David Stockman, former Director Office of Management and Budget, on Middle East and Russian History & Most Recent Syrian “Gas Attack”

America First—R.I.P.

April 16, 2018

When the Cold War officially ended in 1991, Washington could have pivoted back to the pre-1914 status quo ante. That is, to a national security policy of America First because there was literally no significant military threat left on the planet.

Post-Soviet Russia was an economic basket case that couldn’t even meet its military payroll and was melting down and selling the Red Army’s tanks and artillery for scrap. China was just emerging from the Great Helmsman’s economic, political and cultural depredations and had embraced Deng Xiaoping proclamation that “to get rich is glorious”.

The implications of the Red Army’s fiscal demise and China’s electing the path of export mercantilism and Red Capitalism were profound.

Russia couldn’t invade the American homeland in a million years and China chose the route of flooding America with shoes, sheets, shirts, toys and electronics. So doing, it made the rule of the communist elites in Beijing dependent upon keeping the custom of 4,000 Wal-Marts in America, not bombing them out of existence.

In a word, god’s original gift to America—the great moats of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans—had again become the essence of its national security.

After 1991, therefore, there was no nation on the planet that had the remotest capability to mount a conventional military assault on the U.S. homeland; or that would not have bankrupted itself attempting to create the requisite air and sea-based power projection capabilities—a resource drain that would be vastly larger than even the $700 billion the US currently spends on its global armada.

Indeed, in the post-cold war world the only thing the US needed was a modest conventional capacity to defend the shorelines and airspace against any possible rogue assault and a reliable nuclear deterrent against any state foolish enough to attempt nuclear blackmail.

Needless to say, those capacities had already been bought and paid for during the cold war. The triad of  minutemen ICBMs, Trident SLBMs (submarines launched nuclear missiles) and long-range stealth bombers cost only a few ten billions annually for operations and maintenance and were more than adequate for the task of deterrence.

Likewise, conventional defense of the U.S. shoreline and airspace against rogues would not require a fraction of today’s 1.3 million active uniformed force—to say nothing of the 800,000 additional reserves and national guard forces and  the 765,000 DOD civilians on top of that. Rather than funding 2.9 million personnel, the whole job of national security under a homeland-based America First concept could be done with less than 500,000 military and civilian payrollers.

In fact, much of the 475,000 US army could be eliminated and most of the Navy’s carrier strike groups and power projection capabilities could be mothballed. So, too, the air force’s homeland defense missions could be accomplished for well less than $50 billion per annum compared to the current $145 billion.

Overall, the constant dollar defense budget (2017$) was $610 billion in 1989 when the cold war ended and the Soviet Union disappeared from the face of the earth. Had Washington pivoted to an America First national security policy at the time, defense spending could have been downsized to perhaps $250 billion per year.

Instead, the Imperial City went in an opposite direction and ended up embracing a de facto policy of Empire First. The latter will cost $700 billion during the current year and is heading for $900 billion annually a few years down the road.

In a word, Empire First easily consumes one-half trillion dollars more in annual budgetary resources than would America First. And that giant barrel of weapons contracts, consulting and support jobs, lobbying booty and Congressional pork explains everything you need to know about why the Swamp is so deep and intractable.

Obviously, it’s also why Imperial Washington has appointed itself global policeman. Functioning as the gendarme of the planet is the only possible justification for the extra $500 billion per year cost of Empire First.

For example, why does the US still deploy 90,000 US forces and their dependents in Japan and Okinawa and 30,000 in South Korea?

These two counties have a combined GDP of $7 trillion—or 235X more than North Korea and they are light-years ahead of the latter in technology and military capability. Also, they don’t go around the world engaging in regime change, thereby spooking fear on the north side of the DMZ.

Accordingly, Japan and South Korea could more than provide for their own national security in a manner they see fit without any help whatsoever from Imperial Washington. That’s especially the case because North Korea would seek a rapprochement and economic help, and their relationship with China is based on business, not military confrontation.

Indeed, sixty-five years after the unnecessary war in Korea ended, there is only one reason why the Kim family is still in power in Pyongyang and why the Fat Boy now noisily brandishes his incipient nuclear weapons and missiles. To wit, it’s because the Empire still occupies the Korean peninsula and surrounds its waters with more lethal firepower than was brought to bear against the industrial might of Nazi Germany during the whole of WWII.

And speaking of Germany, why is it that its modest $60 billion defense budget amounts to only 1.5% of GDP if Russia—-with a defense budget of $46 billion—is some kind of expansionist military threat?

The Germans clearly don’t believe it and see Russia as a vital market for exports and as a source of supply for natural gas, other natural resources and food stuffs. Besides, with a GDP of $4 trillion or nearly 3X Russia’s $1.6 trillion GDP, Germany could more than handle its own defenses if Russia should ever become foolish enough to threaten it.

From there you get to the even more preposterous case for the Empire’s NATO outposts in eastern Europe. The history books are absolutely clear that in 1989 George H. W. Bush promised Gorbachev that NATO would not be expanded by a “single inch” in return for his acquiescence to German unification.

At the time, NATO had 16 member nations bound by the Article 5 obligation of mutual defense, but when the Soviet Union and the Red Army perished, there was nothing left to defend against. NATO should have declared “mission accomplished” and dissolved itself.

Instead,

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