Is the United States an Empire in Decline?

 

There’s long been a growing sense in America that things have not been going right, and that all is not well in the halls of our sacred institutions. But while questions about our economy and culture have grown, we have still felt more or less reassured that at least our military stands unparalleled in the world.

That is still true but there are increasingly worrying signs of rot within the Pentagon. Rot that can’t be fixed with a simplistic Trumpian call to throw more money at the problem or to build military toys that are bigger, better, and classier than ever. The latest of these concerns implicates a growing scandal regarding the alleged cooking of military intelligence, in which CENTCOM is alleged to have fabricated the extent of its successes against both ISIS and in Afghanistan.

Folks, when the military starts lying to itself for the purposes of mollifying civilian leadership about its capabilities, that is a very bad sign indeed, but that’s exactly what is alleged to have happened here:

Lawmakers are probing whether senior U.S. military officers skewed intelligence reports about Afghanistan, raising new questions about whether policymakers can trust the accuracy of the Pentagon’s assessments of the nation’s wars.

The investigation, which has not been reported previously, adds a new dimension to the politically explosive scandal hanging over the military’s Central Command, where top officers stand accused of deliberately skewing their analysis of the campaign against the Islamic State to exaggerate successes while downplaying serious setbacks.

The allegations of the Pentagon cooking the books about both Afghanistan and the Islamic State will be at the center of a new congressional probe led by the leaders of three of the most powerful committees on Capitol Hill. [mc_name name=’Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’N000181′ ] of California, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, told Foreign Policy that he and the chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee are forming a task force “to investigate numerous allegations of the manipulation of intelligence by Centcom officials.”

At this point, it is far from proven that this has happened. Obviously, the fact that military assessments have disagreed with CIA assessments does not mean the CIA is right and the military is wrong. The CIA is likewise infested with bureaucrats who have institutional and budgetary incentives to throw dirt on the military’s intelligence gathering capabilities.

That having been said, if this scandal bears out, it becomes alarm-ringing time. History is replete with examples of empires whose militaries told their civilian command (to the extent that such a division existed) that everything was going great, only to be sent into major battles for which they were neither equipped nor prepared. This is generally a precursor to total collapse.

The answer here is not bigger, better, and classier, as today’s military would just use extra money thrown after it to build more insanely expensive gas stations in Afghanistan or sensitivity training towards transgender soldiers or something. What’s needed here is a culture change, if such a thing isn’t already irrevocably too late.