Democrats & Liberals Archives

Using Our Power Abroad Effectively

The interesting facts of life are always hard won. We are paying for a military force that is thirty years behind, in its use of commonly available technology which can be used to replace foreign bases. Our military presence in the world is based on military doctrines as old as the concept of Empire. We can now project effective force anywhere in the world within twenty four hours without maintaining all our current bases. These are bases where our military interacts with civilian populations that are often hostile. Hostility in civilian populations does seem to grow over time with exposure to our military personnel. It always has when any Empire’s warriors trod on the same ground as their subjects in their vassal states.

It is truly time to cut our military personnel and base numbers abroad. Efficiency gains currently working to revolutionize industry in this nation must be applied to our military. The use of modern technology will allow us to use force, in the rare cases that it is called for, without many of these bases being maintained. If we reduce our presence abroad adequately we should be able to cut our force requirements by at least one third within the next ten years. Even with those cuts we could still support two wars on fronts as diverse as Asia and the European theatre. Thus those who see threats from France’s Imperial pretensions and North Korea’s nuclear threat could both be satisfied.

This program will not be popular with either the military industrial complex or their supporters in our government. We have great challenges to our security in regard to our dependence on oil and our coming dependence on natural gas from overseas. Far greater than are presented in any other area of our nation’s posture abroad. These particular strategically unacceptable energy imports are also decimating our economy. The continued use of strategically significant imported resources like oil and gas are also devastating our capacity to maintain our military effectiveness in the world. Their replacement in our economy and military technology is essential and will take time and effort and money. Our dependence on foreign supplies of fuel would be particularly significant in the event of an outbreak of a major war like WWII. This is still a real possibility in this world we live in today.

The efficiency gains created by reducing our military presence overseas could be far greater. Particularly if we more frequently used our advanced weapons together with available indigenous forces to carry out necessary military actions, as we did in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan model was flawed mostly by failing to understand what we were supporting as a new regime. What we thought we were supporting in Kabul and particularly elsewhere in that war torn nation looked a lot better than it turned out to be in real life. Better intelligence could solve that problem. Using a few people who really understand the culture of the nation we are invading would be likely to result in more intelligent results..

If we had backed the Shiite revolt in Iraq at the end of the first Gulf War, using this doctrine, we could have eliminated the mess that we are still cleaning up by using our own troops. This change in policy might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives lost to our sanctions. Those sanctions, which were enforced by our military’s presence in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, kept Saddam from building WMD. We would not have needed our troops to enforce peace if we had supported the Shiites. It was our military presence in Saudi Arabia, made necessary by Saddam’s presence in Iraq, which Osama Bin Laden used in recruiting and supporting his troops in their attacks on us. We would have won a lot from resolution of the problem Saddam presented by supporting the Shiites. Acceptance of the Shiite majority’s claim to a legitimate vote in any Democracy developed in Iraq is still inevitable. A friendly rather than neutral to unfriendly Shiite majority could help a lot in governing that disturbed country.

The first and most important new policy our Democratic Candidates should use to restructure our military, when one of them is elected President, is one that requires a reduction in foreign bases. Let us take advantage of our transportation and delivery systems that give us such an edge over any opponents visible in the world today. Encircling Russia with bases seems irrational, after the fall of their empire. But we are apparently on that course today. It is certainly futile when their military power still depends on weapons systems that can leap over those bases to attack us here at home. Encircling China with bases seems impossible without seriously harming our economy. Using our economic force to bind both nations to our interests is well on its way to success. Why project Military force where we can hardly use it safely. We would be hard pressed to find a circumstance where we could use our military in regard to China without disastrously interrupting the flow of goods around the world. Why should we maintain bases dedicated to that unacceptable use of force?

The second doctrine Democrats should develop is one that calls for the use of allied troops to supplant or replace our troops whenever action is actually called for abroad. The case for preemptive war is being forwarded by our Neocons and some of their followers in our intelligence establishment. They have not adequately addressed the need for alliances that will fully support such a dangerous doctrine in today’s world. Their case for preemptive attacks seems weak right now with the flap over the WMD but it may prove essential in a confrontation that develops in the future. There is no doubt that proliferation of deadly weapons systems that can be used to destroy civilian populations must be stopped when and where it can. The clear lesson that we should draw from two wars with Iraq is; preemptive war should only be used with the agreement of the full international community that an imminent threat of dangerous proliferation exists.

The third idea that I propose is the use of an economic model, to evaluate who benefits economically from our use of force in the world. We should also evaluate what the beneficiaries are paying for that use, in taxes. Such a model is certainly not beyond the capacity of Economists; who are capable of defining costs and benefits quite accurately when they are not driven by politics. Could we not spare one, one thousandth of the cost of our military to define who in this nation benefits most from its uses? That would amount to four hundred million dollars a year used to study this issue. It would certainly prove to be a bargain, if it helped us better define what actions to take using our military. A side benefit could be to define who in this nation actually pays those costs. God bless and keep you all safe in these times of our dependence on our military, to save us from people who hate us because we have such a powerful military.

Posted by Henri Reynard at February 4, 2004 10:33 AM