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.