Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The New American Militarism

It cannot really be denied. It is new, it is militarism and it is American.

Political scientists have long noted that all one has to do to judge a nation as a global power is to go and count its ships, i.e. its naval power. So guess how powerful our navy is, here is a little about it from a book I have. First a note, it is written from the Vietnam perspective that has apparently shaped the generation touched by it profoundly. (All those I've ever talked to about it, anyway.) So newer generations can file that away, given that past events that seem to so utterly shape people may also blind them to different perspectives. The author is intellectually honest about it and points out various things that shape his views in the beginning.

But most of what I'll cite here about the new American militarism are empirical facts on which the debate must be based, not values based viewpoints about the facts:
Through the first two centuries of U.S. history, political leaders in Washington gauged the size and capabilities of America’s armed services according to the security tasks immediately at hand. A grave and proximate threat to the nation’s well-being might require a large and powerful military establishment. In the absence of such a threat, policymakers scaled down that establishment accordingly. With the passing of crisis, the army raised up for the crisis went immediately out of existence. This had been the case in 1886, in 1918, and in 1945. The general principle was to maintain the minimum force required [or no standing army] and no more. Thus, for example, the million-man Union Army of 1886 shrank within a year to a mere fifty-seven thousand and within another five years was reduced to fewer than thirty thousand. Even in the aftermath of World War II, when the United States had shouldered the responsibilities of global power, this pattern pertained. On V-J Day in 1945, the U.S. Army consisted of over eight million officers and men. Within a year, 1.8 million remained on active duty, a number halved again within the following year. By 1947, the army was little more than an occupation force, its combat capabilities virtually nonexistent.
Since the end of the Cold War, having come to value military power for its own sake, the United States has abandoned this principle and is committed as a matter of policy to maintaining military capabilities far in excess of those of any would-be adversary or combination of adversaries. This commitment finds both a qualitative and quantitative expression, with the U.S. military establishment dwarfing that of even America’s closest ally. Thus, whereas the U.S. Navy maintains and operates a total of twelve large attack aircraft carriers, the once-vaunted Royal Navy has none—indeed, in all the battle fleets of the world there is no ship even remotely comparable to a Nimitz-class carrier, weighing in at some ninety-seven thousand tons fully loaded, longer than three football fields, cruising at a speed above thirty knots, and powered by nuclear reactors that give it an essentially infinite radius of action. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps possesses more attack aircraft than does the entire Royal Air Force—and the United States has two other even larger “air forces,” one an integral part of the Navy and the other officially designated as the U.S. Air Force. Indeed, in terms of numbers of men and women in uniform, the U.S. Marine Corps is half again as large as the entire British Army—and the Pentagon has a second, even larger “army” actually called the U.S. Army—which in turn also operates its own “air force” of some five thousand aircraft) All of these massive and redundant capabilities cost money. Notably, the present-day Pentagon budget, adjusted for inflation, is 12 percent larger than the average defense budget of the Cold War era. In 2002, American defense spending exceeded by a factor of twenty-five the combined defense budgets of the seven “rogue states” then comprising the roster of U.S. enemies. Indeed, by some calculations, the United States spends more on defense than all other nations in the world together). This is a circumstance without historical precedent.
Furthermore, in all likelihood, the gap in military spending between the United States and all other nations will expand further still in the years to come. Projected increases in the defense budget will boost Pentagon spending in real terms to a level higher than it was during the Reagan era. According to the Pentagon’s announced long-range plans, by 2009 its budget will exceed the Cold War average by 23 percent—despite the absence of anything remotely resembling a so-called peer competitor. However astonishing this fact might seem, it elicits little comment, either from political leaders or the press. It is simply taken for granted. The truth is that there no longer exists any meaningful context within which Americans might consider the question: “How much is enough?”
(The New American Militarism: How
Americans Are Seduced by War
by Andrew J. Bacevich :16-17)

It's a good question, once we get to what values we will assign to the facts. There is no meaningful context because how many times do you need to be able to blow up the world? Unfortunately on this issue the Left in America has been quite derelict in its duty of entering into a dialectic with the Right in a sound logical and factual way. I.e., now we get their great bit of mental flatulence that they seem to have been repressing for a time coming out over Iraq, yet the issue is much bigger than that. E.g., they focus on the cost of Iraq when we have bases virtually everywhere, etc.

