The Wrong Debate About Security

Getting U.S. national security right means both first-rate policies and skillful implementation.  It also involves steering clear of lesser threats more related to the 20th than 21st century.

This new Congress already is heading down that path.  Republicans, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives, seem hell bent on setting foreign policy objectives and appropriations more akin to the Cold War than the world today.

Just one example is their myopia during the fight over ratification of the New START treaty in the Senate.  The Republicans held the treaty for ransom over some $85 billion (yes, billion) in largely unneeded and wasteful so-called “nuclear modernization” programs.  This was both a pork-filled gift to those congressional districts and states with weapons labs and production facilities, and to the multiplicity of contractors and military-industrial companies that feed off of these facilities.

Experts have made clear that there is no doubt that our existing weapons are fully effective, and that the current programs of maintenance and renewal are more than adequate to protect American nuclear capacity. The ideological part, which Cold War hawks are the handmaiden of, is also driven by legislators and a massive media blitz bought by the military-industrial complex which President Eisenhower warned us against.

They fallaciously deride the Obama administration for being “soft” on Russia and China, on terrorists, on not supporting our troops…It is like the old dirty days of The McCarthy Era when baseless charges were flung against the Truman and Eisenhower administrations for being “soft” on communism.

We are seeing a renewed push for expensive and large-scale military weaponry and software projects that are unlikely to ever be needed or used in battle.  It is at the expense of programs like U.S. development aid, support for multilateral institutions like the IAEA, UNDP, WFP, UN and NATO, peacekeeping and peacemaking initiatives and other diplomatic “soft power” tools which are far more effective in addressing real U.S. security challenges.  Such efforts focus on the root causes and prevention of conflict rather than belated, expensive military interventions which often exacerbate conflicts and encourage the recruitment of terrorists.

The challenges of the 21st century are the spread of nuclear weapons, poverty and unemployment.  They are corrupt and authoritarian governments.  They include food and water shortages, climate change, rising regional and ethnic conflicts and terrorism especially in marginalized and failing states.  In addition, they entail the growing divide between the very wealthy and those in deep poverty.

The new Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee viciously has attacked the United Nations—a key partner in maintaining global stability, helping to fight poverty, protecting refugee and  human rights, and undertaking peacekeeping and conflict prevention efforts in places where America cannot go it alone.  The world today is too dangerous for such demagoguery.

It is time to stop the polemics and to put U.S. national interests first.

2 thoughts on “The Wrong Debate About Security

  1. Harry Blaney January 26, 2011 / 11:17 PM

    My reaction to Chuck’s post is that we need to find many useful options to deal with China including developing a “package” of trade, currency adjustments, and economic and technological cooperation and not least, a framework of mutual security agreements and understandings that make it clear that conflict between us is in no one’s interest and would result in mutual disaster. Importantly, we need first a common agreement that our two nations have more to gain by cooperation than through conflict.

    We need to start, on the security side, with North Korea and in the multilateral framework on agreement that proliferation of nuclear weapons is dangerous to all. The same goes for Russia. We may get there but it will take hard work.

  2. Chuck Woolery January 19, 2011 / 4:14 AM

    US Senators offering “get tough” legislation to force China to change its currency policy is laughable and pathetic. Laughable because they assume our Constitution and laws can dictate actions of China’s policy makers. (Washington Times, 1-18-11 “Senators seek action on Chinese currency”) Pathetic, because they know the current global political system puts national sovereignty supreme to the needs of any nation, corporation, individual or environment.
    Would these Senators or any US elected official change our currency policy if China or any other nation passes a ‘get tough’ law? These Senator’s rhetoric shows a profound indifference to the concept of independence that our government and laws are based on.
    If any US policy maker is really interested in enacting policies to “preserve the American dream and promote job creation” they must first understand there are only four ways to stop currency manipulation by another nation.
    The first is to create a single global currency. That would require a global agreement by all nations. No cheating. And, like the global eradication of smallpox, if just one nation didn’t participate, success could never be accomplished.
    The second would require a global government with the means to create and enforce global laws. Any national leader implementing policy that hurt another nation would be held accountable. An expansion of the International Criminal Court to deal with crimes against economics would be essential.
    The third would be to eliminate all currencies and go back to a system of bartering.
    The forth is to launch a preemptive attack and change any regime that we believe threatens our economy. But that would also require preparation for any attack another nation might launch if they believe we threaten them. Just like the system we have now.
    World law or global chaos. There is only one sane currency policy our Senators need to consider. In the real world there are only two places to find independence. On paper and in the minds of ineffectual policy makers.

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