By John Ubaldi–To view unadbridge version go to In Homeland Security News—
Never before has America faced immense challenges across a variety of different regions across the globe, with Russia and China trying to unravel the international order established by the U.S. after World War II, words uttered by President George Washington in his first annual address to Congress over 228 years ago resonate today as it did then.
“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
What role does America Play in Global Affairs?
In recent years Americans have been divided about what role should the U.S. play in world affairs, when President Barack Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, he was committed to altering U.S. foreign policy one in which other countries would take a far greater role, with the belief the root cause of many of the problems in the world was an over ambitious America.
The presidency of Donald Trump has been categorized of a “America First” agenda by forcing many of our allies especially NATO countries to pay their fair share for their own defense, as many of these countries rely solely on the U.S. for protection while only contributing less than 2% of their GDP of their own security.
This past month the U.S. said farewell to the passing of President George H.W. Bush, and with it the last president who came into the presidency with any measurable foreign policy experience, ever since then each occupant in the White House has had virtually no experience on global issues.
Washington Unsure of America’s role
Far too many in the United States including members of Congress, and of both political parties fail to understand the unique role America play’s in global affairs since the United States reshaped the international global system after World War II.
Out of the ashes of World War II, which was the most destructive conflict in human history, America emerged as the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, with an unmatched economic and military might, but instead the U.S. chose to use that immense power to shape a new international environment.
Gone were the days of great power conflicts, and of this new international environment ushered in a new wave of prosperity unseen in global history. Never before had a victor been so magnanimous over a vanquished foe, nor had a victor used its immense economic and military power to secure the peace allowing for economic prosperity to flourish.
What would the world look like if Russia had emerged as the worlds dominate power both economically and militarily, and with the added caveat as the only country with the atomic bomb?
American Leadership Ushered in Democracy
With American leadership by both Democratic and Republican presidents allowed that democratic countries to grow tenfold since the end of World War II, all because America used every element of its enormous national power to reshape a world where prosperity and freedom would flourish.
Speaking before the House Armed Service Committee, Dr. Hal Brands, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategy and Budgetary Assessments this came about because, “The United States anchored military alliances that provided stability and deterred aggression in key regions from Western Europe to East Asia; it led an open global trading order; it encouraged the survival and spread of democracy and prevented authoritarian powers from imposing their own values on the world; it catalyzed collective action in addressing the world’s key diplomatic, economic, and security challenges. Had the United States not played this outsized role, there would be no liberal international order to speak of.”
What our leaders in Washington need to understand is that the global system which the U.S. created also produced the prosperity we all enjoy, as this rested primarily on American leadership, overseen by a military with no peer competitor which protected that freedom and prosperity.
Freedom to Flourish the World Needs a Strong America
The world is a dangerous place, and to maintain that peace America needs to project an image of deterrence, forging alliances is critical, but if those interests are jeopardized and we don’t have the means to defend our vital interests then other nefarious actors will fill the vacuum, as we are currently witnessing that today with a resurgent Russia and expansionist China.
The credibility of deterrence has to be backed up by force in defending against aggression, two examples crystalized this concept first was in Korea 1950, where intervention by the U.S. prevented communist regimes from spreading aggression against a weaker nation; coupled with U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 that armed force would not be the new norm in a post-Cold War era.
The enormous economy wielded by the United States would be far less effective without a strong Navy that provides freedom of navigation for U.S. and its allies commercial goods to flow freely, and the ability to prevent any nation or nations who would try to impede the freedom of the seas and curtail global commerce. China is attempting to do this in the South China Sea an area which one third of all global trade flows.
Brands commented that, “America gets better trade deals because of the geopolitical leverage its military power provides. When the United States and the European Union negotiated free trade agreements with South Korea, the United States received better terms because South Korea valued the military protection America provides.”
U.S. has the Ability to Project Power for the Common Good
No other country commands such diplomatic power as the United States, no other nation can project military power and sustain that power no matter where, whether in Europe, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific, and beyond gives the U.S. unique leverage in addressing various economic diplomatic, and geopolitical issues emanating in these regions.
