A recent op-ed by the New York Times’s compassionate conservative David Brooks demonstrates how to load an argument. In “Why Hagel Was Picked” Brooks complains about Americans choosing healthcare over military expenditures, arguing irrelevantly but emotionally that “voters and politicians care more about middle-class seniors than about poor children,” a contention he then expands by observing that “as the federal government becomes a health care state” Chuck Hagel will “supervise the beginning of America’s military decline.” Brooks calls it “choosing welfare over global power.”

As Brooks probably has very good health insurance as well as a nice private pension plan, he can afford to be cavalier about the many seniors, not all of whom are middle-class, who are dependent on Medicare to survive since whatever happens will not affect him personally. He projects rising healthcare costs based on current rates but does not address why medical care costs so much more in the United States compared to what is available in other first-world economies, a dysfunction that can be addressed if the political will exists to do so.

And his argument about “military decline” borders on the ridiculous, as he does not even attempt to make a case for the United States maintaining a million men and women in the armed forces. If the purpose of the U.S. military is to defend the nation, it would have the capability to do so even if it were half as large as it is now. Brooks is really talking about the ability to wage multiple wars overseas, which is something altogether different. Certainly that capability would diminish, and one might add thank God that it should do so.

The unmitigated failures of the past 11 years have demonstrated that the Brooks vision for what passes as foreign and defense policy should have been discarded long ago and replaced by something that is both more affordable and less interventionist.