By Matthew Rothschild on January 07, 2012

I know the Republican are going to try to savage Barack Obama for his new strategic military plans.

I can already hear the charge that he’s hollowing out our defenses.

That’s foolish. The problem with Obama’s new strategy is that it doesn’t make a sharp break with business as usual at the Pentagon. Indeed, it relies more heavily than ever on the threat of using nuclear weapons, and it escalates tensions with China.

The new doctrine, called “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” still assumes the need to have troops in more than 100 countries, including in Germany and Japan 67 years after the end of World War II.

It still sees the Pentagon as the advance team of U.S. corporations and the enforcer of free trade.

“To enable economic growth and commerce, America, working in conjunction with allies and partners around the world, will seek to protect freedom of access throughout the global commons,” the doctrine states.

It still assumes the need to rely on nuclear weapons. In fact, it implies that the Pentagon will be saber-rattling those weapons more than ever. Instead of being prepared to launch a second major war simultaneously with the first one, the United States will now simply threaten to obliterate any second enemy that arises.

“Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of—or imposing unacceptable costs on—an opportunistic aggressor in a second region,” the Pentagon doctrine states (and it even italicizes the second half of that sentence). In case you have any doubt about what “imposing unacceptable costs” means, the doctrine clarifies this a page letter when it states: “We can field nuclear forces that can under any circumstances confront an adversary with the prospect of unacceptable damage.”

What’s more, Obama is expanding the Pentagon’s ability to wage war in space. The doctrine stresses the need “to enhance resiliency and effectiveness of critical space-based capabilities.”

It is also expanding cyber-space capabilities, and it insists on “developing a new stealth bomber.”

Disturbingly, the doctrine also stresses the need to get more involved right here at home, regardless of the Posse Comitatus Act. The Pentagon will “come to the assistance of domestic civil authorities” if the U.S. comes under attack or “in case of natural disasters. . . . Homeland defense and support to civil authorities require strong, steady-state force readiness.” This strongly suggests that the Pentagon has plans already in place for patrolling our streets. It’s reasonable to assume that NorthCom would have the upper hand in these contingencies. (For more on NorthCom, see this article from The Progressive magazine.)

Also disturbingly, the new doctrine makes clear that the Pentagon is gearing up for a challenge with the ascendant China. “We will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region,” the doctrine states, in italics again. It adds: “Over the long term, China’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways. . . . The United States will continue to make the necessary investments to ensure that we maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely.” And it warns: “The growth of China’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.” In other words, China should stay in its place, or else.

This is highly provocative, and China has already responded angrily, with its state-run news media warning Obama not to engage in “war mongering” or to “recklessly practice militarism,” the New York Times reported.

The U.S. tilt against China may spur Beijing into a nuclear arms race with the United States, which is the last thing we need.

China was in the Pentagon’s sights prior to 9/11, and Obama has foolishly put it back in those sights—something he, and all of us, may ultimately regret.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story After Iowa, “Game On” or “Game Over”? And Will Ron Paul Bolt?

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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