April 24, 2012
A year ago, a group of superior US officers with Republican credentials were involved in a geopolitical brainstorming session at the National Defense University in Washington. The group was asked to provide answers regarding the US’ place in the world and to outline a ten-year national security plan. Edward Luce was invited to attend and he subsequently summarised the group’s findings in a book, Time to Start Thinking, America in the Age of Descent, published in 2012.
The sixteen officers arrived at the conclusion that the biggest threat to US national security was not represented by the country’s external enemies, but by America’s decaying economy, infrastructure, education and health systems, and by its ballooning public debt. In their assessment, it will be next to impossible to keep the US as a world hegemon after 2020 : eventually, America could continue to provide the public goods associated with international law and order only if it were to share domination of the world with equally powerful nations, like China or super-states such as the EU.
The brainstorming group advocated reducing by 100,000 soldiers the numbers of the military, as well as cutting US military spending by 20 percent. It also proposed to close down military bases from Germany, South Korea and elsewhere, and to allow China to rule over Taiwan in exchange for accepting the reunification of South and North Korea.
The amount of money thus saved from military spending should be used to improve America’s infrastructure and to greatly expand foreign aid programmes, which currently stand at only one percent of every $100 the US spends every year.
Their assessment of the dire situation of the US economy was reinforced by Admiral Mike Mullen, who said that, as a country
“we are borrowing money from China to build weapons to face down China, which is clearly a broken strategy”.
The conclusions of the brainstorming session are echoed in the article “A National Strategic Narrative”, by Captain Wayne Porter and Colonel Mark Mykleby writing under the pseudonym “Mr Y”, in Foreign Policy magazine. The two officers claim, quite rightly, that the US should – in order to practise “smart power” abroad – practise “smart growth” at home first.
As anyone would agree, the ranks of the US military do not seem to conform to the cliché of a military caste bent on world domination. If anything, the two examples above go to show that the enlisted men and women of the United States army are perhaps more patriotic in their approach to their country’s problems than many Washington politicians up to the highest level. This happens, unfortunately, because the latter all too often fall prey to well-written but deeply flawed articles and studies such as Robert Kagan’s “The Myth of America’s Decline”, that represent the views and ambitions of the neo-conservative political fringe.Florian Pantazi