The war in Iraq has been a disaster from almost every perspective worth considering. And the war in Afghanistan, combined with the severity of the Great Recession, have profoundly impacted the minds of most leaders on the need to rethink the role of American military might in the world. I welcome this new direction.
Consider that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has called the national debt the "biggest single threat to national security." (Read that again!) The Pentagon, which is often the last to admit that it should ask for cuts, actually proposed its own cuts several months ago. On April 13, weeks before the death of bin Laden, the president announced his proposal to reduce defense spending. He framed this proposal—cuts as great as $400 billion over ten years—not only as a response to the fiscal crisis but also as part of a "fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities and our role in a changing world." Only the most steadfast hawkish conservatives opposed him. The political consensus seems intent on such military cuts now. And most Americans have no heart for a war around the globe. In fact, I do not think serious “hawks” could win an election on the national stage if they had everything else going for them in the next election. It is a no win position and most know that by now. If a Republican candidate runs on this stance he/she will lose no matter what else is on the table.
Two Christians authors, Andrew Bacevich and Gregory Metzger, recently suggested: “The era of American global hegemony—if such an era ever existed—is ending. Events have demolished expectations, commonly expressed by Democrats and Republicans alike during the interval between the cold war and the war on terror, that U.S. military dominance would enable the U.S. to reign supreme on the global stage. We are entering an age of multipolarity.” I agree!
Greg Metzger, a friend and a regular reader of this blog, has laid out as well as anyone the way that I see the U.S. going forward in the post 9-11 world. He and Andrew Bacevich write, “Washington will find itself obliged to take into account—even to accommodate—the interests of others, especially China, India and the European Union.
The June 28 Christian Century article by Metzger and Bacevich is well worth your reading time.
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A post-American world of the type apparently celebrated here is one in which wars are more likely, not less. If the big cop no longer patrols the neighborhood, people are more likely to act out.
After World War I the US went back to “splendid isolation”, and we all know where that led. After World War II, those lessons led to the creation of an American-dominated NATO that ended the devastating European wars.
The idea that we should acquiesce to the decline of American military reach vis a vis authoritarian China is particularly disturbing. Chinese Christians go from being barely tolerated to being persecuted, and the Chinese government has absolutely no moral limits on their abuse of human rights. That we are told to stand idly by while they come to dominate Asia (India’s economy is 1/6th of China’s, and the European Unions armed forces are, as is being demonstrated in Libya, almost useless at power projection) is unwise from both a moral and prudential perspective.
Nor is China the only issue. Iran is on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon, and North Korea is reported to have successfully miniaturized nukes to fit on long range ballistic missiles. Both countries are working on enhanced electromagnetic pulse weapons (EMP) which could knock out most of the US power grid with one explosion. Such an event would mean a terrible, lingering death to literally millions of Americans (no refrigeration to keep insulin, for example). It only takes one missile that penetrates our defenses.
Do we really wish to lower our defenses and hope for the best? Does this advice comport with Paul’s admonition in Romans about the government’s charge to restrain evil? We’d better think hard about these issues before taking actions which could lead to irreparable consequences.
I do not wildly disagree with much of what you write Frank. I actually do not think what I said suggests what you seem to fear. I want the nation to defend itself but I question “how” we are doing it. This is not laying down as if the world is now safe and secure in peace. This is a strategic issue of what is appropriate in the defense of the nation and what is not. There can and should be real open discussion about all of the issues you site and much more.
Thanks for the response, John. Christians can and will differ on what is appropriate relating to defense strategy. Were we right to go into Iraq? What is the end goal in Afghanistan? And what are we doing in the Libya, other than exposing the impotence of NATO?
I do hope, though, that we can all agree that we live in a fallen, dangerous world where governments have a God-given duty to use force (“the sword”) if necessary, to protect their citizenry from evil (Romans 13). Now that I have grandchildren, I am especially sensitive to policies which may expose them to unnecessary danger.
By the way, I was privileged to attend your lecture at Acton. I STRONGLY agree that genuine Christians need to be more united and less inclined to fratricide! Organizational unity might be impossible — I can’t see Catholics and Protestants agreeing on the priesthood of all believers, for example. But perhaps para-church organizations demonstrating Christ’s love & unity among believers would be doable. I personally would love to worship with my Catholic and Orthodox brothers in Christ. May God bless your efforts!
Thank you Frank. Glad you enjoyed Acton too. I agree, as I noted, that I believe in a necessary and just defense. In a democracy we can and should challenge how and when we use military power and for what purposes. The modern context makes this terribly complex and there is so much we simply do not know. While I support my government I believe we are all required to remain “critical” in a proper way. This may seem like weakness when it is really LOVE.
I agree about ecumenism but believe we can do more than we think. Acton gave us a wonderful model of this last week. I am sure you agree.