National Defense versus Global (In)Security

Carrier strike forces, bombers, fighters: As American as apple pie

W.J. Astore

Our government likes to talk about global security, which in their minds is basically synonymous with homeland security.  They argue that the best defense is a good offense, that “leaning forward in the foxhole,” or always being ready to attack, is the best way to keep Americans safe.  Hence the 800 U.S. military bases in foreign countries, the deployment of special operations units to 130+ countries, and the never-ending “war on terror.”

Consider this snippet from today’s FP: Foreign Policy report:

If Congress votes through the massive tax cuts currently on the House floor, it would likely mean future cuts to Pentagon budgets “for training, maintenance, force structure, flight missions, procurement and other key programs.”

That’s according to former defense secretaries Leon E. Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter, who sent a letter to congressional leadership Wednesday opposing the plan. “The result is the growing danger of a ‘hollowed out’ military force that lacks the ability to sustain the intensive deployment requirements of our global defense mission,” the secretaries wrote.

“Our global defense mission”: this vision that the U.S., in order to be secure, must dominate the world ensures profligate “defense” spending, to the tune of nearly $700 billion for 2018.  Indeed, the Congress and the President are currently competing to see which branch of government can throw more money at the Pentagon, all in the name of “security,” naturally.

Here’s a quick summary of the new “defense” bill and what it authorizes (from the Washington Post):

The bill as it stands increases financial support for missile defense, larger troop salaries and modernizing, expanding and improving the military’s fleet of ships and warplanes. The legislation dedicates billions more than Trump’s request for key pieces of military equipment, such as Joint Strike Fighters — there are 20 more in the bill than in the president’s request — and increasing the size of the armed forces. The bill also outlines an increase of almost 20,000 service members — nearly twice Trump’s request.

In the House of Representatives, the bill passed by a vote of 356-70.  At least Congress can agree on something — more and more money for the Pentagon.  (The $700 billion price tag includes $65.7 billion “for combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, various places in Africa, and elsewhere,” notes FP: Foreign Policy.)

Besides all this wasteful spending (the Pentagon has yet to pass an audit!), the vision itself is deeply flawed.  If you want to defend America, defend it.  Strengthen the National Guard.  Increase security at the border (including cyber security).  Spend money on the Coast Guard.  And, more than anything, start closing military bases overseas.  End U.S. participation in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the greater Middle East and Africa.  Bring ground troops home.  And end air and drone attacks (this would also end the Air Force’s “crisis” of being short nearly 2000 pilots).

This is not a plea for isolationism.  It’s a quest for sanity.  America is not made safer by spreading military forces around the globe while bombing every “terrorist” in sight.  Quite the reverse.

Until we change our vision of what national defense really means–and what it requires–America will be less safe, less secure, and less democratic.

8 thoughts on “National Defense versus Global (In)Security

  1. “Global defense mission” – maybe our fearless leaders think they’re protecting us from the dangers of alien invasion from outer space! – Nicolas Davies


    1. There are a remarkable number of movies with this theme of alien invasion, perhaps most notoriously “Independence Day” and its sequel. In almost all these movies, plucky earthlings initially get their butts handed to them by superior alien technology, only to band together as “rebels” using clever tactics to outwit the aliens at their own game.

      In other words, we imagine ourselves to be like the Vietnamese or Afghans or other foes we’ve fought, waging a successful struggle at long odds against an (alien) superpower that doesn’t belong in our neck of the woods.

      We may be losing overseas, but we’re winning in Hollywood.


      1. I could not stomach watching the whole movie, but Red Dawn made in 1984 has all the “monsters” in it. A Soviet Invasion aided by its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies. From Wiki: The story follows a group of American high school students who resist the occupation with guerrilla warfare, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot.

        The dangers of Firearms registration also has place in the movie, again per Wiki: Cuban Colonel Bella instructs the KGB to go to a local sporting goods store and obtain the records of the store’s gun sales on the ATF’s Form 4473, which lists citizens who have purchased firearms.


  2. Your sensible headline reminds me of another character in history: Louis XVI. Forget about fancy parties in Versailles; his spiteful revenge against Britain, helping us ‘terrorist’ American Revolution soldiers really bankrupted France. Paranoid enough to keep France’s Navy on a war footing long after US Victory, so the bell tolls in 1789. Flat broke, deeply in debt, something we Americans should think about today.
    Fast forward: My my! We’re siding with another aristocracy, perhaps a little cleaner, but not as well dressed, Saudi Arabia. Our forefathers can be forgiven, in desperate need of help, but no excuses today. And unlike them, could be sucked into a colossal war, not in ‘defense’ of America, but sheer stupidity. 800Bil$ stolen from arrested ‘Princes’ sounds mouthwatering to my 99%er background, but doesn’t go very far in attacking Iran & Hizbollah!
    I don’t want a ‘revolution’, but this insanity could bring one on. Not a mile of high speed railway, under cared for Vets, and a serious unemployment problem. 800Bil$ would only be a start….


  3. 800 Worldwide bases ( Chalmers Johnson’s “garrisoning the planet” ) and “Inauditable Pentagon” according to GAO…..
    SO, WHO is being kept SAFE from WHOM???
    Over the coming weeks, one by one, the coalition began removing all the airstrike videos from YouTube.
    A coverup!!
    WHO is holding them accountable??


      1. Thanks, ML. Good article. A grim diagnosis, and I don’t think the prognosis is good, since the only thing Congress can agree on is throwing more money at the Pentagon while cutting taxes to benefit corporations and the rich.


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