My uncle recently sent me an article called How the Pentagon Took Ownership of Donald Trump. In short, I find the article far too cynical.
“As it happens, from the beginning of the Cold War to late last night, they’ve remained remarkably skilled at exaggerating the threats the U.S. faces and, believe me, that represents the longest con of all. It’s kept the military-industrial complex humming along, thanks to countless trillions of taxpayer dollars, while attempts to focus a spotlight on that scam have been largely discredited or ignored.”
Exaggeration may occur but I’d submit that it doesn’t happen out of bad faith lies. The pentagon and joint chiefs truly want to prepare us as best they can for the threats we face. There’s also no counter factual….how many years of relative peace post WWII have we faced BECAUSE we’ve been strong?
“War by its nature tells harsh truths — in this case, that the U.S. military is anything but “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.” Why? Because of its almost unblemished record of losing, or at least never winning, the wars it engages in. Consider the disasters that make up its record from Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s to, in the twenty-first century, the Iraq War that began with the invasion of 2003 and the nearly 18-year debacle in Afghanistan. You could easily add Korea (a 70-year stalemate/truce that remains troublesome to this day), a disastrous eight-year-old intervention in Libya, a quarter century in (and out and in) Somalia, and the devastating U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen, among so many other failed interventions.”
I understand the perspective that many of these may be “failures” but there’s a strong case that some were also successes. South Korea would disagree the 70 year stalemate was a failure for them. Iraq and Afghanistan put us on the ground on both sides of Iran, a geopolitical threat from an Islamic regime. So, again, it’s hard to reach the conclusion he’s reaching without counterfactuals which are admittedly difficult to guess.
“In short, the U.S. spends staggering sums annually, essentially stolen from a domestic economy and infrastructure that’s fraying at the seams, on what still passes for “defense.” The result: botched wars in distant lands that have little, if anything, to do with true defense, but which the Pentagon uses to justify yet more funding, often in the name of “rebuilding” a “depleted” military. Instead of a three-pointed pyramid scheme, you might think of this as a five-pointed Pentagon scheme, where losing only wins you ever more, abetted by lies that just grow and grow.”
Public spending on defense isn’t “stolen” from GDP. Indeed, an entire liberal economic theory would contest this assertion – the Keynesian economic argument is that WWII defense spending may be the prime mover of lifting us out of the Great Depression. I would agree that the procurement and acquisition process of new equipment and gear could be reformed in light of fast changing technologies. And I know first hand there are inefficiencies in the process of developing and fielding new equipment.
I’m now starting to wonder what he actually did in the Air Force because these views indicate a lack of awareness about alternative hypothesis for these strategic decisions. SDI for example helped to drive the USSR into bankruptcy. Every western intelligence agency thought the Iraqis had WMDs. Even the Iraqi military thought that. Again, attributing bad motives to people isn’t really helpful.
An alternative explanation is that POTUS learned about the intelligence assessments of our geopolitical rivals and made decisions based on that information. Again, this author is far too cynical in his assertions.
“America’s shock-and-awe conflicts have indeed come home, big time — with shocking and awful results. On some level, many Americans recognize this. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is now a well-known acronym. A smaller percentage of Americans know something about TBI, the traumatic brain injuries that already afflict an estimated 314,000 troops, often caused by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), another acronym it would have been better never to have to learn. Wounded Warrior projects remind us that veterans continue to suffer long after they’ve come home, with roughly 20 of them a day taking their own lives in a tragic epidemic of suicides.”
War is hard yes. But freedom is not free. It has to be defended with a sword. Of course, we should take care of those who fought for our freedom.
“the U.S. should end every conflict it’s currently engaged in, while bringing most of its troops home and downsizing its imperial deployments globally.”
This is a valid perspective and option, but I think for different reasons than the author submits.
The author finishes the piece with a 6 step process for moving forward:
“1. Our nuclear forces remain the best in the world, which is hardly something to brag about. They need to be downsized, not modernized, with the goal of eliminating them — before they eliminate us.”
The deterrence of nuclear weapons remains a real strategy and many of our nukes are in 1960-1980s era technology launchers.
“2. The notion that this country is suddenly engaged in a new cold war with China and Russia needs to be tossed in the trash can of history — and fast.”
Not so fast. This seems an uninformed view about China and Russia.
“3. From its first days, the war on terror has been the definition of a forever war. Isn’t it finally time to end that series of conflicts? International terrorism is a threat best met by the determined efforts of international police and intelligence agencies.”
This was the approach of the Clinton administration in the 1990s and its failure then combined with 911 led to a decade long debate on which strategy is best.
“4. It’s finally time to stop believing that the U.S. military is all about deterrence and democracy, when all too often it’s all about exploitation and dominance.”
Exploitation to what end? Dominance of what? I don’t see the nefarious motive he asserts and he certainly doesn’t provide evidence of this exploitation.
“5. It’s finally time to stop funding the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state at levels that outpace most of the seven major military powers on this planet put together, and instead invest such funds where they might actually count for Americans. With an appropriate change in strategy, notes defense analyst Nicolas Davies, the U.S. could reduce its annual Pentagon budget by 50%.”