US Needs to Kick Cold War Habit and End Its Addiction to Militarism
The National Defense Strategy unveiled by Pentagon chief James Mattis illustrates once again the revanchist Cold War mindset dominating Washington which is the inevitable expression of the US’ destructive addiction to militarism.
More than a quarter century after the official end of the Cold War between the US and the former Soviet Union, Washington has the cheek to label both Russia and China as “revisionist powers.”
Policy and discourse dominating Washington shows it is the US that is the biggest “revisionist power,” trying to revive ideological tensions and antagonism with Russia and China.
Defense Secretary Mattis declared last week that fighting non-state terrorism was no longer the primary focus of US national security. He said the “great power competition” with Russia and China was the new priority.
Mattis’ National Defense Strategy echoed themes contained in the National Security Strategy document published in December, which was signed off by President Trump. The NSS also cast Russia and China as “rivals” and existential threats to America’s influence in the world.
As with the NSS paper, Moscow and Beijing condemned the latest Pentagon document as being stuck in Cold War thinking and dealing with foreign relations in an “imperialistic” manner. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it was regrettable that Washington, “instead of conducting normal dialogue is trying to prove its leadership using such confrontational concepts and strategies.”
The blatant reality is that the Pentagon is making a pitch for ever-more federal spending on America’s already gargantuan militarized economy. Listening to James Mattis, one might think that the US military is being starved of investment, thus threatening national security.
This is after the US government voted last year to increase annual military spending by $50 billion to a record high of $700 billion. Not even during the Cold War was the US military budget anywhere near the current outlay, according to comparative data cited by respected US economist David Stockman.
Simply put, in order to justify this stupendous largesse with American tax dollars, the Pentagon is compelled, out of logical necessity, to constantly portray the world as a threatening place.
“We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order – creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory,” states the National Defense Strategy.
Ironically, as Russian military intervention in Syria helped to destroy a Western-backed terrorist mercenary army, the US is now shifting its rationale for military spending from terrorism to Russia.
It is well documented that the US economy is largely dependent on the military-industrial complex. Over half of the nation’s annual discretionary budget is consumed by federal spending on military. This is, in effect, a massive taxpayer subsidized economy driven by militarism. Yet, American capitalism claims to be the paragon of “free enterprise” and “private ownership.”
Since the end of the Second World War, the characteristic feature of the US economy is militarism and the military-industrial complex. Arguably, without this annual massive injection of public money, so-called “American capitalism” would collapse.
That’s why it is vital for US economic survival, under its prevailing economic system, that the world is constantly presented to the American taxpayers as a threat to national security. It’s the equivalent of telling children scary bedtime stories.
US-based political analyst Randy Martin says America’s war-driven economy is not only a threat to world security from the inevitable antagonisms it fosters, but also this economy is threatening the collapse of American society from exorbitant waste of resources.
It is reliably calculated that the US has racked up its national debt by some $6 trillion from wars and military spending over the past 17 years alone. That “war debt” represents nearly one-third of the total US national debt of $19 trillion – making the United States the biggest debtor nation in the world.
In comments for this column, Martin says: “The US needs to undergo its own version of Perestroika, when the Soviet Union realized during the late 1980s that its economic system was unsustainable.”
Martin adds: “The US has been addicted to economic militarism for decades. It is destroying our economy and endangering global security by continually seeking out wars and enemies. The bitter irony is that Pentagon chief James Mattis claims to be keeping the homeland safe when in fact it is the Pentagon which poses the greatest threat to American society, not fictitious enemies like Russia and China.”
Another integral factor too is that disproportionate US economic exploitation of the planet’s resources is dependent on maintaining military superiority.
With only five percent of the world’s population, the US consumes nearly 25 percent of the total fossil fuel supply, according to the WorldWatch Institute. That disproportionate American consumption of resources is a consequence of its consumer lifestyle.
On that point, Mattis was perhaps more candid than he intended when he stated in the National Defense Strategy document: “The costs of not implementing this strategy are clear. Failure to meet our defense objectives will result in decreasing US global influence, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, and reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living.”
It is a pretty shocking admission by Mattis. He’s saying that America’s “standard of living” is purchased through a strategy of military dominance over the rest of the world. He also discloses, albeit unintentionally, that what is really bothering US state planners is their diminishing power to act unilaterally as before, owing in part to the growing power of Russia, China, and others in a multipolar world.
Mattis laments: “For decades the United States has enjoyed uncontested or dominant superiority in every operating domain. We could generally deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted. Today, every domain is contested—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.”
Analyst Randy Martin says that the ideological discourse coming out of Washington is “akin to the ranting of paranoid delusion.”
“In order to justify its chronic militaristic addiction, Washington is compelled to fantasize about a world of enemies and nemesis,” he says. “The United States’ economic dependence on militarism is like a drug addiction. It craves for its annual budgetary fix and in doing so creates a world of demons.”
Let’s test that diagnosis against another quote from the Pentagon’s strategy document. It states: “In competition short of armed conflict, revisionist powers and rogue regimes are using corruption, predatory economic practices, propaganda, political subversion, proxies, and the threat or use of military force to change facts on the ground.”
Alluding to Russia’s legitimate energy trade with Europe, the Pentagon asserts: “Some are particularly adept at exploiting their economic relationships with many of our security partners.”
So, yes indeed, from ‘Russiagate’ to criminalizing Russia’s international commercial trade, the Pentagon, US media, and assorted think-tanks are all showing signs of Cold War addiction and paranoid delusion.
The US needs to kick the habit before it destroys itself and the world.
By Finian Cunningham