Yesterday, Rare’s Jack Hunter highlighted recent comments from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch about how ineffective and, frankly, ridiculous American foreign policy really is:
Sitting next to his brother David, the elder Koch said during an exchange on the rise of libertarian-oriented issues in American politics, “It could be foreign policy issues. I mean, to me, our foreign policy is a form of insanity, and I mean that in the sense, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
“We keep kicking out dictators and then we get, we don’t get anything better, and we mess up a lot of people’s lives in the process, and spend fortunes, and have many Americans killed and maimed…”
“And what do we have to show for it?” Koch asked.
As Hunter noted, Koch’s words were refreshing but not surprising. Though the Koch brothers are often portrayed as scary conservative masterminds trying to turn America into a dystopian oligarchy, their noninterventionist foreign policy is actually pretty well-documented.
Indeed, the Kochs are fiscal conservatives, but more broadly speaking they’re quite libertarian: David Koch went on record supporting legal gay marriage back in 2012. He wants the American military to withdraw from the Middle East and backs defense spending cuts. And the Kochs have funded libertarian causes ranging from opposing the Patriot Act to ending the failed war on drugs. The brothers’ recent work on criminal justice reform has even drawn praise from President Obama, who typically functions as their arch-enemy.
The Kochs have been consistent about these views for a long time.
But, unfortunately, they’ve also been very quiet about them.
You see, despite some neoconservative paranoia that the brothers are secretly trying to move the GOP toward libertarianism by funding Republican candidates, that clearly isn’t happening.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d totally support such a conspiracy if it did exist—I’d love to see the GOP start opposing foolish wars on drugs and terror.
But that’s not the Kochs’ plan. The brothers will spend nearly a billion dollars on the 2016 elections, but it won’t be backing candidates with a fresh vision on foreign and social policy. It will go to people who share the Kochs’ economic views regardless of how reckless and pro-government growth they are in these other major policy areas.
I know this because the Kochs have said it’s true. In David Koch’s words: “I’m more interested in economic issues than how much military we need.”
Similarly, as The Intercept’s Lee Fang points out, the Kochs are funding ads for fiscally conservative candidates which attack the Kochs’ own criminal justice reform agenda.
Foreign and social policy are obviously irrelevant to the Kochs when they decide who to support in elections.
But why? Military spending is a huge factor in our fiscal crisis—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone are expected to cost as much as $6 trillion (and that was before they started ramping up again under President Obama). And as the Kochs no doubt know, mass incarceration is exorbitantly pricey for taxpayers.
So why do the Kochs talk a good talk and then actively work against their own beliefs?
Why don’t the Kochs put their money where their mouths are?
Why, as Charles Koch commented when he made his recent foreign policy remarks, do they keep supporting generic Republican candidates when they have nothing to show for it?
I don’t think the Kochs are the evil puppetmasters the left depicts them to be. But I can’t understand why they blow hundreds of millions of dollars on candidates who will never be true fiscal conservatives without a massive change in foreign policy.
Disclosure: I was accepted for a position in the Charles Koch Institute’s Koch Associate Program in 2010. I did not ultimately take the offer.