It is Team America: World Police:
On a day-to-day basis, what do these expensive forces exist to do? Simply put, for the Department of Defense and all of its constituent parts, defense per se figures as little more than an afterthought. The primary mission of America’s far-flung military establishment is global power projection, a reality tacitly understood in all quarters of American society. To suggest that the U.S. military has become the world’s police force may slightly overstate the case, but only slightly.
That well over a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States continues to maintain bases and military forces in several dozens of countries—by some counts well over a hundred in all—rouses minimal controversy, despite the fact that many of these countries are perfectly capable of providing for their own security needs. That even apart from fighting wars and pursuing terrorists, U.S. forces are constantly prowling around the globe—training, exercising, planning, and posturing—elicits no more notice (and in some cases less) from the average American than the presence of a cop on a city street corner. Even before the Pentagon officially assigned itself the mission of “shaping” the international environment, members of the political elite, liberals and conservatives alike, had reached a common understanding that scattering U.S. troops around the globe to restrain, inspire, influence, persuade, or cajole paid dividends. Whether any correlation exists between this vast panoply of forward-deployed forces on the one hand and antipathy to the United States abroad on the other has remained for the most part a taboo subject.
The indisputable fact of global U.S. military preeminence also affects the collective mindset of the officer corps. For the armed services, dominance constitutes a baseline or a point of departure from which to scale the heights of ever greater military capabilities. Indeed, the services have come to view outright supremacy as merely adequate and any hesitation in efforts to increase the margin of supremacy as evidence of falling behind.
Thus, according to one typical study of the U.S. Navy’s future, “sea supremacy beginning at our shore lines and extending outward to distant theaters is a necessary condition for the defense of the U.S.” Of course, the U.S. Navy already possesses unquestioned global preeminence; the real point of the study is to argue for the urgency of radical enhancements to that preeminence.
(Ib. :17-18)

Again, you can pretty much just count the ships and that is usually what its global standing is. I would argue that the American Empire has been more benevolent than most. And that doesn't mean that if you get in its way that you will not get killed. What I mean is that virtually any other nation would probably be worse, perhaps some on the Left are thinking that a Chinese Empire would be better or perhaps a French or some other colonial Empire again? The American Empire is not all that imperialistic yet and the Left seems to have fallen into inane conspiracy theories instead of engaging with what is right in front of them. Like the Right when it comes to immigration they seem to be governed by fear because they value getting elected far above doing what is right for the nation or engaging in their dialectic role based on principle. Note the irony of the Right these days, supposedly we can police the whole world and fight three nations at once but when it comes to policing our own borders and managing immigration...why, that's just too hard and downright impossible!

As for me, I don't understand why the politicians care about getting elected more than they care about doing what will be right for the nation and posterity. Note the contrast to the Founders who cared more about doing what was right for posterity and the nation than their own lives, families and wealth. Then there's the Old Press that also often seems to care more about the "horse race" than informing the public on the issues. If it seems that they consider us mental retards who will sit there like this: "Oh, oh! Now one is up in the polls...oh my, now he's down, now up!" then go with it. I'm reminded of a pirated sattelite feed in which Paula Zahn is talking to a doctor who works in the innercity and he wants to go on air and talk about how it is turning into conditions found in the Third World and so on. She stops him and says, "That's rather obtuse. Let's go with this sentimental human interest side of it instead." I'm paraphrasing but the word obtuse was her own, because the Herd is just too obtuse don't you know. Maybe they are, but one reason for that is an Old Press that consistently fails to inform them of much of anything that is actually worth knowing.

[Related posts: My Mainstream Radical Ideas: The US Budget, from my local Leftist]

No comments: