Micah Zenko properly ridicules the habitual saber-rattling of certain editorial boards and op-ed writers:
I suspect that the desire to resolve an enduring problem in the near term explains many of these tough-guy (or girl) proposals. Given that it costs nothing to propose sending someone else to bomb or occupy another country, it’s the least tough and most thoughtless thing for someone to write. Why should we take these proposals seriously?
Zenko is right to reject the advice of the op-ed militarists. Unfortunately, as Zenko understands, these proposals are taken seriously more often than not, and they usually define and drive the debate on the appropriate policy response to a given conflict or crisis. These militarists create perverse incentives for every administration to respond more aggressively and to do more to militarize the conduct of foreign policy than it otherwise might, which in turn eventually pulls all policy debates in the direction of military action.
As long as the U.S. seeks to exercise global “leadership” and possesses a military much larger than it needs to provide for national defense, it is practically inevitable that there will be a dedicated number of journalists and writers ready to endorse military action of one sort or another in response to events overseas. Op-ed militarism contributes to the larger phenomenon of threat inflation, but the former wouldn’t be able to survive for very long if there weren’t numerous politicians and analysts ready and willing to engage in the latter. The constant agitation for “greater U.S.-led intervention” in foreign conflicts both fuels and thrives on the public’s exaggerated fears of threats to the United States.
When it isn’t possible for an op-ed militarist to identify a threat to the U.S., he can always fall back on referring to much more vague threats to “allies” (a term that is itself used so broadly by these writers that it can refer to almost any country), regional stability (even though the militarists’ proposals are typically far more destabilizing than anything that is already happening), “our values” (which are often irrelevant or not at risk), and, last but not least, everyone’s favorite, “credibility.” Once almost every foreign dispute can be treated as a test of U.S. “credibility” (not to mention our “resolve”), there is virtually nothing that the op-ed militarist thinks can’t be solved or improved by a greater exercise of American “strength.”