Does anyone believe Russia or China if they wielded the power the U.S. does would be deferent to other nations?
One only has to look at the situation between Pakistan and India, both have nuclear weapons and both came close to a nuclear exchange in 1999 in the Kargil pass a division in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. If the U.S. had a less formidable military capability it would have far less leverage between the two belligerent nations, and the situation would have been far different.
Republicans and Democrats have to realize the United States is different from every other country around the world that the U.S. is the sole remaining superpower with global responsibilities, and a respected welcomed arbitrator in many of these disputes. No other country can claim that!
U.S. has the ability to Project Power
The U.S. is different from other nations who can only concentrate their forces near its border regions, like Russia who can only move its military threatening its Baltic nation neighbors, or China who can do the same thing if conflict ever came to Taiwan.
America has to be prepared to take the fight to any challenger around the globe, and currently the U.S. is facing threats from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and various international terror organizations. This is why the Pentagon has been prepared to fight two wars simultaneously, to win both conflicts, but recently this has been called into question.
Currently U.S. military superiority has eroded over the years, with the most serious challenge coming from Russia and China. Both of these countries have increased and expanded their military capabilities to offset any advantages the U.S. has. The goal of both countries is to reduce and compete with the U.S., we are seeing this play out with Russian expansion into the Middle East, and China’s efforts in the Western Pacific.
Recently, both Russia and China are trying to shift the regional balance in their favor, so that at some point both countries may someday believe that they could win a short war against the United States in the Baltics or in the Taiwan Strait. Both countries are perusing advanced weapons systems, while the U.S. is consumed by other threats and disinvesting in its own military.
Challenges Confront the U.S.
The latest National Defense Strategy Commission report argued that America confronts a grave crisis of national security and national defense, as U.S. military advantages erode and the strategic landscape becomes steadily more threatening. If the United States does not show greater urgency and seriousness in responding to this crisis and does not take decisive steps to rebuild its military advantages now, the damage to American security and influence could be devastating.
In July of Last year President Trump directed the Secretary of Defense to lead a historic whole-of-government of the entire U.S. defense industrial base; to address some of America’s key vulnerabilities may exist and address the key shortfalls.
In October, Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan presented to the White House the findings of this comprehensive review with the report finding 300 gaps and vulnerabilities, with one of the examples being that the nation has only one source of production for many key weapon systems with the U.S. being too dependent on foreign suppliers for key components.
One can look at the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, for hollowing out the Pentagon, but this isn’t the only culprit as defense spending has been declining since 2010. Failure to pass timely appropriations, government shutdowns, and sequestration has placed enormous stress on force structure, readiness, and modernization.
The Pentagon is formulating FY2020 defense budget, with both Democrats and Republicans fighting about increasing the military budget without ever analyzing or putting forth a comprehensive 21st century defense overhaul on how resources are allocated.
As the military erodes and America’s once vaunted military declines to a shell of its former self, it allows our adversaries in Russia and China to be more aggressive in which they can use a variety of different methods altering the international landscape to their benefit. We are witnessing Russia and China becoming more aggressive in Europe, the Middle East and the Western Pacific.
America must use all Elements of National Power
In the 21st century a strong military is not the sole arbitrator or sufficient enough to protect U.S. interests. Our adversaries namely Russia and China use a multitude of different tactics to include information warfare and coercion to further their aim.
In its ability to acquire the technology it needs, China has resorted to theft of intellectual property either openly or covertly, with United States trade representative in his Section 301 investigation and supplementary report, China has employed in its attempts to acquire America’s technological crown jewels — from “forced technology transfer” and “systematic investment” aimed at “cutting edge technologies” to “cyber-enabled theft.”
Other areas are being exploited as Brands mentions, “So-called gray zone conflict reaches across multiple dimensions of statecraft—intelligence, diplomacy, economic power, paramilitary action, and others—and is designed to shift the status quo without provoking a U.S. military response.
As the U.S. re-builds its military it will need to recalibrate all elements of U.S. national power into one cohesive national strategy with a strong capable military that backs up statecraft with an effective hammer.
As Washington mentioned, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” Let’s hope Washington takes his advice.