It seems to me….
The U.S., like all other countries, claims to desire international amity. But good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace; it never can be ensured only through military strength.
None of the adversaries the U.S. has faced over the past 50 years resulted from our being too small or weak militarily. Military strength might be sufficient to win a battle, can frequently win a war, but never can also win the peace. Victory requires foreign service officers, aid professionals, and other kinds of non-military specialists familiar with the regional history, language, and politics. Success requires economic development, institution-building, and good governance. The quick simple solution is never able to accomplish the desired results.
Additionally, technologies continue to evolve in ways that are developing at an incredible rate complicating our ability to remain current. The world faces entirely new risks not encountered in even the recent past: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern methods of psychological and cyberwarfare which constitute the primary methods of modern and future conflict.
Psychological warfare involves the planned use of propaganda, threats, and other psychological techniques to mislead, intimidate, demoralize, or otherwise influence the thinking, opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of opponents or opposition groups. Operations can be strategic, operational, and/or tactical. Strategic support includes informational activities conducted by agencies outside of the military arena utilizing various available assets. Operational support is conducted during both peacetime and military operations to promote the effectiveness of campaigns and strategies. Tactical support is conducted across the entire range of operational activities against targeted opposition.
Cyberwarfare utilizes actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation or non-state actors; e.g., terrorist groups, companies, political or ideological extremist groups, hacktivists, and transnational criminal organizations; to damage or disrupt their computers or information networks through any means such as computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks. It encompasses any form of virtual conflict initiated as a politically motivated attack on an enemy’s computer and information systems. It typically is waged via the Internet with the intent of disabling financial and organizational systems by stealing or altering classified data to undermine networks, websites, and services possibly utilizing direct sabotage of military and financial computer systems at risk and disrupting normal operations and equipment, such as communications, fuel, power, and transportation infrastructures. It also can utilize illegal exploitation methods of espionage and/or security breaches to disable networks, software, computers, or the Internet to steal or acquire classified information from rival institutions or individuals for military, political, or financial gain.
If governments, utilities, and corporations seriously wish to counter cyberattacks, they must make a paradigm shift recognizing that warfare is no longer a question of weaponry but a matter of strategy. Only a sustainable, strategic approach, with intelligence at its core, can prevail; the alternative is an expensive, never-ending and ultimately futile battle against those intent on causing harm.
U.S. foreign policy continues to primarily be an extension of and dependent upon military strength; the Department of State has become subordinate to the Department of Defense. The generals determining our military investment and allocations remain oriented to past wars rather than embracing the developing opportunities available to them. This has led to our current military financial and resource over-expenditure dilemmas necessitating reevaluation of our foreign policy priorities.
U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, including additional spending on Homeland Security and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, cost our nation more than $4.3 trillion through the end of 2017. Over the past three decades the U.S. government spent $14.2 trillion fighting 13 wars. The Pentagon is now the world’s largest bureaucracy, running a cradle-to-grave quasi-socialist system of employment, housing, healthcare, and pensions for its 3 million “employees”. That money could have been more advantageously invested building infrastructure and creating jobs.
Britain’s decline as a superpower resulted largely from political and military blunders which led to economic over-extension (primarily as a result of the Boer War and World War I) – a path similar to what the U.S. now also appears to also be following.
We have been adequately cautioned. Our very first President, George Washington, stated, “Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty”. Likewise, General Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”. We have been oversold on the necessity of constant increases in defense expenditures. There must be a limit and it has been exceeded.
In a recent poll, 35 percent of respondents said the U.S. should increase spending on national defense, 24 percent said it should be cut back, and 40 percent said it should be kept about the same as today. In the last presidential election, majorities of Donald Trump supporters (66 percent) wanted to further boost U.S. defense spending while Bernie Sanders supporters were far more likely than those who supported Hillary Clinton to favor U.S. defense spending reductions (43 percent vs. 25 percent).
The U.S. currently spends more on its military than the next eight largest spending nations combined – and the latest national budget proposal would increase that amount even further. There are various locations throughout the world where it no longer is necessary, or even in our best interests, to maintain a military presence. Why do we still have a military presence in Germany to prevent Russia from invading through the Fulda Gap?
