Sudhama Ranganathan | 06.02.2011
After World War II our nation wrapped itself up in a race with communist Russia and to a lesser extent China. We wanted to make sure we were always safe from the threat of the spread of communism. The nuclear arms race and military build ups of both the US and communist Russia cam to characterize who we were as a nation within a global context. We went from concentrating on being focused on the US and domestic issues first to defining ourselves by our global footprint.
We were left with a policy of containment and deterrent regarding communist Russian influence and an ever present sense of imminent threat among the American populace. There was always the belief Russia would or could invade at any moment and that we had to constantly be on the lookout for communist spies. Additionally there was the underlying nervousness caused by the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. It almost seems stupid now, but it was woven into almost everything from movies to every other corner of popular culture.
We went from concentrating our military might and power on protecting the home front and building up the world's most powerful army at home to spreading out across the globe to contain the influence of the Soviet Union in a race to constantly one up each other. This meant placing and maintaining troops and bases all over the globe. That meant essentially parking hundreds of thousands of personnel all over the world to permanently guard from any new incursions made by Russia into places previously neutral or friendly to our side.
This also affected our economic policy and caused us to shift from a policy focused on a strong home front first to one focused on pumping money into and crafting policy towards keeping the communists in check. Somewhere along the line we supplanted common sense with shortsightedness. We struck trade deals with nations overseas in countries located in Asia and Eastern Europe to manipulate our respective currencies so they could manufacture goods previously solely or predominantly manufactured here, thus boosting their economies and standards of living.
We believed we were vulnerable to the philosophy of communism and the altruistic sentiments it evoked in people. The image of utopian nations it inspired in many poor counties was something we had no answer for. Our overriding philosophy of hard work and striking it rich through open markets was abstract and easy to paint as favoring the few over the many. So we made our economic policy a political philosophy that said anyone and everyone can strike it rich and enjoy comfortable lifestyles like the average American by adopting free and fair markets and American style governance.
Of course in reality things did not work out that way. Economically we quietly brokered deals that sent formerly American jobs overseas to boost the standard of living of people in poorer countries we believed were open to the influence of communism. We manipulated our respective currencies to set an artificial relative constant so they could manufacture goods there and sell them here cheaply. Essentially this sacrificed the once strong American middle class to boost the average standard of living for nations we selected to be 'examples' of the benefits of American style government over communism. This was done so surrounding nations could say 'wow - look at the life of the average person in the American friendly country over that of the Soviet influenced country.'
Not only were we manipulating currencies and handing them American jobs we sent them boatloads of American cash listed as 'aid,' but that only was meant to aid in maintaining the false idea they were more prosperous than they were. As far as the governments, we planted American bases there and set up dictators in almost every case even those that were soft dictators. These people stayed in power and were protected by our guns from insurrection. If the nations became too unstable through protest we just set up new ones. In many of those places resentment built among people that wanted the real democracy they had been promised instead of the dictators they were living under.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 followed quickly by the vast majority of its satellite nations within its sphere of influence. Russia became focused inwardly and became far less interested in the chicks under its wing, but we did not dial back our policy of containment. The machine we set up staring at the end of Word War II kept rolling. Too many people were benefiting from it that did not want to let go of the reins of power they held in their little corners of the contained areas. People had gotten rich and powerful through controlling and manipulating nations often through threat of force and poverty overseas and they wanted to keep it going.
But time has caught up and we have overstretched ourselves. We can't afford it anymore. Further, the nation we live in no longer has a younger generation obsessed with controlling the rest of the world so much as being a part of it and competing fairly with our neighbors across the globe. The world is no longer a place with the image it once had to us of being an amorphous thing we need to point guns at because monsters and scary mysterious animals might rush out of the billows at any moment to hurt us.
We know we need to be always vigilant due to terrorism and the like but all the propaganda in the world can't hide the facts available online that there isn't a nation in the world that even comes close to us in military spending. Google military spending globally and we quickly find that if you take the expenditures of China, France, UK, Russia and the next ten countries combined that still does not add up to the amount of money we spend on military expenditures alone. (http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending) There isn't even anyone that knows what our dust smells like or shadow looks like.
It isn't progressives or libertarians anymore either. Nowadays the talk comes from inside the US defense circles as well as from outside of it. A recent essay published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has garnered much attention both inside and outside US defense circles. This is almost as much because of its authors as its content as it was written by CAPT Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark "Puck" Mykleby, USMC two military insiders actively serving today. The essay is very well thought out, concise and yet written in terms that most people can understand, though its authors are obviously well educated and knowledgeable.
While maintaining the need for healthy national defense, the essay asserts, “It is time for America to re-focus our national interests and principles through a long lens on the global environment of tomorrow. It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence; from a defensive posture of exclusion, to a proactive posture of engagement. We must recognize that security means more than defense, and sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests and interdependencies.
“To grow we must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries, and that a winner does not demand a loser. We must regain our credibility as a leader among peers, a beacon of hope, rather than an island fortress. It is only by balancing our interests with our principles that we can truly hope to sustain our growth as a nation and to restore our credibility as a world leader.”
