By Frank Li via EconintersectWith President Obama’s speech on September 10, 2014, the U.S. is again at a new war (White House: Yes, The U.S Is ‘At War’ With ISIS)!
President Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Unfortunately for America, we will again fail by attrition, just like in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan! For more, read: Against Attrition Warfare.
I am highly anti-war, as I believe most Americans are. More bluntly, war is such a big deal in America today that I do not think the GOP can win the American Presidency again without denouncing Democratic Imperialism first!
I have already published several articles on the related subjects. This post attempts to pull them all together, mostly via references, with some new content.
1. The U.S. Constitution
Here is the War Powers Clause from the United States Constitution:
[The Congress shall have Power...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Only five wars have been declared by Congress under their constitutional power to do so: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
2. America: yesterday
In the last two declared wars (i.e. WWI and WWII), the U.S. did almost everything right. Most importantly, the U.S. used the war as a means to an end, not an end in itself. For example, at the end of WWII, the U.S. decided to spare Japan’s Emperor Hirohito from prosecution as a war criminal, which proved to be extremely wise. For more, read: Saddam Hussein vs. Emperor Hirohito.
3. America: today
After WWII, the U.S. developed a culture of war, despite the explicit warning by President Eisenhower. Here are two simple observations:
- After WWII, the U.S. has involved itself in more wars than any other country, and lost most of them, by attrition. For more, read: Against Attrition Warfare.
- Our predilection for war has been bankrupting America not only economically, but also morally!
4. Why such a huge difference between yesterday and today?
It’s American democracy, stupid! More specifically, getting re-elected ad nauseam! Our politicians, including the American Presidents, have done anything and everything to get re-elected, including the use of war. Three examples:
- President George W. Bush recklessly launched the Iraq War on March 20, 2003, at least partially, for the sake of his own re-election.
- President Obama chose to escalate the war in Afghanistan in 2009, at least partially, for the sake of his own re-election. For more, read:
- President Obama irresponsibly pulled the U.S. troops out of Iraq too soon, fulfilling a campaign promise, instead of acting like a real American President! Note that America has a responsibility for Iraq, because we overthrew Saddam’s stable government without replacing it with a reasonably stable one!
Worse yet, these two Commander-in-Chiefs do not seem to be capable of thinking strategically! Two examples:
- President George W. Bush delegated many critical decisions to his lieutenants.
- President Obama had no strategy for ISIS two weeks ago! For more, read:Obama on ISIS: ‘We don’t have a strategy, yet”.
Worst still, neither President seems to be aware of this adage: “War is too important to be left to the generals” (per Georges Clemenceau)! Any doubt? Two examples:
- For President Obama, without a strategy two weeks ago, he just let the Pentagon work it out over the past one week or so and then stamped it.
From FDR and Harry Truman to George W. Bush and Barack Obama, times have indeed changed for America, for the worse, much worse (Saddam Hussein vs. Emperor Hirohito)!
Worst of all, the war-shy President Obama now talks more and more like the war-monger President Bush!
All these have simply re-enforced one point: our political system is so bad that it turns good politicians into bad ones, bad ones into the worse, and the worse into the worst!
War is hugely expensive, both in lives and in treasure. The public executions of two American journalists were brutal and unjust. But they were collateral war causalities! How can our war strategy possibly be driven by these kinds of collateral war causalities.
Look at the world today, and three big hot spots are obvious. Let’s put some strategic thinking into them:
- Palestine and Israel: A two-state solution is a must, or Israel will lose by attrition!
- ISIS: How can we possibly think of defeating ISIS when we have yet to defeat al Qaeda?
- Ukraine/Russia: Putin is not Hitler (Hillary Clinton says Putin’s actions are like ‘what Hitler did back in the ‘30s’)! Instead, he has proven to be great for Russia! The simple truth is that the West has squeezed Russia too hard after the Cold War, and President Putin has simply been fighting back.
A potential hot spot is the South China Sea. Like Russia, China needs space and must not be pushed too hard! China is a powerhouse the U.S. must learn to live with! Two main reasons:
- China is our biggest creditor! Yes, we owe them money, almost $2 trillion! They could refuse to lend us anymore, or even dump the T-bonds they currently own.
- China has never attempted, nor advocated, resolving an international dispute by force! Very importantly, China is nuclear-armed! Do not force the Chinese President to say: “do not mess with nuclear China”, like what we did with Russia!
Imagine: what would the U.S. do, if China had regular military exercises in the Gulf of Mexico or off the California coast? But that is exactly what the U.S. has been doing to China over the past five decades, at least! With its newfound wealth and power, China will be increasingly resistant to any foreign threat to its sovereignty.
More broadly, the U.S. must stop trying to be the world’s police force anymore! The world, like a family, is bound to have conflicts from time to time. Let the local people work them out, over time! After all, that has been the American way, too. Two examples:
- Do you wish that France would have officially recognized the South at the beginning of the American Civil War, followed by all-out support?
- Should NATO have supported Occupy Wall Street with a military takedown of the “massively unpopular” Obama regime in the name of protecting the 99%?
Very importantly, we are already close to $18 trillion in debt. How much more debt do we need to accumulate before saying “enough is enough”?
6. More strategic thinking
War is a means to an end, not an end in itself! Here is an excerpt from WMDs, Germs, and Economies: Part I:
Worst of all, the U.S. does not seem to realize that its astronomical military spending, since 1970, has actually been hugely counter-productive! Two reasons:
- It did not really matter to either Russia or China, its two biggest competitors! Nothing is more illustrative than this blunt statement by Russian President Putin recently: Don’t mess with nuclear Russia!
- It has been bankrupting America not only economically, but also morally! This should be increasingly clear as the U.S. involves itself in more and more wars around the world, all with the little guys only (e.g. Iraq, Iran, and ISIS), namely, those who are not nuclear-armed with intercontinental missiles! More wars, more debts! In contrast, the BRICS, especially China, have been diligently working on their economies.
Now, look at the image below. Anyone who believes that the recently engineered sanctions by the West against Russia have any real meaning does not understand geology, history, politics, or even humanity! Russia has a big backyard linked to China and these sanctions have significantly strengthened the Russia-China alliance!
A close Russia-China alliance was a bad thing to the West during the Cold War. It will be a nightmare from now on. But that is exactly what the U.S. foreign policy has been driving over the past decade, at least, with the U.S. military playing a big counter-productive role in geopolitics!
The world has never been dominated by a single country, nor will it ever be! What complicates the situation today is the fact that there are enough nuclear weapons out there to blow up the earth, several times over!
More pointedly, all the military spending and exercises by the U.S. over the past four decades have not changed one single fact: both Russia and China can destroy the U.S. instantly, and vice versa! So do not push one another too hard, or it will back fire!
Finally, here is an old, but terrifying, story: Evangelicalism Is the Official Religion of the Air Force Academy. Here is a recent update: Atheist must swear to God – or leave US Air Force. Is U.S. Air Force now a fighting force for Christianity?
Peace, not war!
Ronald Reagan was right in his strategy of “peace through strength”. But the most important strength is the strength of a robust economy. Without it, the U.S. military strength is transient at best, doomed inevitably, just like the former Soviets - It was the bad economy, not anything military, that brought down the once mighty Soviet Union, as well as the Roman Empire for that matter!
America’s economy is being bankrupted, thanks to Democratic Imperialism, as well as Democratic Socialism!
The GOP will not win the American Presidency again without denouncing Democratic Imperialism first!Courtesy Frank Li for Global Economic Intersection (EconMatters author archive here)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.
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