Scott Gillette

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An American Empire?
The American military is too big 

By Scott Gillette



How often have you heard the terminology that “rogue nations” (a term that became known as “nations of concern” after decades-long tensions between North and South Korea abated) pose a threat to our “national security”? These phrases are repeated so often by politicians from both parties and the mass media that they become the assumptions that guide most of the American public. But how much of a threat could these nations pose?

If you add up the defense spending of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, and the Sudan, their total defense budget combined is about $14 billion. The U.S. military budget, in contrast, now tops $330 billion.

The United States is not only the leader in military defense spending around the world, but also spends more than the 2nd to 10th world leaders in defense spending combined. The United States and her allies account for two-thirds of all defense spending on the planet.

Clearly, our “national security” cannot be defined merely as he preservation of our territories at this time. When the term national security is used, as it is often when the government does not want to explain its foreign policy, it is broadly defined to mean whatever interest we are seeking to fulfill at the time. Note: when government officials just use the term 'interest', it means we’ll get involved in one way or another. When the term 'vital interest' is used, that means we are prepared to go to war.

But what interests could any of these nations pose to us at this time? Cuba and North Korea are not going to lure the world into communism. Sudan is a land-locked nation in the Sahara Desert. Syria, Iraq and Iran all working together could not defeat Israel even if Israel was unaided, let alone if the United States intervened.

What about Saddam Hussein? Well, Iraq’s southern region has been an occupied area since the end of the Persian Gulf War, and we have made sure that Iraq remains strong enough so that Iran does not step into the void, but weak enough so that Hussein has been contained. Our main method of containment has been sanctions that have prevented food and medical supplies from entering the country, and have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. I don’t think Saddam Hussein loses sleep over these deaths, but the U.S. government contributed to their occurrence, and the people of Iraq blame us. That is why when Hussein fires a gun into the air, the Iraqi crowds cheer.

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Russia? That is a country we should be working to strengthen, not weaken. Indeed, our economists recommended and the IMF imposed an austerity package on Russia in the mid-1990s that devalued the ruble so that the lifetime savings of millions of people were wiped out. Not surprisingly, the Russian Mafia stepped into the vacuum created by these policies. Vladimir Putin is the best thing to happen to Russia in a long, long time, maybe in a century, as he has been working to rebuild a society that combines the Russian character with the rule of law and pluralism. If Putin fails, then the threat of Russia disintegrating becomes greater, and that would only jeopardize the security of all of Eurasia. Russia may sell weapons to countries without our approval from time to time, but that does not make her a threat; Russia’s demise does pose a threat.

China? Their rise to world power is likely, but not inevitable, and it is 50 years away, at the very least. Not unlike Russia, the type of country China becomes depends to a certain extent on how we react to them. If we treat China like an enemy, China’s historic xenophobia will reassert itself, and China will become an enemy. Conversely, if we treat China as a partner, we can establish sufficient commercial inroads that will make future cooperation the overriding reality, and war a virtual impossibility. (Prosperous countries that trade with each other rarely wage war on each other.) In the meantime, we should stop worrying that China will invade Taiwan, because China does not have the military resources to do so.

A potential military conflict between India and Pakistan could be devastating, but there is little that the US can do to avoid such a war. Few other places in the world possess any sort of nuclear capability.

All of these examples are oversimplified to be sure, but are cited to demonstrate the disproportionate level of force at hand to serve US interests abroad. I don’t want to live in a modern-day empire.

Some may object to that term, and there is room for disagreement. But at the very least, the examples demonstrate that our military is far too large at the moment. A smaller, more mobile force could cost between $50 billion and $100 billion less per year, and actually contend with current military threats or situations far better. A military that upgrades its aircraft and submarines when there is no external threat to justify such action is also a military that may be too eager to try out its new hardware when it should not. The future prospects for peace and prosperity, and the safety of the valiant individuals who serve this country, depend on a more restrained military.   

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