The justification of the whole military buildup of the past 15 years has been the need to protect Americans against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.
Yet Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in recent testimony (actually several months ago, but I’m just catching up with it) ranks ranks terrorism as a lesser threat to the United States than Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
The governments of Russia, China and Iran are in fact enemies of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the successors of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Targeting them indirectly strengthens terrorism.
What do Russia, China and Iran threaten? They do not threaten American citizens. They do not threaten the American homeland.
What they threaten is U.S. military superiority in eastern Europe, eastern Asia and the Middle East. Protecting Americans from terrorism takes a back seat to what the Pentagon calls full spectrum dominance.
Risking war with any country without a good reason is both stupid and morally wrong. But of all the countries in the world, Russia and China are the worst ones to pick as enemies.
Russia is the world’s second-largest nuclear power. It is the only country in the world with the military capability to literally destroy the United States as a nation.
China is the world’s second-largest or maybe largest economic power. It has the power to ruin the United States financially by ceasing to lend money and by cutting off supplies of essential U.S. imports.
The leaders of Russia and China, being rational, would not do this because they would ruin their own countries in the process. The only ways this would happen would be if they were backed into a corner where they thought they had nothing to lose or—in the case of Russia—they found themselves in a situation in which nuclear war could be touched off accidentally.
The United States has by far the world’s most expensive military. We Americans spend more on our armed forces than the next 10 countries put together. But that doesn’t mean we have the world’s most effective military, especially when fighting far from home.
In fact, the big U.S. military budgets may be counter-productive. Decision-makers may think the U.S. is so rich and powerful that individual instances of waste and ineffectiveness don’t matter. Or that it is not necessary to set priorities.
If defeating ISIS, Al Qaeda and their imitators were a U.S. priority, the U.S. government would have allied itself with their enemies—Saddam’s Iraq, Qaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, Shiite Iran and Putin’s Russia—for this limited purpose.
Instead, by destroying stable governments in Iraq, Libya and Syria, the U.S. has created chaos in which warlords and terrorists can flourish. U.S. bombings and killer drones created reasons for wanting to take revenge on Americans. And U.S. arms of “moderate” rebels fall into the hands of ISIS.
The U.S. government is arming rebels in Syria who are trying to overthrow the government of Bashir al-Assad. The result has been a bloody civil war which has given ISIS a foothold, created a huge refugee problem in the Middle East and Europe and resulted in persecution of Christians and other religious minorities who previously lived in peace in Syria.
What is the reason for this? Assad is a ruthless dictator, but the U.S. is allied with many ruthless dictators. The only reason I can see is to weaken the influence of Russia and Iran and increase the power of Saudi Arabia and Israel, which for some reason are the two most-valued U.S. allies. None of this will weaken terrorism or make Americans any safer.
I of course think that the United States should have a strong enough military to defend against attack. That’s very different from a foreign policy based on looking for trouble.
Carter Outlines Security Challenges, Warns Against Sequestration by Lisa Ferdinando for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Global Threat Level to America’s Defense | 2016 Index of Military Strength by the Heritage Foundation.
Threats from Russia, China Drive 2017 DOD Budget by Sydney J. Freedberg and Colin Clark for Breaking Defense News.
Hillary, Trump and War With Russia by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.
RAND’s ‘Unthinkable’ War With China by Peter Lee for Asia Times [added 8/13/2016]
Nuclear Blackmail and America’s Fantasy War With China by Peter Lee on China Matters. [added 8/13/2016]
An Urgent History Lesson in Diplomacy With Russia by Renee Parsons for Counterpunch. Reagan and Gorbachev showed that a different way is possible.
What is ISIS? by Thoreau on Unqualified Offerings.