Throwing more money at the military won’t make it stronger

February 6, 2017

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The Erudite and Suave Dr. Fareed Zakaria

Throwing more money at the military won’t make it stronger: Time to control warmongering Neo-Con instrument called Pentagon

by Dr Fareed Zakaria

The first time I met Gen. David Petraeus, he said something that surprised me. It was the early days of the Iraq War and, although things were not going well, hent e had directed his region in the north skillfully and effectively. I asked him whether he wished he had more troops. Petraeus was too politically savvy to criticize the Donald Rumsfeld “light footprint” strategy, so he deflected the question, answering it a different way. “I wish we had more Foreign Service officers, aid professionals and other kinds of non-military specialists,” he said. The heart of the problem the United States was facing in Iraq, he noted presciently, was a deep sectarian divide between Shiite and Sunni, Arab and Kurd. “We need help on those issues. Otherwise, we’re relying on 22-year-old sergeants to handle them. Now, they are great kids, but they really don’t know the history, the language, the politics.”

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Ike’s wise reminder is forgotten by Donald Trump

I thought of that exchange when reading reports that President Trump is proposing a $54 billion increase for the Defense Department, which would be offset by large cuts in the State Department, foreign aid and other civilian agencies. Trump says he wants to do this so that “nobody will dare question our military might again.” But no one does. The U.S. military remains in a league of its own. The U.S. defense budget in 2015 was nine times the size of Russia’s and three times that of China’s.

None of the difficulties the United States has faced over the past 25 years has been in any way because its military was too small or weak. As then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted in a 2007 lecture, “One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win.” To achieve “long-term success,” he explained, requires “economic development, institution-building . . . [and] good governance.” Therefore, he called for “a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security,” including “diplomacy” and “foreign assistance.”

4 thoughts on “Throwing more money at the military won’t make it stronger

  1. Trump is a property developer, not a gardener.

    If a boulder is in the way, a property developer blasts it away. A gardener makes the boulder a beautifying feature.

  2. Trump has decided to increase military expenditure dramatically. The Department of Defense (DOD) has been investing substantial resources in research and development to offset China’s and Russia’s advances in military technologies. This effort to maintain American military superiority in the world is known in the Pentagon as the “third offset strategy.” However, there is an inherent danger in overemphasizing the development of superior military technology as a means to guarantee military superiority in the long term.

    As the economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron argued in a 1951 essay on economic backwardness, there is a “penalty for taking the lead.” Gerschenkron, analyzing the rapid economic ascent of Germany in the 19th century and how quickly it superseded Great Britain as Europe’s economic powerhouse, noted that there is a relative advantage in backwardness. Backward countries, he maintained, can learn from the mistakes of more advanced nations and implement innovations cheaper, faster, and in a more efficient and systematic manner.

    Applying Gerschenkron’s concept of backwardness to the Sino-American military competition, it becomes obvious that the United States’ attempt to maintain military superiority via superior technology may perhaps not succeed in the long run. China, by imitating American military technology rather than having to invent technology from scratch, can economize military expenditure and produce new hardware faster and in larger quantities than the United States. While China is still decades behind the United States on many fronts in this competition, Beijing may ultimately not only catch up but potentially could surpass American military capabilities.

    However, at the same time it is important to note that backwardness should be seen as an opportunity rather than an inherent advantage for China, since a backward power can fail to leapfrog, or do so ineffectively, or with inadequate capacity. The military development in recent years shows that China has the capacity and capability. The only question is how soon would the Chinese catch up with the American in this military race.

  3. The Pentagon has recently released its 2015 National Military Strategy, the US blueprint for ruling the world through military force. The determination to unilaterally pursue US interests through extreme violence remains the cornerstone of the newly released strategy. Please read:

    The strategy specifically calls out Iran, Russia and North Korea as aggressive threats to global peace. It also mentions China, but says the Obama administration wants to “support China’s rise and encourage it to become a partner for greater international security,” continuing to thread the line between China the economic ally and China the regional competitor.

    The interesting part is: “None of these nations are believed to be seeking direct military conflict with the United States or our allies. Nevertheless, they each pose serious security concerns.” In other words, none of these countries wants to fight the United States, but the United States wants to fight them.

    Unlike Russia or China which have a plan for an integrated EU-Asia free trade zone (OBOR) that will increase employment, improve vital infrastructure, and raise living standards, the US sees only death and destruction ahead. The Pentagon’s vision of the future is war, war, and more war. The United States intends to maintain its tenuous grip on global power by maximizing the use of its greatest asset; its military.

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