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 Our troops will have withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.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.