Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called on Friday for President Obama to bring the 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq back home to the United States, arguing that it's inappropriate to deploy troops trained for combat in a non-combat situation.
"What are they there for, if it's not combat? To monitor elections? To mediate religious disputes? Let's get them home," Frank said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "What the hell are they there for?"
Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that designating the troops "non-combat" does not persuade insurgents not to shoot at them. Frank made his remarks as part of a broader critique of the U.S. military's presence across the globe.
He rejected the notion that America is "the indispensable nation," that it must be a global cop that responds to trouble all across the globe. "People've gotta learn to dispense with us," he said, adding that if it could be shown that U.S. involvement across the globe is beneficial, he would reconsider the position, but, in general, he said, U.S. intervention only backfires.
The defense budget, he said, "ought to be cut very substantially," suggesting that basing 15,000 Marines in Okinawa is no longer necessary and a "cultural legacy of the Cold War."
If the defense budget were to be cut substantially, Frank said, there may be a short-term loss of jobs as contracts are not renewed. But, he said, he has been told by former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan that reducing military spending would lead to a stronger economy. "You build weapons not to use them," said Frank, while you build other products to use them. Frank said that it was Greenspan's opinion that the utilization of the products that would be made instead of weapons would result in greater economic activity.
Frank tweaked Republicans for defending defense spending on economic grounds, calling them "military Keynesians" who only believe that government spending creates jobs when that money is spent on building weapons.