Congress agreed to increase the FY-2018 defense budget to $700 billion, an increase of $108 billion, or 18 percent, above the FY-2017 budget, and the FY-2019 budget to $716 billion. If approved, the defense budget will have grown by $133 billion, or 23 percent just since Trump took office. The 2019 budget would be about $300 billion larger than its predecessor and comes on top of a $1.5 trillion tax cut that will decrease government revenues. This would be one of the largest defense budgets in modern U.S. history despite concerns from most economists and lawmakers about the rapidly rising federal deficit. Rather than concerns over any international trade deficit, the national debt has become one of the most significant threats to our national security. Rather than direct increases in military spending, increases in spending on the civilian instruments of national security including diplomacy and foreign assistance would better serve our country’s interests.
Increases in defense spending are accompanied by proposed reductions in mandated spending on programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a number of domestic and social programs, including expenditures on additional healthcare, child care, and other key domestic spending priorities – even though the U.S. has about the worst health and child poverty rates in the developed world. These are some of the largest cuts to social programs and the safety net to be proposed by a President in decades.
U.S. national security should not depend entirely upon military strength. While no one wants to turn our nation into “Fortress America”, there are instances where increased emphasis is required such as for port and border security along with improved protection for other aspects of domestic security including nuclear plants, energy and transportation infrastructure, and health protection.
E.g., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for the security of 170 ports of entry on the northern and southern U.S. borders but unmanned and unmonitored areas between these ports of entry remain vulnerable to security exploitation. Construction of a border wall would prove ineffectual but additional resources including personnel and electronic monitoring are warranted. The U.S. maritime system, consisting of over 300 sea and river ports with more than 3,700 cargo and passenger terminals, is extremely vulnerable to terrorist attack. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, using electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects, should be required on all containers and enclosed items to enable automated inspection and content verification.
The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the U.S., including all the bureaus and offices as proclaimed in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the Department of State, are “to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community”. This noble sentiment has become subordinate to the goal of military intimidation. The best way to avoid conflict is by creating good will and alleviating conditions leading to direct confrontation; not through overt armed coercion.
Alliances where costs are shared with allies remain one of our best security investments . Avoidance of battle is significantly less costly than actual conflict. We have benefitted from one of the longest periods without major conflict in modern history extending from the end of World War II until present. While the U.S. has been the primary source of funding for some of the defensive alliances of which we are a member, we also have the highest per capita GDP.
The U.S. is a founding member of NATO, an alliance of 28 North American and European nations formed to defend Western Europe against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Under the Article 5 of the NATO charter, member countries are compelled to defend any NATO state that is attacked by a foreign power. The U.S. was the first (and so far only) country to invoke the mutual defense provisions of the alliance in response to the September 11 attacks. The U.S. also has mutual military defense treaties with: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, with other states formerly in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and most countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean through the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.
Trump’s constant criticism of our allies demonstrates his apparently unfamiliar with defensive alliance agreements. Much has been made of the NATO alliance’s goal that member nations spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense due to Trump’s recurrent contention that members are shirking their commitments. Reality is that in 2014, while President Obama held the office, NATO members agreed to stop cutting their military budgets and work towards investing 2 percent of their GDP towards defense spending. They have until 2024 to achieve that objective.
Trump claims the U.S. has been taken advantage of for years and that NATO allies should finally pay up. Only five countries, including the U.S., have so far reached their 2 percent goal. According to recent figures from NATO, the U.S. commitment is the highest with 3.5 percent of GDP, followed by Greece with 2.27 percent, Estonia with 2.14 percent, and the United Kingdom with 2.1 percent. Latvia also meets the 2 percent goal, and Poland, Lithuania, and Romania are expected to by year’s end. None of the alliance’s other members have yet met that target. Trump doesn’t like that the U.S. is putting up so much cash and has proposed that countries should increase their contribution to 4 percent.
NATO defines defense expenditure as payments by a government to meet the needs of its own armed forces, those of its allies, or the alliance – not a payment of funds to NATO itself. The cash would be used for things like intelligence, surveillance, and ballistic missile defense. Trump does not understand that the 2 percent goal is just a voluntary guideline that goes towards individual defense, not a joint NATO bank account. He also mistakenly claimed some NATO allies owe the U.S. money – no one owes the U.S. anything.
That’s what I think, what about you?
 Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University best known for his works of science fiction and popular science books.
 The Foundation Trilogy is an epic science fiction series written by Isaac Asimov with the premise that a mathematician, Hari Seldon, has developed a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory that using the law of mass action can predict the future.
 Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.