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America's Military Industrial Century: Achieving Peace and Prosperity

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

On this one-year anniversary of a particular opinion column published here on RedState, I thought I’d share a response that I received on that column. But first, here’s a small part of what I wrote a year ago:

I can think of no national security or foreign policy rationale, or justification for extending membership in NATO to Sweden or Finland, especially as Russia and Ukraine continue killing each over, wait for it, Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO.

The West isn’t at war, nor should it be at war with Russia, a country with less than half the GDP of California. The Soviet Union is no more. And so is any risk of Russia invading Finland or Sweden. Or France, Germany, or England, for that matter.

An enlightened American foreign policy isn’t turning old enemies into new enemies. America and our Western European allies have squandered the “Peace Dividend” that we were left by Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. Instead, the politicians in Washington spent trillions turning plowshares into Raytheon shares.

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One response to it is below, but I encourage you to read my original piece and leave comments. I’m very much interested in others’ perspectives on these matters. I can’t think of anything more important than the causes of war, peace, and prosperity. (Note: punctuation/formatting original)

Joe,

Interesting essay. But you argue both sides of the issue on which you are commenting.

First you state that our military establishment is “overgrown,” I assume that means too large. And you also include comment about Sweden and Finland (and perhaps Ukraine) joining NATO.  Isn’t that separate from our military’s size?

Then you go on to point out how Reagan (and if he had the chance, Kennedy) used “peace through strength” to defeat the former Soviet Union.    In fact, Reagan significantly built up our military which had a lot to do with the fall of the USSR while they tried to keep up.

Then you summarize by saying our current president carries a “wet noodle” and exhibits an “unambiguous show of weakness.”

So which is it — our military is overgrown or it is a wet noodle and a show of weakness?

Regards,

(a combat veteran)

Santa Barbara

This is my response:

Hey (……), good to hear from you. Concerning my use of the word “overgrown,” I was quoting Washington, who warned against “overgrown military establishments.” That is the word Washington used in his farewell address. Having said that, I don’t think there’s much question as to whether today our military “establishment” is overgrown. How could it not be? Our last two defense secretaries are former executives from the defense industry. I’m now referring to what Eisenhower called the Military-Industrial Complex.

As for whether our actual military, i.e., Army, Navy, Space Force, Marines, Coast Guard… is too large, too small, or just right, call it the Goldilocks question, I suppose depends on what the objective of our military is today in the year 2022, versus say 1992, 1982, 1962, or even 1942. Is it still our national defense policy that we have a military capability and readiness sufficient to wage two different wars in two different theaters in two different and far apart areas of the world?

The answer to that question will drive the policy and ultimately determine how strong, large, and agile… I would submit that, as I said, the best way to avoid war is to be prepared to go to war. There is a real question today as to whether the United States can win a regional war in Asia, Africa, or Europe. (I no longer question this, circa 2023)

What I do believe, however, is spending billions on advanced systems, the type we buy from Raytheon, for example, and that we so readily send to foreign countries so they can engage in proxy wars on our behalf, is a mistake, and that, in fact, is not “peace through strength,” but, is a rather wrongheaded foreign policy that opens up America to the risk of fighting wars where no national security interest exists.

I believe in an American military that is strong, large, agile, and obviously fully funded enough to ensure it can defend America’s vital interests anywhere they are determined to exist. You might feel differently, but I do not believe America’s vital interests are in Ukraine, Finland, Syria, and maybe not even Taiwan. However, that would be a more sensible policy debate. And I think that debate is coming sooner than we realize.

An argument can be made that today, with the implosion of the former Soviet Union, our primary national interests are limited to Asia, to a lesser extent, Central America. To a lesser extent, Europe and our vital interests are almost entirely economic.

As far as whether Russia and Ukraine have a border dispute, or whether they should be one country or two, and whether American taxpayers should be forced to underwrite these types of geopolitical disputes is dangerous, outdated, and frankly a luxury we can no longer afford. China is our main adversary, I guess. And maybe anything that draws our attention away from that is a mistake. And this current president, when described as carrying a wet noodle, conveys a form of weak arrogance, policy confusion, and capricious strategery that I believe only ends up inviting provocation.

Joe

 

What is worth saying is my views vis-a-vis Ukraine, Taiwan, Europe, and Central America are the same today. I have developed less tolerance for warmongering, whether it is a proxy war, a regional hot war, a new Cold War, or a counterproductive, economically destructive trade war. The idea that we are still a civilization, often at war with each other, is such a tragedy and counterintuitive when thinking about and understanding what it takes to achieve and enjoy the blessings of peace and morality of prosperity.

The 21st Century, though off to a horrendous start, can still be the best century, the most prosperous century, and the most peaceful century. I don’t believe any of those three realities will be possible—if this century isn’t an unequivocal American Century.

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