As we advance further into the Twenty-First Century, a new assessment of what direction our Defense Budget and Military should take, is of paramount importance.
The time is well overdue to end our siege mentality and have a realistic view of the world.
Once the Iron Curtain descended upon Europe and the Cold War began, America became a National Security State. Self created mythologies were created to continually ramp up military spending during the 1950’s and beyond. Whether it was a missile gap, a bomber gap, or a nuclear gap, fear has been used not only to increase our sense as a people of our insecurities but it also helped to increase the defense budget.
Mutually assured destruction fostered an era absent any world wars. Smaller wars still broke out and unhealthy interference into the affairs of other nations became the rule of the day as the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union played itself out.
At the end of the Eisenhower Administration, President Eisenhower spelled out in his well-regarded Farewell Address, the dangers to our Republic of the Military Industrial Complex. Those dangers still exist.
Expanding on the fear mongering of Nitze during the 1950’s, his understudy, Paul Wolfowitz, helped to create the Bush Doctrine, which included the un-American concept of wars of pre-emption.
Iraq became exhibit one of the bankruptcy of the idea that America can re-make the world in its own image. Like Vietnam, the war in Iraq had nothing to do with protecting America.
Iraq is a great example of the limits of power. The United States is the greatest military force in the world by far. We shocked and awed Saddam Hussein, and defeated his army in quick order. But ending a war and ending it in a way that meets your alleged goals is much harder to accomplish than winning the shooting part of the war. Is it realistic to believe that America can win the peace, in a foreign land, with no tradition of democracy?
I believe that the answer is a clear no. If Vietnam and Iraq have taught us anything it is that there are clear limits to what military power can accomplish. The pragmatic and realistic question should be is it America’s role to even attempt to re-mold the world in our image?
There are two historic rules that America keeps forgetting regarding our military adventures. One is to never, ever get involved in any country’s Civil War. The other rule is that one must understand the history of a country, before attempting to change any other country’s government. It is nothing but arrogance to believe that we can remake a country that is tribal in nature, or if it has competing religions.
And who suffers as a result of our mistaken good wishes and good intent? The American people and in particular our soldiers suffer with their blood and with their mental health. Financially, wars with little public support, rob us of valuable resources. When we need to rebuild our own infrastructure, we are building someone elses. Our defense budget is still over $500 billion dollars. The Defense Budget is all about planning for the next war, and not today’s wars.
If one puts the partisanship aside regarding President Obama, he deserves credit for ending two wars. Most importantly he has pulled back on the powers that his predecessor used. He has relied more on diplomacy instead of having the military be the first option.
President Obama is blamed for what is perceived as a failed policy in Syria. They are embroiled in an awful Civil War, where taking sides would be wrong. Syria does not offer the United States any option worth taking as each side has its negatives. For once we are on the sidelines letting the Syrian people decide. I know many people are being hurt by the war, but whose side would you want to support. There are no winners in the Syrian conflict.
After two wars we as people are war-weary. Our choice should never be to withdraw from the world stage and be isolationist. But we need a more reasoned approach to the very real problems of the world. We need to lead through example. We need to be resolute in our determination to promote peace through strength. Danger still lurks around the corner. We have NATO and the UN to help maintain peace.
One of the encouraging aspects of Desert Storm was the fact that many nations worked together to simply show the world that one country should never be allowed to attack another country without severe consequences.
The world faces a monstrous problem now with the aggression demonstrated by a nuclear power, Russia. Russia is increasingly being isolated from the world through its actions. Hopefully, Russia will realize that the price of conquest is too great. We must be strong and determined in our efforts to discourage Russia from believing that aggression will be rewarded.
It is my hope that the United States stops attempting to nation build, and keeps its focus on keeping the peace.
Future dangers may be greatest in those countries that fall in the gap. These are the poorer nations whose economies are weak and whose bonds of nationhood are weakest. Perhaps instead of claiming that the answer to their problems is greater democracy, we should instead be working on helping them produce more food and better health. We have won far more friends through the Peace Corps than we ever have by blowing up some village. It is time to end our arrogant approach and think outside the box to foster better cooperation and peace through an absence of war.
It is time to end our reliance on the military industrial complex and return the control of our country to we the people.