The US strategic nightmare: “We’ve met the enemy and he is us…”

9:35 24.09.2023 •

One of these days, the “Forever war” between Russia and Ukraine will be over, and the serious challenge of dealing with the strategic triangularity of the United States, Russia, and China (map) will begin, predicts Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University and a former CIA analyst.

The Biden administration has complicated this task by pursuing a strategy of “dual containment,” believing that the United States can “contain” both Russia and China. Unlike the Soviet Union of the Cold War era, China cannot be “contained.” It is a global economic and political power as well as a formidable military power in the Indo-Pacific region.

The various pipe dreams of the United States are major obstacles to dealing rationally with the strategic triangle. The U.S. belief in huge defense budgets; modernization of strategic forces; military bases and facilities the world over; and the illusion of an anti-missile shield have overwhelmed the task of compromise and negotiation that is essential. Inter-service rivalries and military-industrial triumphs represent additional obstacles.

The mainstream media, particularly the New York Times and the Washington Post provide ample cheerleading for the weapons industry. Senator Bernie Sanders’ efforts to reduce defense spending this year engendered little debate and failed by a vote of 88-11.

As Walt Kelly’s Pogo said: “We’ve met the enemy and he is us.”

The United States is primarily responsible for the demise of arms control and disarmament. President George W. Bush’s abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 guaranteed another strategic arms race, which Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev predicted at the time. And Donald Trump’s abrogation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2018 opened the door to new tactical nuclear forces in Europe.

Meanwhile, the United States justified regional missile defenses, such as the one in Romania and Poland, to protect against the nuclear plans of “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea. The fact that the United States has no diplomatic relations with Tehran or Pyongyang adds to the danger.

The military-industrial community’s emphasis on expensive military platforms guarantees annual increases in the defense budget, which finds an unusual area of genuine bipartisan agreement in our polarized Congress.

The F-35 joint strike fighter, which gave even the late Senator John McCain “sticker shock,” has been burdened with cost overruns, military mismanagement, and little political scrutiny.

The Navy is obsessed with its aircraft carriers, but Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles have ensured that U.S. carriers would have to deploy out of range of  China’s missiles. The Marines receive great budgetary support, although they have conducted one amphibious landing since the end of World War II, and that was in Korea more than 70 years ago.

Meanwhile, the much-ballyhooed Ukrainian counter-offensive has been unimpressive, and the talk of a “forever war” has begun to resonate. A cursory reading of Clausewitz, Giap, Mao, or Trotsky indicates that Ukraine’s offensive prowess would be no match for Russia’s defenses.

The United States is using the “dual threats” of Russia and China to advance nuclear modernization, which serves no military purpose. The military-industrial complex has taken advantage of the absence of an arms control lobby to expand a nuclear triad with missiles on land, sea, and strategic bombers.

One of the best defense secrets of the post-WWII era has been the high cost of producing and maintaining nuclear weapons, between $5-6 trillion, which represents one-fourth of overall defense spending since 1945. Another $1 trillion will be needed to modernize the nuclear triad over the next decade.

The fact that nuclear weapons have no military utility didn’t stop the United States from building more than 70,000 nuclear weapons since the end of WWII.  

If the current level of 1550 American and Russian warheads is not sufficient for deterrence, moreover, then what level of nuclear sufficiency could assure deterrence.

We need to end our Cold War thinking, and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. Similarly, we must address our overseas military bases, which number around 700.

The “forever war” continues; the strategic arms race becomes more intense; the expansion of NATO permanently threatens Russia’s western border; and there is no substantive U.S. diplomatic dialogue with Moscow or Beijing, Melvin A. Goodman stresses.

…Meanwhile, military spending in NATO continues to grow - the military-industrial complex is profiting from the Ukrainian war and is doing great.

"Prices for equipment and ammunition are shooting up. Right now, we are paying more and more for exactly the same," Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO's military committee, said after a meeting of the alliance's chiefs of defence in Oslo. "That means that we cannot make sure that the increased defence spending actually leads to more security."

NATO has been pressing for a boost in defence production to satisfy a demand for weapons and equipment that has soared since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as allies not only rush supplies to Kyiv but also build up their own inventories.

One major concern has been a shortage of 155mm artillery rounds, with Kyiv firing up to 10,000 of these shells per day.

In February, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Kyiv was burning through shells much faster than the West could produce them.

"Long term stability needs to prevail over short term profits. As we have seen in Ukraine, war is a whole of society event," he said, adding such investment was in the private sector's strategic interest as well. 40 percent of the (Ukrainian) economy evaporated in the first days of the war, that was private money to a large extent, that money is gone," he noted.


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