Shiite one in Iraq. Never mind that this favorite fantasy of the military industrial complex will never work if put to the test. It is another useful demonstration of our collective irrationality.

It is useful because of the other ways isolationism on steroids will improve our national security. People abroad viewing the debates for the Republican presidential nomination cannot help but reach the conclusion that we are not only Islamophobic, but xenophobic, paranoid and slightly deranged as a nation. This is greatly reinforced by the Tea Party Republicans in Congress, who oppose anything that even hints at cooperating with other countries.

Therefore other nations will conclude we are too crazy to mess with if we don’t stray beyond our borders. And having nothing to do with the rest of the world would be far better than being actively and assertively antagonistic and abrasive abroad.

For instance, at a recent speaking engagement Newt Gingrich asked a crowd of Jewish Republicans for their permission to appoint John Bolton as his Secretary of State. Bolton is so obnoxious that he could not get confirmation from a Senate with a Republican majority as ambassador to the UN, the institution everyone loves to hate, after George W. Bush put him in the job.

So you can imagine what he would do if he were in charge of all our diplomatic efforts, given that his motto seems to be “leave no nation unalienated.” It would be like naming Ron Paul as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Many have made the analogy that the United States is like an 800-pound gorilla. But in today’s world, the largest primate has to do more than just remind everyone else how much he weighs. If some of the policies and personalities being proposed were ever put in place, it would better for that gorilla to ignore the rest of the world and assume he will be ignored by it.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.

McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.

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