Obama's Pentagon Strategy: A Leaner, More Efficient Empire
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In an age when U.S. power can be projected through private mercenary armies and unmanned Predator drones, the U.S. military need no longer rely on massive, conventional ground forces to pursue its imperial agenda, a fact President Barack Obama is now acknowledging. But make no mistake: while the tactics may be changing, the U.S. taxpayer – and poor foreigners abroad – will still be saddled with overblown military budgets and militaristic policies.
Speaking January 5 alongside his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the president announced a shift in strategy for the American military, one that emphasizes aerial campaigns and proxy wars as opposed to “long-term nation-building with large military footprints.” This, to some pundits and politicians, is considered a tectonic shift.
Indeed, the way some on the left tell it, the strategy marks a radical departure from the imperial status quo. “Obama just repudiated the past decade of forever war policy,” gushed Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, calling the new strategy a “[s]lap in the face to the generals.”
Conservative hawks, meanwhile, predictably declared that the sky is falling. “This is a lead from behind strategy for a left-behind America,” cried hyperventilating California Republican Buck McKeon, chairman the House Armed Services Committee. “This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs.” In McKeon’s world, feeding the war machine is preferable to feeding poor people.
Unfortunately, though, rather than renouncing empire and endless war, Obama’s statedstrategy for the military going forward just reaffirms the U.S. commitment to both. Rather than renouncing the last decade of war, it states that the bloody and disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan – gently termed “extended operations” – were pursued “to bring stability to those countries.”
And Leon Panetta assuredtheAmericanpublic that even with the changes, the U.S. would still be able to fight two major wars at the same time—and win. And Obama assured America’s military contractors and coffin makers that their lifeline – U.S. taxpayers’ money – would still be funneled their way in obscene bucket loads.
“Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow,” the president told reporters, “but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow.” In fact, he added with a touch of pride, it “will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration,” totaling more than $700 billion a year and accounting for about half of the average American’s income tax. So much for the Pentagon’s budget being slashed – like we were promised – the way lawmakers are trying to cut those “failed domestic programs.”
The U.S. could cut its military spending in half tomorrow and still spend more than three times as much as its next nearest rival, China. That’s because China, instead of waging wars of choice around the world, prefers projecting its might by investing in its own country. On the other hand, the U.S. under the leadership of Obama is beefing up its military presence in China’s backyard, more interested in projecting its dwindling power than rebuilding its economy.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower once noted that every dollar going to the military is a dollar that can’t be used to provide food and shelter for those in need. Today’s obscene amount of military spending isn’t necessary if the administration wished to pursue the quaint goal of simply defending the country from invasion. Maintaining “the best-trained, best-equipped military in history,” as Obama says is his goal? That’s a different story – for a different purpose. Indeed, as Madeline Albright observed, possessing that kind of military might is no fun if you don’t get to use it, as Obama has with gusto in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Uganda.