It goes on to state, “America was founded on the core values and principles enshrined in our Constitution and proven through war and peace. These values have served as both our anchor and our compass, at home and abroad, for more than two centuries. Our values define our national character, and they are our source of credibility and legitimacy in everything we do. Our values provide the bounds within which we pursue our enduring national interests. When these values are no longer sustainable, we have failed as a nation, because without our values, America has no credibility.
“As we continue to evolve, these values are reflected in a wider global application: tolerance for all cultures, races, and religions; global opportunity for self-fulfillment; human dignity and freedom from exploitation; justice with compassion and equality under internationally recognized rule of law; sovereignty without tyranny, with assured freedom of expression; and an environment for entrepreneurial freedom and global prosperity, with access to markets, plentiful water and arable soil, clean and abundant energy, and adequate health services.”
The authors put forth three new investment priorities when thinking about a global strategy going forward, “Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great. By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans – the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow – we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.
“Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them. As has been stated already, Americansview security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind. Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation approach to our domestic and foreign policies. This requires a different approach to problem solving than we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distribution of our national treasure. For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy. This has been true in our approach to domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture. Security touches each of these and must be addressed by leveraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perceived threat a safe arm’s length away.
“America is a resplendent, plentiful and fertile land, rich with natural resources, bounded by vast ocean spaces. Together these gifts are ours to be enjoyed for their majesty, cultivated and harvested for their abundance, and preserved for following generations. Many of these resources are renewable, some are not. But all must be respected as part of a global ecosystem that is being tasked to support a world population projected to reach nine billion peoples midway through this century. These resources range from crops, livestock, and potable water to sources of energy and materials for industry. Our third investment priority is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.”
It goes on stating, “As we pursue the growth of our own prosperity and security, the welfare of our citizens must be seen as part of a highly dynamic, and interconnected system that includes sovereign nations, world markets, natural and man-generated challenges and solutions – a system that demands adaptability and innovation. In this strategic environment, it is competition that will determine how we evolve, and Americans must have the tools and confidence required to successfully compete.
“This begins at home with quality health care and education, with a vital economy and low rates of unemployment, with thriving urban centers and carefully planned rural communities, with low crime, and a sense of common purpose underwritten by personal responsibility. We often hear the term 'smart power' applied to the tools of development and diplomacy abroad empowering people all over the world to improve their own lives and to help establish the stability needed to sustain security and prosperity on a global scale. But we can not export 'smart power' until we practice 'smart growth' at home. We must seize the opportunity to be a model of stability, a model of the values we cherish for the rest of the world to emulate. And we must ensure that our domestic policies are aligned with our foreign policies. Our own 'smart growth' can serve as the exportable model of 'smart power.' Because, truthfully, it is in our interest to see the rest of the world prosper and the world market thrive, just as it is in our interest to see our neighbors prosper and our own urban centers and rural communities come back to life.” (http://theglobalrealm.com/2011/04/27/a-national-strategic-narrative/)
We simply cannot continue the way we have been. In a new century the old ways are relics and really more hinderance to growth and progress than aid to it. In many ways the entire world was hindered buy the Cold War (not that we really had a choice), and we need to realize we can now move beyond and change. There are still places we need to be vigilant regarding military strategy and must not abandon our ability to defend ourselves, but there's no longer a need to police the world against communism. It's over. Making enemies by going in and taking what we want from whomever we please has not proven smart, sophisticated or helpful to our long term goals. They are the tactics of cavemen and we have long been in the light.
Let's take a quick look at the costs of nation building at the point of a gun. A piece published by the Congressional Research Service, written by Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, Amy Belasco published on March 29, 2011 states that on, “March 18, 2011, Congress [...] approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). [...] Of this $1.283 trillion total, CRS estimates that Iraq will receive about $806 billion (63%)” (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBkQFjAA&url=http%3A...)
Can we really sustain that as the nation we are today? Do we really want to? Who does that benefit? Most oil companies pay a small percentage of their revenues towards our tax base when compared with other companies and many have re-incorporated in overseas tax havens to avoid US taxes all together. Why don't they invest in Iraq? How do we benefit from it? We went in there on a mistake and bad intelligence from the CIA. The same people that failed to pass along information that would have stopped the underwear bomber and who only found out about the pro-democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East after reading the news paper telling them they were already under way. (They get billions if not more also.) To date the mistake they made regarding WMD in Iraq has cost us roughly $780 trillion dollars. Do we really need to continue down that road or is it time to wise up and wake up?
If the two current parties are afraid to get us out because they are afraid they won't get oil company contributions to their campaigns why should we vote them in? Because we always have? Are we really that blind as a nation? Should we be? We need a new way forward and if all we will get is promises accompanied by the kind of impotence that no amount of Viagra can fix, why don't we vote according to our needs? Why bankrupt ourselves so people that have already incorporated elsewhere and politicians that just want to get re-elected can maintain the unsustainable status quo. Why should we allow ourselves to be bankrupted? What do we owe more to, the future of America or them?
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.