Musing About the Near Future of U. S. Security Policy

I've begun to wonder about the future of U. S. security policy. This isn't a serious analytical post; it's just what I call "musing"---committing disorganized thoughts to writing.

In thinking about James’s recent posts (here and here), other things I’ve read in the legitimate media and the blogosphere lately, the killing of Osama Bin Laden by U. S. forces last week, and various developments in the world, I’ve begun to wonder about the future of U. S. security policy. This isn’t a serious analytical post; it’s just what I call “musing”—committing disorganized thoughts to writing.

All indications right now point to President Obama’s continuing on the course laid out in the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by his predecessor with the Iraqi government. Our troops will have withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. The end of Osama Bin Laden, the unreliability of Pakistan as an ally, the futility of trying to make a silk purse state out of sow’s ear Afghanistan, the ghastly expense, and just plain fatigue will probably mean a withdrawal of our forces or at least most of them from Afghanistan over the next several years.

Will that give us a peace dividend? I doubt it.

Right now we’re spending about $700 billion a year on our military, nearly a trillion on security overall. Are we receiving a trillion dollars worth of utility from that enormous expenditure? I don’t think so. Cutting down substantially on a trillion dollars in spending gores a lot of oxes and I suspect we’ll have current military, former military, an array of U. S. senior diplomats from the last 40 years, captains of industry, and pundits all solemnly lining up to defend our current level of expenditure. And they’ll largely be successful. What then?

If you cast your mind back to the days before September 11, 2001, the U. S. was far from pastoral. Tensions were bulding for a confrontation with China. Over the intervening ten years China has given us even greater reasons for concern, cf. here for a handy summary of some things we might want to be concerned about. There are people who’ve built entire careers on the prospect of a near-peer competitor for the United States military and the only candidate on hand for the job is China.

There are other, even more appalling possible directions to which we might turn our attention. For example, recently I’ve been hearing a few rumblings of the need for a counter-insurgency strategy AKA armed nation-building in Mexico.

Don’t get the idea that I’m calling for these things. I’m not. I’m just wondering about them.

What do I think we really should do? I think we need to negotiate further nuclear arms reductions with the Russians. We need to isolate the rogue nations that already have nuclear weapons or will soon get them. I think we should withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan with all due haste. I think we should downsize the massive military bases we’ve got in the Middle East and reduce their number. I think we should cut the sizes of our forces substantially. I think we should be be re-thinking our military strategy away from a future (that’s been predicted by some) in which a huge proportion of the enormous military budget goes to pay for one something (aircraft carrier, stealth bomber, etc.) and towards a future in which we wage war as our prospective enemies are likely to: with what’s cheap, at hand, and easy to produce.

And I think we should think very clearly about what will actually keep us secure, do that, and do a lot less security theater and stuff that doesn’t really keep us more secure. What is that? Beats me.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Southern Hoosier says:

    Right now we’re spending about $700 billion a year on our military, nearly a trillion on security overall

    And we can’t even secure our southern border against terrorists.

  2. mattb says:

    Thanks for proving David’s point SH. BTW, as far as I can tell, the only thing that makes the author of that screed, Michael Haltman, a “National Security Expert” is that he named himself one. His bio is surprisingly light on actual EXPERIENCE with national security:

    Michael writes The Political Commentator, and has been picked up by national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times and Houston Chronicle.

    His articles focus on national security and the war on terror with New York at its epicenter. Knowing that Americans have short memories and our enemy’s great patience, he hopes that his articles will help keep us vigilant and aware. Michael welcomes any questions or comments at ex************@ao*.com.

    Source – his website –

    In fact, looking at his cache’d Linked-In page via Google ( all of his professional experience (outside of starting his own “National Security Consulting Firm”) is in mortgages and insurance sales and appraisal.

    This is not exactly the “top flight” talent one should be citing in making the argument we need to militarize the border.

  3. mattb says:

    BTW — getting picked up by those media institutions seems to largely be by being quoted in the political blogs, not actually writing articles that are included in the paper.

    And trust me — I work with journalists — I don’t even want to go into how easy it is to be quoted as background in an article. Or the Yahoo’s that lazy writers keep on Rolodex because they give good contrarian quotes.

  4. michael reynolds says:


    What do you make of the argument that given Pakistan’s instability we’ll need some sort of theater presence — presumably in Afghanistan?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    As you know I have been arguing for a small longterm military commitment to Afghanistan, what has been characterized by some as a “compact, lethal force” to do counter-terrorism there for some time. Such a force could be supplied by air, unlike the massive commitment we have there now.

    Further, I think that leaving Afghanistan, now or in the foreseeable future would be illegal, immoral, and contrary to U. S. interests. Trying to practice counter-insurgency in a country uniquely unsuited for counter-insurgency has probably made that harder and less supportable.

    What I think we’re likely to do is declare victory and leave.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll make a gentleman’s wager that Obama will reach your conclusion: a small, low-profile, high-impact counterterrorism force.