Skip to comments.US Defense Secretary Paints a Misleading Global Picture
Posted on 01/24/2018 8:45:52 AM PST by Kaslin
PARIS -- U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis made a remarkable admission last week while introducing the new National Defense Strategy.
"We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we're engaged in today," Mattis said, "but great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security."
Using the term "competition" instead of "war" implies an economic component, since there are currently no direct military competitions between the U.S. and either Russia or China. Governments almost never frame military conflict in economic terms, presumably since the idea of spilling blood for any reason other than an imminent threat to people's lives is a hard sell to the public.
Yet it's clear that economic competition is an underlying cause of every conflict in the world today, including the battle against the Islamic State. As former French intelligence chief Alain Juillet has noted, the terrorist troubles in Syria just happened to arise three weeks after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 2011 selection of an Iranian-Iraqi pipeline through Syria rather than a Saudi-Qatari pipeline. The competing pipeline plans would provide a way for either Iran or Qatar to ship natural gas to Europe from the vast Iranian-Qatari South Pars/North Dome gas field, thus eliminating the high cost of transporting the gas by tankers.
Given the public aversion to military conflict based on economics, it's understandable that Mattis didn't go a step further by saying "great power economic competition" is now the primary focus of national security policy. He could have, although stating the obvious would have made the justification of any military-spending increase virtually impossible. If you're in the business of weapons-building and soldier-deploying, what are you going to do when global competition is no longer won by military intervention and might, but rather by deal-making?
Since Mattis certainly wasn't going to accompany his statement with a downsizing announcement, or a restructuring of the military to shift resources to economic intelligence, one had to wonder how long it would take for the other shoe to drop. In other words, how would Mattis combine an admission that global conflicts are economic in nature with a continuing need for U.S. military might?
It didn't take long. In the same speech, Mattis singled out Russia and China as "revisionist powers" seeking to "create a world consistent with their authoritarian models, pursuing veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic and security decisions."
Those are some impressive rhetorical gymnastics. Mattis managed to shove economic competition into the military/defense box by suggesting that Russia and China are trying to take over the world by making other countries more like them. Basically, Mattis blended the new "economic competition" model with the old "Red Scare" communist threat.
Nice try. No one with a foothold in reality believes that Russia and China are attempting to impose any kind of ideology on other countries. Does anyone in the U.S. really think that Russia and China are breathing down their necks on a daily basis? The secretary of defense has just said that this should be your primary security concern as an American. Seriously. Does this actually match your day-to-day reality?
If anything, China and Russia are playing a capitalist "away game" on the world stage that puts some of the original proponents of capitalism to shame. That's on us. Trash-talking the opponent isn't the best recipe for victory.
Mattis laments Russia and China's "veto authority" over other nations. It's hard to imagine which veto powers Mattis is referring to. With the exception of Security Council resolutions, U.N. resolutions are non-binding. Mattis seems to be pretending that the United Nations has dictated to America what it can and cannot do, which has never been the case.
Where Mattis has a valid point is in pinpointing detrimental aspects of the current globalist system. Institutions of global governance were initially created by Western nations in an attempt to avoid war and to draw countries such as China and Russia into the global fold. But China and Russia have adopted a measured multilateral approach without sacrificing their own self-interest or national borders -- unlike in Europe, where countries are struggling with the effects of ceding national sovereignty to supranational European Union governance.
The Donald Trump administration has more in common with China and Russia than Mattis cared to publicly admit. All are looking out for their own interests in an era where the failures of globalization have become all too evident. All are playing the exact same game. So let's not pretend that there are "good" and "bad" players here -- it's just "our side" and "their side." And "our side" really needs to get real and stop blaming others.
So, let’s see...China and India have tested Mach 5 precision guided missiles. China is building several stealth designs that may be capable of attacking US targets without rousing suspicion. Russia has apparently fielded nuclear powered drone submarines. Russia has a nuclear tipped torpedo intended to destroy entire ports. Our F-22 was designed using baseline 1985 technology and is so obsolete the Air Force has had a difficult time keeping the electronics up and running. It apparently can’t go back into production as many of the crates that supposedly held tooling are empty.
I’d say there is a great deal of Great Power “competition” going on. Also, our Navy is seriously over taxed, poorly maintained and under trained. Because we have been concentrating on low tech wars and ignoring our “competitor’s” innovation, we have some serious catching up to do.
That happens every time a Democratic president leaves office.
Who is this idiot author, anyway? Competition means the fight for military advantage being sought by our adversaries.
And no, most wars aren’t fought for economic reasons.
Hard to believe anyone apporoved this tripe for publication.
I believe that is imperative, as our military has been dumbed down by the previous administration, the Kumbaya party, that rebuilding our military is truly important. As Ronald Reagan said..."Peace through Strength"....Obama bowed that away....
General Mattis understands this, Mattis wants peace not war.I think the author of this piece is wrong to lump the USA with Russia and China...her miscalculations are glaring.
Drivel like this is why I banished the Townhall bookmark to the NeverTrump/GOPe folder.
Hmmm, Rachel or Mad Dog? So hard to know who has the experience and knowledge of global warfare.
Russia is a pretender in the economic game, not a player
Nice try. No one with a foothold in reality believes that Russia and China are attempting to impose any kind of ideology on other countries.
Is the author stupid?
I had a retired Army Colonel for a class on military strategy and foreign affairs. We called him “A-Bomb Atkinson” because he was so far to the Right that he made Genghis Khan look like a wimp (oh, and how I loved him for that). Anyhow, some early-’80s version of a pussy-hat wearing snowflake piped up one day about the need to provide the basics of living, like toilets that work, to the poor, rather than spending money on guns, tanks, etc. She said, “What good does it do to defend a country that’s not worth living in?” To which, Col. A-Bomb replied, “Listen, dear, I’m all for having people live in good conditions, and I’m pretty sure that you have no idea what things were like for the average person during the Depression, so don’t tell me about what’s worth fighting for. But the simple fact is that if we spend all of our money on toilets, the G-D Russians will take over the country and those toilets won’t mean a damned thing.”
Bottom line: The article places too much emphasis on purely economic competition. Of course, it is VERY important to have a vibrant economy to support your defense establishment (the Soviet Union found that out the hard way...THANK YOU Ronald Reagan and Bill Casey!!!), but you also MUST invest in your military. If you fail to have enough equipment of high enough durability and lethality, if you fail to train your troops regularly and well, if you don’t have a very healthy military R&D program, and if you don’t have enough of a defense industrial base, then all the money in the world won’t help you against a determined (even if poor) enemy. The prime example of that in modern times is Kuwait - these people just about literally bathed in money...but their neighbors were Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Iraq didn’t like owing them $50 billion (and counting, at not-so-low interest rates) for the Iran-Iraq war, so he invaded Kuwait. All of their money didn’t stop Iraqi tanks from entering their capitol, destroying tons of equipment and buildings, killing thousands of people, etc., etc.
You must BOTH defend yourself AND have the means to do so consistently and for the long haul. BOTH.
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