Empire Still: Obama’s Misguided Pentagon Strategy

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