Would Congress swing its spending ax at the war in Afghanistan?

January 21, 2011

AFGHANISTAN/You’d think the war in Afghanistan would be the sacred cow of  federal spending. The Republicans now in charge of the House have always embraced “Support Our Troops” and “Defeat Terrorism” as two of the most serious “Thou Shalts” of their political playbook.

But could the times be a-changing? Two influential conservative voices suggest they might be, as lawmakers search for the right balance between spending cuts and their own job preservation.

Grover Norquist, the influential political hierophant at Americans for Tax Reform, says in a Newsmax interview that the time has come for a serious cost-benefit discussion about Afghanistan.

IRAQ USANorquist says the United States will spend $119 billion this year in Afghanistan, a country with a GDP of just $14 billion. In his view, supporters of the war should not be afraid to debate their position, to come up with good reasons to stay and the benefits of doing so. “Only (conservatives) can convince the country to stay the course or to take a different approach,” he says.

Then there’s House Republican Ron Paul of Texas. He’s long been a voice crying in the wilderness about the need to scale back on America’s overseas military commitments. Except now, with the Tea Party’s ascent, Paul is no longer a political backwoodsman.

“Politically speaking, I think that I can make the case that we should bring our troops home, change our foreign policy, quit these ridiculous wars,” Paul tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe this week.USA/

“I think I could actually sell that politically easier (sic) than saying: ‘Oh OK let’s cut medical care for the elderly’,” he added.

Republicans have said they’ll cut practically everything but military operations, though defense spending cuts are already in their sights for next year.

Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll shows that a majority of Americans think the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan. And at least some pundits think President Barack Obama, with his own poll ratings suddenly revived, could benefit from an initiative that appeals to voters in 2012 while making Republicans seem a bit behind the curve.

Reuters Photo Credits: Omar Sobhani (Afghanistan War); Joshua Roberts (Grover Norquist); Sean Gardiner (Ron Paul)

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