Can Warmongering be Reined in by U.S. Society?

By Fernando M. García Bielsa on May 6, 2021

Although the United States continues to be the world’s leading power, for several decades and in various fields the country has been experiencing a growing decline and deterioration of its industrial base, which among other consequences is manifested in greater inequalities and social fractures, including at the heart of the oligarchic power groups.

The goal set at the end of World War II of maintaining broad military superiority to deter its adversaries soon became an end in itself that has conditioned the arms race for more than seventy years, even after the end of the Soviet Union called it into question. Soon, other supposed threats to national security were articulated and inflated and served as the basis for shaping a broadly bipartisan will for military spending. Every year, resources and figures in excess of $1 trillion are allocated for such purposes while the country’s own economic infrastructure crumbles and the public debt outstrips the nation’s massive Gross Domestic Product.

Following this seemingly illogical course really responds to the enormous economic, political, media and cultural weight of the so-called Military Industrial Complex, an extensive network of private entities and corporations which, fed with public funds, is ramified throughout the country, and on which thousands of subcontractors and millions of jobs depend. This is reflected in the willingness of politicians associated with that network to enthusiastically support increased military spending, aggressive foreign policy and war adventures. The arms industry and the intricate world of associated entities, think tanks and media complexes have a major influence on the country’s power centers.

This situation is compounded by the effect on the country’s politics of its imperialist nature, its arrogance and reluctance to accommodate to the geopolitical changes underway, and the economic and financial interests at stake in various corners of the planet. Note also that in the policy-making structures, both in the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council, there has been an increased presence of neoconservative elements, as well as militaristic approaches.

Despite the financial tensions and other harmful consequences, it is difficult to foresee the moment when the United States, for its own interests and the need to maintain its status as a “power”, will readjust and begin to rein in the excesses of its imperial pretensions and the already unsustainable levels of growth of its war machine. It must be deduced, therefore, that the bellicosity and destructive nature of its role in the world will continue in the foreseeable future, and that its own decline will follow its course.

However, and this is what we wish to emphasize, there is a notable increase in the number of voices, even from conservative sectors, arguing for a new framework of priorities in national policy and, without breaking the predominant consensus on foreign policy, calling for a restriction of the traditional and harmful pretensions aimed at maintaining the projection of the war apparatus at the global level, while advocating a significant reduction in the budget for military purposes.

The debate between warmongers and those in favor of curbing global military projection This is reflected in the debate on various national political issues and is one more of the many contradictions between segments of the country’s political elite, in this case between hawks and so-called liberal interventionists, on the one hand, and libertarians and nationalists bent on curbing military impulses and reducing expenditures for these purposes, on the other.

Let us consider some of these approaches, which do not come at all from pacifist or left-wing sectors.

A noted right-wing politician and analyst like Pat Buchanan stands out, although he is one among those who advocate a new approach to foreign policy more attuned to the needs of the nation’s domestic politics. Today, he says, “concerns about domestic issues are predominant in the country – dealing with the pandemic, the invasion of immigrants across the southern border, the rawness of race relations as there hasn’t been in decades – and it’s time for our statesmen to pay attention to our society, and prioritize America First by putting Americans first and letting the world worry about itself.”

Buchanan himself in a previous article entitled “Don’t we have enough enemies? There he criticizes some of the recent actions of the Biden administration and statements by his chancellor Antony Blinken regarding China, North Korea, Iran and Russia where he projects himself as a hawk, and the analyst wonders if it is not time to maneuver to avoid the start of new wars.

In a later article, Buchanan alludes that it is time to reconsider the U.S. commitments in NATO, as well as those existing security treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines or Australia established seventy years ago, which turn out to be obligations left over from the Cold War that should also be reconsidered.

Similar statements are repeated by various analysts and former high-ranking military officers and politicians of mostly Republican affiliation, who also advocate unilateralism and avoid U.S. involvement as part of agreements or situations that commit the United States to participate in foreign conflicts.

Some point out that the country must design a new national strategy that ensures political goals congruent with the country’s fiscal realities and military capabilities. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, a former advisor to the Secretary of Defense, noted that there are too many hot heads in Congress ready to commit the military before an assessment of the concrete interests and costs of such actions is made.

There is also a growing body of academics and policy analysts who echo the early views of Professor Paul Kennedy more than three decades ago, particularly in his seminal work “Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” where he warned of the ominous impact that imperial overstretch was having on the country.

Some point out that the nation is being dragged into new conflicts as the Pentagon suffers from strategic incontinence, while the size and composition of the military forces bear no relation to the needs of protecting Americans. Right-wing think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, also echo such sentiments.

Robert Kelly of the conservative Lowy Institute asserted in 2019 that the country was clearly already tired and exhausted with endless wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kelly saw Trump’s 2016 victory after he repeatedly called them stupid wars as a powerful sign of a shift in public opinion.

Many authoritative voices point out that Washington does not need to continue getting involved in other countries’ conflicts; as it is no longer able to play the role of global “hegemon” when it is beset by severe domestic problems and costly consequences for its own population.

“The New York Times cites a poll last year by the Council of Global Affairs in Chicago, which showed that a majority of Republican voters favor a more nationalistic approach, economic self-reliance and the adoption of a unilateral approach to diplomacy and relations with the world.

Without ignoring the predominance of right-wing positions within the Republican Party, there is evidence of divergences and a certain political realignment within the ranks of both parties, as well as the growing influence of neoconservative elements around the Democratic leadership in favor of an aggressive and interventionist foreign policy. Some have gone so far as to consider the Democratic leadership as the manager of the conversion of that grouping as the party of war. It should be noted that although the progressive Democratic wing has been strengthened, its projection and weight to influence foreign policy issues is minimal.

In these days of April 2021, in what was evidenced as an important shift in the positions of the largest and most influential veterans’ grouping, the American Legion has just called for the United States to end its perpetual wars. In doing so, it reinforced its resolution of last year calling on Congress to restore constitutional balance and “replace obsolete Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.

To conclude, and in contrast to the above, it is interesting to refer here to the concerns recently expressed by the well-known right-wing political scientist Robert Kagan, a traditional supporter of an aggressive military policy and U.S. hegemonism. In addition to emphasizing that the United States must bear the responsibility of being the world’s policeman, he complained and described as a serious problem for the country the fact that the American people continue to look inward too much, and do not support sharing the destiny of world domination.

Source: Alainet, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English